New York

“Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
May 10–October 8

Curated by Andrew Bolton

Sometimes the edgiest, most controversial thing is something very old indeed, and the Met’s Costume Institute deserves kudos for its nerve in mounting this exhibition. Folks have long been fascinated by, or worried about, the blur between the sacred and the merely sacerdotal. Federico Fellini’s 1972 movie Roma includes an ecclesiastical runway show, with models sporting miters and chasubles for an obviously dissipated clerical audience. Fashion is an art, if not Art—though it’s seldom accorded the dignity of a Michelangelo—and has always referenced the Renaissance and the Baroque as templates for chic power, glamour, imperiousness, even the glimmer of divine inspiration. The uniforms of nuns and priests provide source material for New York’s ever—dependable Basic Black, but this exhibition is less concerned with the basics. Rather, cardinal red and papal extravagance outstrip the banality of clothes. Balenciaga and McQueen could be heuristic antipodes for ecclesiastical opulence.