This past Friday I had the opportunity to attend a member's only event at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for an exclusive viewing of the museum’s Costume Institute’s 2016 spring exhibit – Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. The idea behind this event was to provide a special time frame for Members of The Met to experience the recently opened exhibit, which will remain on view through August 14, 2016.
As you can imagine, I wasn’t the only individual who thought of going to this 1-hour viewing in hopes to enjoy the highly acclaimed exhibit without the usual crowds of spectators and worldly visitors who step foot at The Met on a daily basis. A great number of Members also decided to take advantage of the occasion and on Friday, May 14th, the halls of the Robert Lehman Wing were filled with eager art aficionados, fashion connoisseurs, critics, and enthusiasts. Quite the lovely experience.
A few weeks prior I'd watched The First Monday of May, a documentary about the conception of the Costume Institute’s 2015 exhibit China: Through the Looking Glass, where Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Met’s Costume Institute, and Anna Wintour, chair of the Met Gala, unveiled the process of bringing to life this annual spring exhibition and its inaugural event. Sadly, I didn’t have the opportunity to witness it last year but I was more than thrilled to partake in this private viewing with the knowledge and background I’d acquired from watching the aforementioned documentary.
Needless to say, Manus x Machina surpassed all my expectations.
In recent interviews, Andrew Bolton has discussed the exhibit’s intent of debunking some of the greatest fashion myths around the handmade versus the machine made pieces. People often believe handmade items are far more luxurious and complex than machine made ones, but at times a machine made item can be even more luxurious and take much more time to make than the latter. Andrew believes there is a lack of appreciation for the “making process” of the garment because individuals are always interested in the next big thing. As such, Manus x Machina attempts to "stop time" in a sense and to take a closer look at the dichotomy in which hand (manus) and machine (machine) are presented as conflicting tools in the creative process.
This exhibition is more about the fashion techniques and processes of over 170 garments, which date back to the early 20th century; in the upper level the spectator will find pieces of embroidery, feather work, and artificial flowers, and in the lower level there will be more pleating, lace work, leather work, and a special section on tailoring and dress making.
To Andrew Bolton, the old couture versus ready to wear gap is rapidly diminishing and technology should not be overlooked or demeaned, it should rather be embraced and it should further enhance the practice of modern day designers. If you have a 1-hour break in your busy schedule and happen to find yourself in New York City between May 5th and August 14th, 2016, I highly suggest you attend this exhibit. Promise you won’t regret it.