Sunday, April 17, 2016

Cinema Verite: Is Fashion Art?

The question "Is Fashion Art?" is answered for sure in the new film, "The First Monday in May".  This documentary reports on the Met's spring 2015 exhibition of the costume institute, "China: Through the Looking Glass". It turns out the show was among the top eight Met exhibits of all time and bested the attendance record set by "Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty" in 2011.

In the galleries

Fashion isn't always Art (sometimes it's just clothes). In bringing together incredible high fashion creations influenced by Chinese culture, surrounded by the original influences in art, it is.

Anna, arriving

Just as "The September Issue" was very much about Anna Wintour, so is "The First Monday in May." The Met's costume institute is now the Anna Wintour Costume Center of the Costume Institute. Her power and sphere of influence have given the Met millions of dollars in donations wrapped up in these shows. She has the clout to choose or veto everything from the event's table settings to furniture in the reception area of Vogue, and she's not afraid to use it. On the other hand you can see she knows how to let people do their jobs.

Queen Rihanna

Much is made of snagging Rihanna as a "get" and as the entertainer for the evening. I was woefully ignorant of Rihanna as anything but tabloid fodder and had never heard her sing. She's a rapper, duh. Amazing how 21st century the moment became when she started performing.

DV at the Met

Diana Vreeland was the first to elevate fashion at the Met. I remember some wonderful exhibits she put together, but they were literally in the Met's basement and never given the freedom to roam through the main galleries. The venerable photographer Bill Cunningham remarks on this to the exhibit's curator, Andrew Bolton. I can only imagine what Diana might have dreamed up had she the space and funds. I have a feeling it would be very much like the "China: Through the Looking Glass" we see here. I looked at the film as a tribute to Diana Vreeland's remarkable "traveling eye." She would have been delighted that finally— at last— fashion was shown not only as art but as art that is very much alive.

My favorite "dress"

There's a lot to take in— for museum lovers, art lovers, fashion fanatics, the celebrity-obsessed, cultural observers and visitors from another planet. You may find yourself asking if it was really necessary to construct a 20-foot high vase from 250,00 white roses for one night only, but you'll probably answer, "Yes."

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