Radio Show

Met Gala: ‘Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’


Carrie Barratt, deputy director for collections for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, stops by the studio to discuss the upcoming Met Gala and this year’s theme of  “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.”

Father Dave asks how the idea came about to have a Catholic theme for the costume gala and its companion exhibition. “No one ever said let’s do Catholic stuff,” Carrie says. “Someone said, ‘Let’s do an exhibition about how religion has influenced contemporary fashion.’ And it started with a show that would have included Judaism, Christianity, Islamic religions, and Hinduism. It would have spread throughout the museum. In terms of logistics and resources at the museum, we were all scratching our heads and wondering how we were ever going to pull this off. And then in the course of working on the show, the relationship with the Vatican became very strong, and we were able to negotiate 40 papal vestments and accessories from the Sistine Chapel sacristy. Two mitres, two papal tiaras, and those red Prada shoes that Pope Benedict wore. Once this amazing cash of Vatican material came through, the other parts of it sort of fell away, and it became enough to just do Catholicism.”

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Carrie mentions that some of the pieces will be featured at the Cloisters museum in Upper Manhattan as well. Father Dave shares that the Cloisters feels like a European monastery. “The Cloisters is the medieval branch,” Carrie says. “The Metropolitan Museum has seven curatorial departments, everything from ancient Egypt, to modern and contemporary art. The medieval art is, in part, housed in the main building, but the really magnificent display of it is in Fort Tryon Park.” Carrie explains that the Cloisters was purposely built by John D. Rockefeller and combined bits and pieces of real cloisters. She also points out that a lot of contemporary fashion on exhibit at the Cloisters is inspired by the robes of monks.

“One of the costumes that you’ll see in the medieval gallery is an ensemble by a designer named Carly Pearson that is inspired by the habits of Dominican nuns,” Carrie explains. “There is something by Moschino that references the white-winged cornette of the Daughters of Charity … It’s not only papal vestments, some of the pieces derive from what nuns would have worn as well.”

Father Dave points out that the exhibit will run throughout the summer. “It gathers huge crowds,” Carrie says. “We love to please people. We love discourse and discussion. And beyond that, I always hope that people will come to see the show because it’s so exciting. And then maybe if you go up to the Cloisters you’ll say, ‘I can’t believe I’ve never been here before. I’m coming back all the time!’ There’s the most beautiful garden and a nice little cafe. We always hope a show like this will create return visitors. You go to see the fashion, but you might be captivated by something else in the gallery.” (Original Air 5-01-18)