On the First Monday in May, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will host the annual Costume Insitute Benefit (famously known as The Met Gala) to celebrate the opening of its spring exhibition, titled Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty. The showcase, which intends to shed light on Lagerfeld’s industry-changing methodology, houses more than 200 objects, spanning his fashion from the 1950s to his final collection in 2019.
“Karl Lagerfeld was one of the most captivating, prolific, and recognizable forces in fashion and culture, known as much for his extraordinary designs and tireless creative output as his legendary persona,” said Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met. “This immersive exhibition unpacks his singular artistic practice, inviting the public to experience an essential part of Lagerfeld’s boundless imagination and passion for innovation.”
The exhibition follows the framework of William Hogarth’s The Analysis of Beauty, which provides theories on art through the central concept of the “line of beauty” — more specifically, the “serpentine line,” or an S-shaped curve that exists within an object to represents its “liveliness and movement.” Lagerfeld largely sourced inspiration from this ideology, as well as the concept of the straight line, and both offered a foundation for The Costume Institute’s decades-spanning exploration.
“The fluid lines of his sketches found expression in recurring themes in his fashions,” said Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge for The Costume Institute, “uniting his designs for Chanel, Chloé, Fendi, Patou, and his eponymous label, Karl Lagerfeld, creating a diverse and prolific body of work unparalleled in the history of fashion.”
Inside, the show begins with galleries exploring monumental moments in Lagerfeld’s early career, including his International Woolmark Prize in 1954, his work at Balmain as a design assistant, and his tenure as artistic director for Patou. One room, in particular, pays respect to the premières d’atelier, or the seamstresses who were responsible for turning Lagerfeld’s sketches into physical garments. There, a video series, shot by French filmmaker Loïc Prigent, who documented the late designer’s practices from 1997 to 2019, sees premières translate Lagerfeld’s illustrations for Chanel, Chloé, Fendi and his eponymous brand.
The subsequent galleries align with Lagerfeld’s conceptual lines: the aforementioned serpentine line and straight line. The former represents his “historic, romantic and decorative impulses,” while the latter signifies his “modernist, classicist and minimalist tendencies.” From there, each line is divided into nine “sublines,” including feminine and masculine, romantic and military, rococo and classical, historical and futuristic, ornamental and structural, canonical and countercultural, artisanal and mechanical, floral and geometric, and figurative and abstract. In between each, “explosions,” or designs that marked a shift in his thinking, connect Lagerfeld’s work.
In closing, the exhibition presents the “satirical line,” which houses two chapters: one dedicated to Lagerfeld’s signature wit and a second focused on his self-image — specifically, his black-and-white “uniform.” The final room, shaped like an ellipse, plays a video from filmmaker Baillee Walsh that includes never-before-seen footage of Lagerfeld by Prigent on 81 iPhones, a nod to his love for technology.
Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty will open to members on Tuesday, May 2, before opening to the public on Friday, May 5. Take a look inside the exhibition in the gallery above.
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