A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting my family in NYC. On the top of my agenda, right after some much needed family time, was a visit to the MOMA's exhibit entitled: Items: Is Fashion Modern? Like any good museum visit, my visit would not have been complete without purchasing the book by the same title written by the exhibit's curator, Paola Antonelli. After reading up on the exhibit, what stuck me the most was that in spite of the recent fury of exhibitions displaying Fashion, the MOMA had not had a formal exhibit on Fashion since 1944.
Antonelli cited amongst many things, some push back on the part of the museum's former director as to IF Fashion could even be considered, "Modern Art," hence the title which charges the observer to consider, "Is Fashion Modern"? Part of the hesitation to include Fashion in a museum setting stems from the transient nature of the field but also in it's participation. Fashion, unlike Art (but much like Music and Film) changes based up society's current mood. Fashion is enjoyed by everyone, not just the social elite. Fashion like Art, sometimes is born on the streets rather then one individual creator. Yet ultimately Fashion like Art is an expression of our times, frustrations, celebrations, and human bond.
With the ultimate conclusion (in mind) of, "Yes! OF COURSE Fashion is Art!" It's hard to understand why the museum took so long to create an exhibit around the subject matter. However, with this debate now behind us, the MOMA's exhibit on Fashion took this discussion a step further as they left no stone unturned in this unabashed reminder of Fashion's power to promote social change in a time of political uncertainty, confusion, and distress.
Subject matters ranging from Climate Change, Adaptability, Waste, Race, Cultural Appropriation, Gender, Sex, Culture, Class, Status, Heritage, Symbols, Technology, Body, and Shelter were on display at the MOMA's exhibit. The MOMA's choice to use garments and accessories only left the "Items" to speak for themselves as the museum's curator deliberately chose to omit third party interpretations from Fashion Magazines and Celebrity Best Dressed Lists. Among the Items which I found most compelling was the red hoodie symbolizing the Black Lives Matter movement which was sparked by the death of Trevon Martin.
Yet in retrospect I cannot help but revisit images of the Little Black Dresses and Suits on display which now remind me the the male/ female power struggle that has exploded in the past few months as more and more allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct in the work place have come into the light.
I was thrilled to see how this exhibit both pointed out to the global impact of the Fashion Industry in it's references to Culture Appropriation and to Climate. I thoroughly enjoyed viewing future "solutions" to the problems of waste and the environment such at this t-shirt picture here made by Modern Meadows, a New Jersey company which grows animal-free leather in a laboratory.
But among all this I was reminded of Fashion's power (much like a good song, movie or a piece of Art) to serve as means of temporary escape from our ordinary, busy lives. And what I enjoyed above all was the time I was able to spend with my daughter soaking it all in.