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Heavenly Bodies and the Catholic Imagination

Last week I made time to take in the Heavenly Bodies exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was as fantastic as it was overwhelming - a few hours was not enough to take it all in. If you have not seen it yet I urge you to go before it closes on October 8th.

Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at Peabody Essex Museum

one of the many angels on display in the exhibit.


The MET fashion exhibit is much-anticipated in the world of fashion and beyond. The annual show opens with the MET Gala and the guest list of fashion luminaries, media darlings, and celebrities brings with it all the glamour one would expect. Naturally, the gala and exhibit itself has a big impact on fashion trends.

a few images from the Met Gala in May 2018 - images via French Vogue

Unlike some of the fashion exhibits of the recent past, which were retrospectives of a single designers's work, or focused on a certain style, the Heavenly Bodies exhibit chose to focus on a broader topic which has influenced many notable designers. On the surface it may seem that the works in the show may be an homage or even an irreverent take on the iconography and traditional garb of the Catholic church, but the exhibit reaches for something deeper. It is focused on the influence that growing up Catholic can have on the imagination of the designer, not only in the intense relationship that one may have with their faith and the church itself, but also in the potent imagery and traditions that are integral to Catholic life.


At the MET 5th Avenue

The Anna Wintour gallery features exclusively pieces on loan from the Vatican. The extraordinary needlework on some of the vestments has the appearance of being painted rather than embroidered. The craftsmanship on some of the pieces is simply breathtaking. There are also many intricate and remarkable examples of metalwork in the rings, crosiers, and other ornaments and jewelry on exhibit. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed in that section of the exhibit, so you will have to see it for yourself!

Pelvis with Moon - Georgia O'Keeffe

this is a 13th Crosier in the MET's permanent collection depicting the Annunciation. image via the MET

The Medieval, Byzantine, Lehman Galleries showcase the work of a wide range of designers from the 20th century til now that have been directly inspired by religious artwork and the aesthetic of the vestments and habits of the clergy. Many of the pieces are displayed alongside artwork that had inspired them.

Rodarte at the MET Heavenly Bodies exhibit

Rodarte pieces alongside "the Annunciation" by Fra Angelico. image via the MET

There is work from many of the most influential and visionary designers - Valentino, Rodarte, Alexander McQueen, and Balenciaga just to name a few. All these are juxtaposed with beautiful paintings, sculptures, metalwork, tilework, and jewelry from the Medieval and Byzantine eras that are in the museum's permanent collections.


At the MET Cloisters

There is so much to take in that I wish I could visit again before the exhibit closes on October 8th. In fact, I did not even get to see the part of the exhibit that is displayed at the MET Cloisters location! This seems like the perfect venue for this subject. If you have not been to this other MET museum, you should really make the trip. It is very interesting and completely devoted to Medieval art.

There are some nice photos of the exhibit at the Cloisters on their site.

Painted Dessert trend direction

the Gothic Chapel at the Cloisters museum. image via the MET

You still have time to see this wonderful and inspiring Heavenly Bodies exhibit before it closes on October 8th. Don't miss out - you will not be disappointed to went!

And don't forget: to see a listing of this and other notable exhibits, please refer to our schedule of shows which we are constantly updating. You will never miss a great fashion exhibit again!


Sources: Metropolitan Museum of Art | French Vogue

* We intend no copyright infringement by displaying images from other sources on our site. Unless otherwise noted, all images are the property of their respective owners.

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