Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity at the Met: Tourist Bait or Worthy Exhibition?
It sounds almost comically desperate, the new Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity show at the Met, an exhibition dreamed up by the museum's marketing and accounting departments. Like uploading a video of "cats and giggling babies doing the Harlem Shake AND Gangham Style" onto You Tube in a guns-blazing attempt to go viral.
The two most crowd-pleasing, tourist-baiting genres, Impressionism and Fashion–which, by the way, own three slots on the Met's all-time Top Ten*–AT THE SAME TIME?!? Well, whatever: it appears to be working. When we went on opening day, a rather dreary Tuesday afternoon, the galleries were packed, and given the near-rave reviews from, for instance, the New York Times ("a thrilling, erudite show") it seems that Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity at the Met is likely to remain a crowd-pleaser all the way through to the summer.
The Ultimate Combination of Impressionism and Fashion
The concept here is brilliant in its simplicity: get an actual dress (or, in a few cases, a man's suit) from the Paris of 1862 to 1887, place it in the center of a dramatically lit gallery, and surround it with big, gorgeous paintings featuring similarly styled dresses, all done by masters of the period. In all, Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity puts 14 dresses and 79 art works on display, along with photographs, illustrations and fascinating, sometimes amusingly closed-minded commentary from period fashion magazines. It's a expertly-curated combination that explicitly tracks the ways in which modern painting, modern fashion, and modern Parisian life (of the upper-class sort) all bounced off and influenced one another. So add history buffs to the list of folks for whom the show is ready made.
Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity Artwork
The roster of artists alone is enough to get any self-respecting Impressionism fan over to the Met, with works on loan from the Musee d'Orsay by the likes of Manet, Renoir and Monet, including both surviving sections of the latter's legendary Luncheon on the Grass (which apparently Monet sliced into pieces when he couldn't finish it for a 1866 exhibition), shown together here for the first time ever in this country. To take just one example of how it all works, as noted by the Observer's Gallerist, in a room where the mannequin is adorned in a fantastically intricate white dress, "paintings of women by Berthe Morisot, one of the few female Impressionist painters, accompany Manet’s portrait of Morisot herself (she was his sister-in-law); these hang next to Manet’s famous 1862 portrait of Baudelaire’s mistress (a rare picture on loan from Budapest)—very different women dressed in similar white gowns that join them together in a sorority of style."
Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity at the Met
Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through May 27. The Met is open Tuesday through Thursday, and Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The museum is located on Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street. As always, the price of admission to the Met is "suggested." For more information about Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity, please see the Met's website, here.
* The All-Time Met Top 10:
1.Treasures of Tutankhamun, 12/78 – 4/79: 1,360,957 visitors
2. Mona Lisa, 2/63 – 3/63: 1,077,521visitors
3. The Vatican Collections: The Papacy and Art, 2/83 – 5/83: 896,743 visitors
4. Painters in Paris: 1895-1950, 3/00 – 1/01: 883,620 visitors
5. Origins of Impressionism, 9/94 – 1/95: 794,108 visitors
6. The Horses of San Marco, 2/80 – 8/80: 742,221 visitors
7. Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 4/10 – 8/10: 703,256 visitors
8. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, 5/11 – 8/11: 661,509 visitors
9. Jeff Koons on the Roof, 4/08 – 10/08: 657,801 visitors
10. Doug + Mike Starn on the Roof: Big Bambu, 4/10 – 10/10: 631,064 visitors
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