Every year I enviously watch the red carpet processions of the Met Gala and start to spiral.
“Is the art world really just the fashion industry’s ugly cousin? Why aren’t we cool enough to be invited?”
It is an annual pilgrimage to visceral Jealousy Land that I visit for 1-3 minutes. The guest list for the Met Gala (held in our most sacred temple, The Metropolitan Museum of Art) is noticeably absent of contemporary artists. As I calm my cortisol levels with something soothing like a pint of ice cream, I step back and watch. For a couple of years now, I’ve come to realize it is they (Vogue and The Met) who are missing the point and have been for some time. At this stage, The Met Gala is purely a fiasco because fashion is in crisis, aka it doesn’t exist. Some blame it on what Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga did a few years ago, or perhaps we have Kanye’s legacy to thank. Either way, the fashion industry is becoming increasingly nihilistic, vapid, and full of fear. It is spinning its wheels in the mud, unlike the art world, where I see progression, change, experimentation, and gleeful failure. Since the pandemic, I’ve seen at least five solid movements in art. A great political movement within the black community has solidified black art into the Western canon of art. I have watched Asian American art enter the mainstream and begin to be recognized as a part of the Western canon of art. Figuration has come in heavy. Abstraction has moved back and re-solidified itself. I’ve also witnessed neo-surrealism creep back into contemporary art. What has the fashion industry done since then? Other than obsessing over the notion of the apocalypse or wallowing saccharinely in nostalgia. Spot the lie.
The usual “answer” is that artists are not typically invited to the Met Gala because the event primarily focuses on fashion and serves as a fundraising benefit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. The Met Gala is known for its extravagant fashion and dress code themes, with attendees including actors, musicians, and fashion industry insiders. While artists may be involved in creating the garments worn by attendees, the event itself is not specifically designed to showcase or honour their work. That being said, occasionally, the Met Gala features artists as special guests or performers, and the Costume Institute’s exhibitions often include works by artists but compared to the flocks of TikTok stars traipsing up the stairs of The Met- the artists in attendance are few and far between.
Only in the United States would you see a discourse that sharply delineates fine art from other multi-disciplinary practices, including design, fashion, craft, and music. We all know that art and fashion are closely intertwined, and many artists have significantly contributed to the fashion industry. Andy Warhol was known for his avant-garde fashion designs and collaborations with fashion designers, and the works of artists such as Mondrian and Matisse inspired Yves Saint Laurent. Including artists in the Met Gala would not only be fitting but also highlight the intersection of fashion and art. Contemporary examples of art crossovers include Eckhause Latta, Hood by Air, and Telfar. Walk down the street in NYC; every woman now has a Telfar bag. Why weren’t they represented on the red carpet this year?
Further, artists play a significant role in shaping cultural trends and movements. Their perspectives and ideas can offer a fresh and unique take on fashion and style, which could help broaden the event’s scope and diversity. Including artists in the Met Gala would add a new dimension to the event and help to keep it fresh and relevant.
Whether you like them or not, there are massive personalities in the art world with significant influence, like Jerry Saltz, Roberta Smith, Chloe Wise, Sophia Cohen, Jerry Gogosian (ahem,) Avery Singer, Mickalene Thomas, Sanford Biggers, Nick Cave, and Cecily Brown just for starters! I could go on…Barbara Kruger, Marilyn Minter, and Simone Leigh. These people actively shape culture aesthetically and ontologically. So why are they missing from such an event? It is a profound misstep by Vogue and Anna Wintour to discount artists in our holy temple. We are the voices who echo the sentiments of these hallowed grounds.
The Met Gala is a high-profile event that generates a lot of attention from the media and the public. By including artists, the event could promote the work of contemporary artists within the Met Gala. This would provide an opportunity to elevate their profiles and bring their ideas to the forefront of culture and provide substance to these costumes beyond just the aesthetic, which as of late, keeps “missing.” Every year The Met Gala is getting worse and worse. The last good one was when they brought in the Catholic Church. I literally cannot remember anything better. Remember when they couldn’t even do ‘camp’ correctly? Someone needed to get some artists up in there.
Suppose they want to get this gala straight by visually communicating and storytelling. In that case, Anna Wintour should include the Art World in the Met Gala because what we look at has meaning, and currently, everyone is looking for hope, not a stifling repeat.
On May 16, a new event will shake up the world of art and fashion in New York City. Ethereal Femmes, a ball hosted by Jerry Gogosian and Silvana Lagos at the Standard Highline, promises to be all that The Met Gala could not. I have decided to celebrate the trans and genderqueer community and their bold and colourful display of fashion and creativity, which are in stark contrast to the Met Gala’s traditional and predictable dress code.
Ethereal Femmes is the kind of ball that I would want to attend. “When I see something that I dislike, I fix it” has always been my motto. And with this event, I aim to offer a bold and fresh alternative to the fashion industry’s status quo. As the countdown to May 16 begins, anticipation is building for what promises to be one of the most exciting and innovative art and fashion events of Frieze New York 2023. Ethereal Femmes will showcase real costumes that celebrate individuality and self-expression and promises to be an event that is as diverse and inclusive as it is visually stunning.