The Met’s much-anticipated “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” opens next week, answering its own existential (and rhetorical) question: Why do most museum exhibitions let out into a gift shop?
Most attendees are so inspired after a show that they can’t wait to bring a piece of it home with them. To that end, it’s a museum’s duty to offer items that are, one, more accessible than the priceless artifacts in the show, and two, updated with a modern style sensibility. Either directly at the museum or online, the idea to connect the exhibit with take-home offerings is becoming increasingly important.
The Met’s “Heavenly Bodies” does just that with its show-related offerings, even if the Metropolitan Museum of Art Store isn’t literally adjacent to the show (don’t tell God). And if past Costume Institute exhibitions, and their respective Met Gala Red Carpets, are any indication, this one is sure to influence fashion and accessories trends as well.
In other words, cue the crosses, angels and saints.
In the lead up to Monday’s Met Gala, where A-listers and Hollywood Royalty are told to dress in their “Sunday Best,” the Hollywood Reporter notes “there’s not a cross left in New York City.”
Monday’s Red Carpet parade is sure to be awash in fashion-forward rosaries bold enough to be captured by the throngs of paparazzi. Once the exhibit opens three days later on May 10, those rosaries, crosses and saints will be put into historical perspective at what is sure to be another blockbuster Costume Exhibit extravaganza.
Cue the crosses, angels and saints
Accessories caught up with Marissa Harvey, the new General Manager Merchandising & Sourcing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to discuss how she worked with jewelry brands to create proprietary themed merchandise coordinated with the show. Harvey, a former VP from Tiffany, was thrilled to apply her jewelry expertise to what is turning out to be the show of the year.
Also a first for the Costume Institute? A co-branded stand with makeup artist Pat McGrath selling exclusive product, and a bomber jacket with a cross. “It’s the first time we’re selling clothing at the store tied into a show,” notes Harvey, explaining the efforts the Met is taking to expand its offerings to be more inclusive beyond the typical store fare and customer.
“And what would an exhibit like this be without rosaries?” laughs Harvey.
While much of the jewelry selected for the store are private label and created for the show, master goldsmith and jewelry historian Donna Distefano will feature collections under her own brand, raising the bar (and the price point) of what the Met Store normally offers. “Donna’s expertise is the ability to take literal pieces from the show and interpret them.”
The show, and the gift shop, are both well-stocked with rosary necklaces, and DiStefano’s dive deep with meaning, including the hand-knotted rosaries with specific bead placements for prayer counting and rhythms.
Two of Distefano’s three jewelry collections, Emblems of the Evangelists and Rosary Charms are directly inspired by pieces from The Met collection, represented in exact detail. The third, Hail Holy Queen, comprises rosaries based on signature designs that Distefano debuted on Italian runways in the 1990s.
“Last year Donna worked with us for the Michaelangelo show and we sold 12 of her $2,300 vermeil pieces,” says Harvey. “That was very significant and we want to build on that success with this show, plus push the envelope.”
Not everything in the Met Store will be as literally connected to the show as the pieces by Distefano. Crosses have long been a strong motif in fashion and jewelry (just ask Madonna, who exploded onto the pop culture scene wearing them in all her performances and music videos back in the 80s).
Fashion jewelry company Laruicci has created exclusives for the Met exhibit as well, with a more interpretive expression. “Laruicci’s are more fashion and available at a more accessible price point,” notes Harvey. Accents like chain dangles and crystals add a modern flair.
“Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” runs from May 10 through October 8, 2018, longer than most fashion exhibits at the Costume Institute. The show is held at two locations, also a first: The Met Cloisters and The Met Fifth Avenue’s
Medieval Galleries and Anna Wintour Costume Center.
All product will be available to shop on store.metmuseum.org beginning at 3pm on May 7, and available to shop at The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters beginning May 8.