Reactor

Nuclear Wintour at the Metropolitan Museum

by Alexander Cavaluzzo on January 15, 2014

With apologies to Titan's Venus of "Venus and Adonis" (16th C.) at the Metropolitan Museum (image by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

With apologies to Titan’s Venus of “Venus and Adonis” (16th C.) at the Metropolitan Museum (image by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

It’s clear that money is the ticket to fame and success in the world of culture, even — OK, maybe especially — if you’re not an artist. Cue the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s renaming of the newly renovated, soon-to-be-opened Costume Institute as the Anna Wintour Costume Center.

Wintour is a very (perhaps the most) talented woman in fashion. Her ability to edit and curate styles in the pages of American Vogue have earned her the respect she deserves, as well as some uncomfortable, misogynistic criticism. And all who care about the arts should certainly appreciate her altruistic efforts.

As a board member of the Costume Institute for 15 years, she’s done plenty of good for the Met. Aside from raising funds (to the tune of $125 million) and allocating resources, she’s the woman who would only let Kim Kardashian enter the museum’s hallowed halls if she wore this, proving that Wintour has a sense of humor — or at least a very subtle approach to torture (I’ll go with the latter).

But that doesn’t discount the fact that this all seems like a power play for publicity. Yes, that’s how and why almost all people get their names attached to cultural projects and institutions, but her influence on the museum has surely superseded quiet funding. With this official bestowment, how can we assume Wintour doesn’t have some (if not a lot) of creative control on the Institute now? It’s also not a leap to suggest that her philanthropic efforts are just as beneficial to her career and reputation as her work at Vogue.

And while her skills make sense in an editorial capacity, even at a “charity” event like Fashion’s Night Out, some of the more “popular” changes in curation at the Institute in recent years look more like her efforts than those of Met costume curator Andrew Bolton. We’ve seen the Met’s yearly costume exhibitions degrade into loosely themed displays of recent runway looks, celebrating commerce over history, and the hedonistic parade of celebrities at the Met Ball has arguably become one of the most notable things, to the general masses, that the museum does now. (There will be no E! coverage for the upcoming Antonio Canova exhibition, let’s be real.)

Perhaps this is naïve, but a respectful thing to do would have been to name the museum’s Costume Institute after the dearly departed fashion giant Diana Vreeland, who served as a special consultant to the Institute for almost 20 years until her death, aiding in the organization of many exhibitions that surely helped it become the fashion institution it is today. If anything, it would seem more reverential to those who paved the way and less of a modish ploy.

But that’ll never happen, clearly. We just have to face our grim future of a Photoshop-friendly Wintour Costume Center at the Met.

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  • gerryvisco

    Alexander, I TOTALLY agree with this. Why not Diana Vreeland?! Museums can’t always just be about money. Let’s bring back a little more history and appreciation for the PAST!!!

    • http://c-monster.net/ Carolina A. Miranda

      Agreed. Vreeland was the one put the Costume Institute on the map.

  • Paul Werner

    The problem as I see it (and as I’ve written) is not “money” in the abstract, nor Wintour’s ego; it’s that under her influence the possibility of any kind of critical stance on Fashion and Fashion History has been crushed at the Met, witness last year’s shallow, pandering exhibition, “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity.”

    Paul Werner
    Editor, WOID, a journal of visual language

  • Severine7

    Love that gif!

  • Lynne

    Vreeland all the way!!! Anna?? Are they kidding???

  • madbrooklyn

    Why not Wintour Hall of the Diana Vreeland Costume Institute or vice versa?

  • AleksandrJohn

    I think it can just be a matter of opinion; Wintour has certainly done a lot for Vogue, radically shifting the editorial direction to be more youth-oriented and focus much more on different types of fashion and designers. But Vreeland had an extensive career and influence in fashion and, in this instance, really is the woman responsible for a more exciting, accessible Costume Institute, which made me suggest that it should be named in her honor if anyone.

  • Notime Forthat

    I am amazed anyone could think that. Anna probably does not think that. No one with the slightest grasp of history could possibly think anything like that. One may admire Anna and her support for the arts, but Vreeland gave herself to the Costume Institute when it was a nascent potential and she could have retired as a dignified leader of the fashion journalism world, which she had no small role in creating. Instead she took on a huge challenge, remade herself, and breathed life into the Met’s basement space where the CI was begrudgingly housed. Vreeland changed the entire concept of how fashion and high culture interact. She changed the Met, the ultimate arbiter of taste, and that is no small thing.

  • C_Before_E

    Naming institutions for living people is weird.

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