for the costume institute’s spring 2018 show, new york’s metropolitan museum of art presents an exhibition that focuses on fashion and its relationship with catholicism. ‘heavenly bodies: fashion and the catholic imagination’ is on view at both the met fifth avenue — in the medieval galleries, mary and michael jaharis galleries for byzantine art, part of the robert lehman wing, and the anna wintour costume center — and uptown at the met cloisters. the exhibition, which has been designed by diller scofidio + renfro (DS+R), runs from may 10 through october 8, 2018.

DS+R sets the stage for the costume institute's 'heavenly bodies' exhibition at the met
‘heavenly bodies: fashion and the catholic imagination’ is on view at two of the met’s locations
image by brett beyer | main image © the metropolitan museum of art

 

 

in developing the show’s exhibition design, diller scofidio + renfro worked closely with the met’s design department. the configuration evokes the concept and practice of a pilgrimage, with visitors beginning their journey at the met fifth avenue before traveling to the met cloisters in northern manhattan. the exhibition unfolds as a series of short stories told through conversations between religious artworks in the museum’s collection and the fashions of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

met costume institute heavenly bodies exhibition
garments are displayed throughout the met fifth avenue’s medieval galleries
image © the metropolitan museum of art

 

 

‘visitors will discover the garments and accessories as a series of discrete interventions across 27 galleries spread over two locations,’ explains DS+R. ‘a custom display system stitches the many galleries together. the displays respond to the specificities of both the art they display as well as the diverse conditions of the gallery sites. they translate dimensional and material qualities into a family of objects (e.g. pedestal, platform, vitrine, etc.) with a coherent architectural language that lets them stand out from their context.’

DS+R sets the stage for the costume institute's 'heavenly bodies' exhibition at the met
some mannequins are presented in horizontal poses
image by brett beyer

 

 

in order to examine fashion’s ongoing engagement with the practices and traditions of catholicism, ‘heavenly bodies’ features a dialogue between religious, and religion-influenced clothing, and masterworks of medieval art from the met’s collection. ‘fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another,’ says andrew bolton, the curator in charge of the costume institute. ‘although this relationship has been complex and sometimes contested, it has produced some of the most inventive and innovative creations in the history of fashion.’

DS+R sets the stage for the costume institute's 'heavenly bodies' exhibition at the met
the display examines fashion’s ongoing engagement with catholicism
image by floto + warner

 

 

within the anna wintour costume center galleries are approximately 40 ecclesiastical masterworks from the sistine chapel sacristy — many of which have never been seen outside the vatican. encompassing more than 15 papacies from the 18th to the early 21st century, the collection includes vestments and accessories, such as rings and tiaras. the last time the vatican sent a loan of this magnitude to the met was in 1983, for ‘the vatican collections’ exhibition, which is the museum’s third most-visited show.

met costume institute heavenly bodies exhibition
pieces are also on view in part of the robert lehman wing
image © the metropolitan museum of art

 

 

‘the installation plays on the preeminence of light within catholic space,’ continues diller scofidio + renfro. ‘natural light is one of the most moving dimensions of medieval churches. it imparts a sense of time and a deep exteriority. within the exhibition, the marching rhythm of the garments is periodically punctuated with projections of ‘supernatural daylight’. as if by providence, key works are revealed within window-shaped frames of cool crisp light.’

 

andrew bolton narrates a tour of the anna wintour costume center
video courtesy of the met

 

 

meanwhile, 150 ensembles from the early 20th century to the present, provide context for fashion’s ongoing engagement with catholicism. this part of the exhibition is on view in the byzantine and medieval galleries, the robert lehman wing, and at the cloisters, where it is presented alongside medieval art from the met’s collection. ‘the museum’s collection of byzantine and western medieval art, in combination with the architecture and galleries that house these collections at the met, provide the perfect context for these remarkable fashions,’ says daniel h. weiss, president and CEO of the met.

DS+R sets the stage for the costume institute's 'heavenly bodies' exhibition at the met
a wide range of papal vestments are presented 
image by floto + warner

DS+R sets the stage for the costume institute's 'heavenly bodies' exhibition at the met
40 ecclesiastical masterworks from the sistine chapel sacristy are on view
image by floto + warner

DS+R sets the stage for the costume institute's 'heavenly bodies' exhibition at the met
the exhibition continues uptown at the met cloisters
image by floto + warner

DS+R sets the stage for the costume institute's 'heavenly bodies' exhibition at the met
garments are presented alongside medieval art from the met’s collection
image by brett beyer

met costume institute heavenly bodies exhibition
the show primarily features the work of designers raised in the catholic tradition
image © the metropolitan museum of art

met costume institute heavenly bodies exhibition
the exhibition evokes the concept and practice of a pilgrimage 
image © the metropolitan museum of art

DS+R sets the stage for the costume institute's 'heavenly bodies' exhibition at the met
clothing is exhibited on raised pedestals
image by floto + warner

DS+R sets the stage for the costume institute's 'heavenly bodies' exhibition at the met
the exhibition unfolds as a series of short stories
image by floto + warner

DS+R sets the stage for the costume institute's 'heavenly bodies' exhibition at the met
work is presented inside the nine heroes tapestries room at the met cloisters
image by brett beyer

DS+R sets the stage for the costume institute's 'heavenly bodies' exhibition at the met
‘heavenly bodies’ runs from may 10 through october 8, 2018
image by floto + warner

 

 

project info:

 

client: the costume institute, the metropolitan museum of art
dates: may 10, 2018 – october 8, 2018
site: the met fifth avenue and the met cloisters, newyork
exhibition design: diller scofidio + renfro
team: elizabeth diller (partner in charge), kumar atre (project lead), ricardo scofidio, matthew johnson, anthony saby, alex knezo, swarnabh ghosh, jack solomon
lighting design: tillotson design associates
graphic design: the met’s design department
structural engineering: laufs engineering design
fabrication: new project