The Metropolitan Museum of Art's much-anticipated Costume Institute exhibition (9 May–8 September) explores the many facets of camp and its influence on Fashion, taking inspiration from Susan Sontag's seminal 1964 essay.
he subject of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s spring show at the Costume Institute won’t surprise anyone who saw Rihanna grace the red carpet at the 2015 Met Gala with a 16ft yellow silk train – curator Andrew Bolton is interrogating the elusive spirit of camp.
Using essayist and critic Susan Sontag’s "Notes on ‘Camp’" as a framework, for Camp: Notes on Fashion he has assembled 175 pieces, from the 17th century to the present, to explore what Sontag called “a certain mode of aestheticism”. The exhibition comes in two parts. The first traces the growth of camp from the court of Louis XIV, through Molière and the Duc d’Orléans, all the way into the devilish world of Christopher Isherwood’s 1930s underground Berlin.
The second part looks at wit, irony, humour and pastiche in fashion, with dresses by designers including Viktor & Rolf and Elsa Schiaparelli, and of course the work of Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, who is hosting the benefit gala on 6 May. It is likely absolute answers will hover at the edge of this show rather than at the centre of it. As Andrew Bolton says, “‘What is camp?’ The only answer is – as the historian Gregory Bredbeck has suggested – a camp one: ‘Only one’s hairdresser knows for sure.’”