David Bailey, Surreal, 1980. Photo: David Bailey. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Met’s Costume Institute Reveals Theme of Its Spring 2020 Exhibition

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that its Costume Institute’s spring 2020 exhibition will revolve around the concept of time and will draw from the writings of the French philosopher Henri Bergson and the English author Virginia Woolf, who will serve as the show’s “ghost narrator.” Titled “About Time: Fashion and Duration,” the exhibition will present a disruptive timeline of fashion from 1870 to the present and will be on view from May 7 through September 7, 2020.

“Fashion is indelibly connected to time,” said Andrew Bolton, the curator in charge of the Costume Institute. “It not only reflects and represents the spirit of the times, but it also changes and develops with the times, serving as an especially sensitive and accurate timepiece. Through a series of chronologies, the exhibition will use the concept of duration to analyze the temporal twists and turns of fashion history.”

Bolton told Vogue that the theme of the exhibition was inspired by a scene from the Sally Potter–directed film Orlando, 1992, in which Tilda Swinton stars as Woolf. “There’s a wonderful scene in which Tilda Swinton enters the maze in an 18th-century woman’s robe à la Francaise, and as she runs through it, her clothes change to mid-19th-century dress, and she reemerges in 1850s England. That’s where the original idea came from.”

The show will feature approximately 160 examples of women’s fashion with the majority of the objects coming from the institute’s own collection. Coinciding with the exhibition’s opening will be the annual Costume Institute Benefit—also known as the Met Gala, the institute’s largest fundraising event—which will take place on Monday, May 4, 2020. The evening’s cochairs will be Nicolas Ghesquière, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, and Anna Wintour.

“About Time: Fashion and Duration” is among several exhibitions that are being organized as part of the Met’s yearlong celebration of its 150th anniversary. Other programming includes the exhibition “Making The Met, 1870–2020,” which will run from March 30 to August 2, 2020, and “Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection, which will be open from March 10 to June 28, 2020. In addition, the museum will mark the milestone with the reopening of its newly renovated galleries of British decorative arts and design, a three-day celebration in June, and the launch of a new story-collecting initiative.