The newest show to open at the Met begins Tuesday, February 26th. “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity” has been a highly anticipated show. Before making its American debut, the show was exhibited at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris. Since the Met has hosted more than it’s share of flops, I kept my expectations low for this show, and having previewed the exhibition earlier this week, I was pleasantly surprised by the smart, beautiful work by curators.
The exhibition features approximately one-hundred-and-forty Impressionist-era artworks, including those by dedicated fashion portraitist. In light of the rise of the department store, new working methods for designing clothing, and new social and technological changes that led to the democratization of fashion are also highlighted. Many artists and writers from the period, including Charles Baudelaire, Émile Zola, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, became interested to the search for new literary and visual expression through depicting fashion.
The fashion and art exhibition is comparative, which comes with its own set of pros-and-cons. On the positive side, the show is incredibly comprehensive. It’s easy for viewers to see the amount of research curators needed to put in to find these pieces and assembling them in a way that makes sense visually and historically. This effort is pulled off with great success. The show itself, unlike many other exhibitions, is obviously educational. By having physical pieces next to famous depictions of them, it’s easy to excited visitors and feels like an all-inclusive effort. Indeed the work of the curators is all-inclusive, along with the paintings and gowns,engravings depicting the role of clothing in Europe around this time, as well as other mediums of art are included. Aside from the dresses, curators also included gloves, fans, and other fashion accessories. ONe of the most interesting displays of the exhibition is a case of four corsets wore by women at this point in history. Men’s fashion too is lightly touched on, although there could have been more effort to include a suit or coat jacket, rather than just men’s hats.
There’s been a lot of talk around the office, by senior staff members who I assume wouldn’t be so brave as to label themselves “feminists” about how this is a “woman’s show” and appeals to a certain “feminine sensibility”. The idea of curating “mens shows” or “woman’s shows” in the 21st century is absolutely ludicrous. Not only do these assumptions reenforce antiquated gender roles, these labels further the inaccurate and false gender binaries. Notably, this kind of preposterous assumptions and labels have not come from the curators themselves. But these kind of statements go to show just how far up ignorance in a nonprofit can reach.