Metropolitan Museum Explores Role Of Fashion Models

The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion, the spring 2009 exhibition organized by The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, will explore the reciprocal relationship between high fashion and evolving ideals of beauty, focusing on iconic fashion models in the latter half of the 20th century and their roles in projecting, and sometimes inspiring, the fashion of their respective eras. The exhibition will be on view at the Metropolitan from May 6 through August 9, 2009.

"The exhibition will examine a timeline of fashion from 1947 to 1997 through the idealized aesthetic of the fashion model," said Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. "We will look at the power of clothing, fashion photography, and the model to project the look of an era. With a mere gesture, a truly stellar model can sum up the attitude of her time, becoming more than a muse to designers or photographers – she can become a muse to a generation."

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, the Museum's Costume Institute Gala Benefit will take place on Monday, May 4, 2009. Marc Jacobs will serve as Honorary Chair of the Gala. Co-Chairs are Kate Moss; Justin Timberlake; and Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue.

The exhibition will feature approximately 70 masterworks of haute couture and ready-to-wear. Fashion editorial, advertising, and runway photography plus video footage of models, actresses, socialites, and rock stars who epitomize their epochs, will be used throughout the galleries to explicate the fashion zeitgeist.

Exhibition Overview

The exhibition, in the Museum's second-floor Tisch Galleries, will explore how models transmit social change via photographs that document turning points in society and design. With the post-WWII resurgence of the American fashion and advertising industries, Dior's New Look and a proliferation of model agencies created an environment from which high-fashion models with celebrated personalities and distinctive identities emerged. Lisa Fonssagrives, Dovima, Suzy Parker, Sunny Harnett, and Dorian Leigh personified this Golden Age of Haute Couture. Photographers such as Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and Cecil Beaton portrayed the new ideal of feminine artifice. Daywear from Christian Dior and eveningwear from Charles James will evoke the mood of the time, and in some cases, recreate scenes from important photographs.

A large gallery inspired by the 1966 film Qui etes-vous Polly Maggoo? will channel the Sixties "Youthquake" with ensembles from Paco Rabanne, Andre Courreges, and Rudi Gernreich who heralded the transformation from a sophisticated to a girlish ideal, moving from Jean Shrimpton to Peggy Moffitt, Veruschka, and Twiggy. The next gallery will focus on the '70s, when athletic models such as Lisa Taylor and Jerry Hall enlivened the simple, unstructured goddess dresses of Halston and the haute bohemian looks of Yves Saint Laurent.

In the 1980s, supermodels expressed an idealized glamour, dissolving boundaries between runway, editorial, and advertising work. Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington emerged as the "Trinity" appearing in designers' global campaigns for brands seeking to bolster their houses' identities. These models could morph into a different persona at each photo shoot, but always retained their priceless distinction.

By the 1990s, grunge and street style led to a radical shift from glamorous beauty to the rebel chic of Kate Moss, much as Twiggy supplanted Jean Shrimpton in the '60s. The exhibition's presentation of the minimalism of Donna Karan, Helmut Lang, and Prada that immediately followed will show how models of this era became an anonymous template of replicated perfection, allowing the clothing to supersede all. A coda to the exhibition will feature the Richard Prince and Marc Jacobs collaboration of masked, unidentifiable nurses (Stephanie Seymour and Natalia Vodianova) in Louis Vuitton.

Designers in the exhibition will include Giorgio Armani, Cristobal Balenciaga, Pierre Cardin, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Andre Courreges, Christian Dior, John Galliano for Christian Dior, Rudi Gernreich, Halston, Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis, Charles James, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Helmut Lang, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Paco Rabanne, Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio di Sant'Angelo, and Gianni Versace.

Iconic models featured will include Nadja Auermann, Naomi Campbell, Janice Dickinson, Dovima, Linda Evangelista, Lisa Fonssagrives, Jerry Hall, Shalom Harlow, Sunny Harnett, Lauren Hutton, Iman, Dorian Leigh, Peggy Moffitt, Kate Moss, Suzy Parker, Jean Shrimpton, Christy Turlington, Twiggy, Amber Valletta, and Veruschka.

Photographers whose images captured the mood of fashion via their subjects, and whose work will be in the exhibition, include Richard Avedon, David Bailey, Cecil Beaton, William Claxton, Patrick Demarchelier, Arthur Elgort, Hiro, William Klein, Annie Leibovitz, Peter Lindbergh, Craig McDean, Steven Meisel, Helmut Newton, Norman Parkinson, Irving Penn, Franco Rubartelli, Francesco Scavullo, Bert Stern, Juergen Teller, Deborah Turbeville, and Ellen von Unwerth. -- www.metmuseum.org