The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the cultural and artistic hub of the Western world. It is known for its enlightening guided tours, breathtaking live performances, informative studio workshops, and awe-inspiring exhibitions. It is also known for hosting one of the most iconic fashion events in the world, which has come to be known as the party of the year: the Met Gala.
The Met Gala started in 1948 as an event to raise money for the newly created Costume Institute. It functioned as a ceremony to celebrate the first annual exhibition, but with every passing year, the Met Gala has become more and more grandiose.
The annual fundraising gala is still a celebration of the Costume Institute’s new exhibition, featuring a different and distinct theme each year. As our culture has evolved, however, so has the event. It has become a moment wherein the theme (whether it be a specific era, individual, culture, or ideology) and fashion coalesce, manifesting into accoutrement that is, in itself, art. Through a dress code mailed to invited guests six months in advance, the Costume Institute’s chosen theme is even reflected in the attire of the attendees. It is an event where the fashion elite, the who’s who of New York socialites, and a long list of celebrities come together for a red-carpeted evening of art, fashion, and spectacle.
Whether you’re a fashionista, an aspiring socialite, or an art-obsessed celebrity aficionado, here is what you need to know about the Met Gala 2019.
Feather boas. King Kong. Swan Lake. The old Flash Gordon comics. The Enquirer. Bjork’s swan dress. What do all these things have in common?
They are all considered to be camp.
The theme of this year’s gala is Camp: Notes on Fashion. Published in 1964, Susan Sontag’s “Notes on ‘Camp’” was an essay written for the Partisan Review. In her essay, she explains “…the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration…” Examples of camp — that which is so heightened, exaggerated, and unbelievable that it’s enjoyable in some way — can be found not only in fashion but in film, architecture, visual art, and literature. Even everyday objects can be camp; Ellen Page’s garish hamburger phone in Juno, anyone? Sontag continues that “Camp is a certain mode of aestheticism. It is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. That way, the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization… Camp is disengaged, depoliticized— or at least apolitical… a private code, a badge of identity even, among small urban clique.”
Regardless of theme, the costume-like garb worn by those attending the gala always seems to be extravagant, sometimes outrageous. This fact, combined with the excessive nature of camp, ensures that the red carpet at this year’s Met Gala promises to be downright dramatic.
Referencing the age of social media and the political landscape of the United States, the curator of the Costume Institute in charge of this year’s exhibition, Andrew Bolton, stated in an article released by the New York Times that “We are going through an extreme camp moment, and it felt very relevant to the cultural conversation to look at what is often dismissed as empty frivolity but can be actually a very sophisticated and powerful political tool, especially for marginalized cultures… Whether it’s pop camp, queer camp, high camp or political camp — Trump is a very camp figure — I think it’s very timely.”
Bolton also curated last year’s exhibition titled: Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.
Since 1995, Vogue’s Anna Wintour has been a co-chair of the event, but through an article released by Vogue, we have learned who else will be joining her this year. Considering that Gucci is sponsoring the event, it makes sense that the fashion house’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, will be joining Ms. Wintour, as well as singer-turned-actor Harry Styles, who has been the face of Gucci’s European marketing campaign since last year. Superhuman athlete and tennis goddess Serena Williams will also be a co-chair alongside Lady Gaga, who (depending on her mood) could be called the modern day Queen of Camp.
The Met Gala is attended by athletes, actors, musicians, philanthropists, designers, and countless other esteemed celebrities. The guest list is always secretive before the event, but high profile athletes such as Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton and tennis star Venus Williams have been confirmed. They are joined by musicians such as Rihanna, Katy Perry, Zendaya, and a slew of A-list actors including Chadwick Boseman, Bradley Cooper, Jared Leto, and Lupita Nyong’o, to name a few. Power couple Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas will be there; celebrities Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian have been invited; Blake Lively and husband Ryan Reynolds have also been confirmed as members of the hosting committee for this year’s gala.
On its website, the Metropolitan Museum of Art boasts that Camp: Notes on Fashion will explore the origin of camp, highlighting its aesthetic through more than 250 objects collected from the seventeenth century to present day. The exhibition aims to examine manifestations of “irony, humour, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration” within fashion. According to WWD, designers such as Thom Browne, Chanel, John Galliano, Gucci, Jeremy Scott, and Gianni Versace have contributed artwork to the exhibition. As guests navigate through the exhibition, Susan Sontag narrates the experience, leading the listener through historic events spanning different time periods, such as the court of Louis XIV’s Versailles, Victorian London, and the cross-dressing club scene of 1930s Berlin.
Oscar Wilde once said, “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.” Equally as important is experiencing art, which is precisely what the Met Gala helps to achieve. Tickets to the event are $30,000 per person, or $275,000 per table. All these proceeds help to sustain the Met, allowing millions of visitors to experience works from the Neolithic period, artwork from the ancient world, and everything else that the Museum of Metropolitan Art has to offer.
The Museum was originally formed to develop the study of the fine arts and provide New York with a museum and library of art. Last year, the gala raised $13.5 million, and roughly 7.4 million people were admitted to the Met. That many people being exposed to such brilliant and historic art may seem unbelievable — though I certainly wouldn’t call it camp.
Art on the brain? Take a look at this exhibition in Naples remembering iconic artist Robert Mapplethorpe.
Has the thought of glamorous celebs left you wanting more? Read this interview with pop music legend Paula Abdul.