On November 8, the Metropolitan Museum of Art officially announced that “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” will be the theme for the Costume Institute’s Spring 2024 Exhibition and Gala.
A press conference was held in conjunction with the announcement by Anna Wintour, Condé Nast chief content officer and Vogue global editorial director; Andrew Bolton, curator in charge of the Met’s Anna Wintour Costume Center; and Max Hollein, CEO and director of the Met.
Four Centuries of Masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Come to Life
The exhibition is meant to showcase approximately 250 fashion items that have lain dormant as part of the Institute’s permanent collection, once again awakening the collection to the past. Currently, 85% of this permanent collection is stored on the Institute’s premises, with the remainder located off-site in Queens.
Bolton said, “We have exhibitions where we try to reawaken costumes in our collection, usually conceptually by interpretation, and by juxtaposing historical and contemporary side by side to sort of mutually inform and enliven each other,” “But for this one, we wanted to literally reawaken the costumes.” Their aim is to reawaken the long-dormant beauty of the collection, to stimulate visitors’ senses, and to draw them into its fascination.
Immersive Activation through Technology
The exhibition will also use original research, conservation analysis, and a variety of technologies to revive and explore the sensory capabilities of the historical masterpieces in the collection. Each of the exhibition’s spaces will juxtapose historical and contemporary fashions in an immersive setting that will stimulate visitors’ senses of sight, smell, touch, and hearing, according to the release. In addition to traditional formats such as x-rays, video animation, light projections, and soundscapes, it conveys the smell, sound, texture, and movement of garments that no longer directly touch the body through creative and immersive activations designed with cutting-edge tools, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and computer-generated imagery.
“The Met’s innovative spring 2024 Costume Institute exhibition will push the boundaries of our imagination and invite us to experience the multisensory facets of a garment, many of which get lost when entering a museum collection as an object. Sleeping Beauties will heighten our engagement with these masterpieces of fashion by evoking how they feel, move, sound, smell, and interact when being worn, ultimately offering a deeper appreciation of the integrity, beauty, and artistic brilliance of the works on display,” said Hollein.
In this exhibition, the walls of one space will be embroidered with leaves, plants, and insects from Elizabethan bodices, while the floor of another space shows an animation of a snake framing the neckline of an early 20th-century sequin dress. On the floor of another space, an animated snake frames the neckline of an early 20th-century sequined dress. The ceiling of another space will be projection-mapped with a Hitchcockian flock of blackbirds surrounding a black tulle evening gown designed by Madeleine Vionnet just before the outbreak of World War II.
Punctuating the exhibition will be a number of garments that can no longer be dressed on mannequins due to their extreme fragility (“Sleeping Beauties” in the original sense) will be displayed in glass “coffins” and brought back to life by an illusion technique known as Pepper’s Ghost.
These various technical activation developments will involve Nick Knight, photographer and founder of SHOWstudio, as a creative consultant for the visual presentation. Knight will collaborate with Bolton to make this vision a reality.
Also bringing the garments to life through the power of scent will be artist Sissel Tolaas, known for her collaborations with Balenciaga’s Demna. For the spatial design, the architectural firm Leong Leong will be in charge in collaboration with the design department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Bolton stated in the release, “The exhibition endeavors to reanimate these artworks by re-awakening their sensory capacities through a diverse range of technologies, affording visitors sensorial ‘access’ to rare historical garments and rarefied contemporary fashions. By appealing to the widest possible range of human senses, the show aims to reconnect with the works on display as they were originally intended—with vibrancy, with dynamism, and ultimately with life.”
TikTok is the leading sponsor of the 2024 Met Gala
It was also announced that the lead sponsor of the event is Tiktok, a short video-sharing app by ByteDance.
“One of the reasons for approaching TikTok was the platform in terms of accessibility. We really wanted to have the biggest, broadest platform possible in terms of how the show is disseminated globally,” Bolton said of the sponsorship during the press conference. In addition, LOEWE will provide support as a cooperating company, and Condé Nast will be named as a sponsor.
The exhibition “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” will be held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from May 10 to September 2, 2024.
The Met Gala, an eve celebration of this special exhibition, will be held annually on the first Monday in the first week of May. Funds raised at the gala serve as the primary annual funding source for the Costume Institute’s exhibitions, publications, collections, operations, and capital improvements. More details on the Met Gala co-chairs and events will be released in the coming months.
Check here to view the previous season’s Met Gala, which took place in May 2023.