Camp: Notes on Fashion at the Met to Explore the Exuberant Aesthetic

Viktor + Rolf ensemble on display at The Met's   Camp: Notes on Fashion   advance press event. Photo Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images for The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Viktor + Rolf ensemble on display at The Met's Camp: Notes on Fashion advance press event. Photo Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images for The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted a press presentation on Friday, February 22, at Teatro Gerolamo, in Milan, Italy, to reveal early details about The Costume Institute's upcoming exhibition, Camp: Notes on Fashion, which will run May 9 to September 8 .

Jeremy Scott for House of Moschino (Italian, founded 1983), spring/summer 2018; Photo © Johnny Dufort, 2019

Jeremy Scott for House of Moschino (Italian, founded
1983), spring/summer 2018; Photo © Johnny Dufort, 2019

The exhibition will explore the origins of camp’s exuberant aesthetic and how the sensibility evolved from a place of marginality to become an important influence on mainstream culture.

 “Camp’s disruptive nature and subversion of modern aesthetic values has often been trivialized, but this exhibition will reveal that it has had a profound influence on both high art and popular culture,” said Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “By tracing its evolution and highlighting its defining elements, the show will embody the ironic sensibilities of this audacious style, challenge conventional understandings of beauty and taste, and establish the critical role that this important genre has played in the history of art and fashion.”

Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp’” provides the framework for the exhibition, which will examine how fashion designers have used their métier as a vehicle to engage with camp in a myriad of compelling, humorous, and sometimes incongruous ways.

 “Fashion is the most overt and enduring conduit of the camp aesthetic,” said Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute.

 The exhibition will feature approximately 200 objects, including womenswear and menswear, as well as sculptures, paintings, and drawings dating from the 17th century to the present.

 The show’s opening section will position Versailles as a “camp Eden” and address the concept of se camper—“to posture boldly”—in the royal courts of Louis XIV and Louis XV. It will then focus on the figure of the dandy as a “camp ideal” and trace camp’s origins to the queer subcultures of Europe and America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

In her essay, Sontag defined camp as an aesthetic and outlined its primary characteristics. The largest section of the exhibition will be devoted to how these elements—which include irony, humor, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration—are expressed in fashion.