Thursday, July 5, 2012

Go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

The facade of the Branch Bank of America from 1822-24, originally located on Wall Street, and now found in the newly renovated American wing at the Metropolitan Museum.
Since the Fourth of July fell in the middle of the week, TD and I were in town for the holiday and we decided to take advantage of the day and go up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We did our best to get there on the early side, before it got very crowded, arriving at 11 am.

The first stop was Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, the current exhibition at the Costume Institute. It opened in May and you might have read about it; it pairs together in conversation and clothes Elsa Schiaparelli, the Italian surrealist fashion designer who lived from 1890 - 1973, and Miuccia Prada, the Italian fashion designer who is of course alive and thriving. Cleverly, the curators of the show created video clips directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, Australia) in which Prada and Schiaparelli, played by actress Judy Davis, have compelling conversations.
I loved it.

(No photography allowed; these two photos from The New York Times)

The show was just so smart, and it was so interesting to hear the fashion designers talk about their work and see their clothes presented together. And the clothes are beautiful. Carefully constructed and decorated with embroidery, beads, paillettes, and plastic disks, the designs are intricate, striking, and timeless.

They discuss their different approaches to fashion – Prada designs from the waist down and Schaparelli designed from the waist up, noting that she lived in a cafe society where women sat at restaurant tables so it was important to look fashionable on top, with an emphasis on the shoulders and the bust.

Prada on the other hand notes that "there is so much going on from the waist down, sexy stuff, being attached to the earth." In fact, I have noticed in photos that she often wears a plain sweater and a crazy skirt, like one made of feathers, and outrageous shoes. In this movie, in fact Prada, perhaps the most influential fashion designer in the world, sits at a table wearing a simple white shirt with a grey v-neck sweater, small earrings and no makeup.

This is a photo of Jenna Lyons, the creative director at J. Crew, with designer Eddie Borgo, arriving at the opening party of this exhibition, and you can see that she is channeling the same idea with a plain v-neck sweater and a fantastic, opulent feather skirt. And a great red lipstick.
It's such a cool way to dress – understated on top and glamorous on bottom, a great combination.
Elsewhere in the show, Prada said (and I was trying to write down the quotes correctly), "With my clothes, I try to make men look human. I try to make women look powerful."
"I don't want to make women look pleasing in any way."
"I am trying to create something to wear that makes sense with the mess of life."
Go see this show – it's a very intelligent presentation of clothes and the ideas behind them.

After the dazzle of ornate decoration, we went to see the exhibition of plant drawings by Ellsworth Kelly, which was like a clean, cold, bracing drink of water.
Sunflower, from 1957
Ellsworth Kelly, the contemporary painter who is renowned for his minimalist, color-field paintings, lives in upstate New York, where he produces delicate plant drawings that are lovely in their simplicity. It's a wonderful show to see in the summertime.
The Ellsworth Kelly Plant Drawings catalogue
Then we headed up to the hot, sunny rooftop to see Cloud City, a large constellation sculpture of interconnected modules by Argentinean artist Tomas Saraceno.
Made out of metal and transparent and reflective materials, it looked like a shiny space ship had landed on the roof of the Met. It's possible to climb up into it, but visitors need to go first to the fourth floor to get a timed ticket (free).

After a lunch in the cafeteria, we headed to the recently renovated American Wing (pictured at the top of this post) which I had previously visited with Jane. Here, the museum's American paintings have been beautifully mounted in airy new galleries; I think my favorite room holds the John Singer Sargents. It was a hot summer day, but the whole museum was cooly air-conditioned. The spacious, serene museum is for me like going to church, and there is a lot to see there right now. It's like being in heaven.


Jeffery McCullough said...

LOVE your blog, Bart! I am enjoying it so much. All the best, Jeffery

Bart Boehlert said...

Thank you Jeffrey! Great to hear from you. Hope you are well –