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OMA architect Shohei Shigematsu designed a ’fashion-temple’ for the Met’s Manus x Machina

United States Architecture News - May 4, 2016 - 16:37   8585 views

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute spring 2016 exhibition, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, on view from May 5 through August 14. The presented exhibition in the Museum’s Robert Lehman Wing explores how designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear. Designed by OMA architect Shohei Shigematsu, director of OMA New York, the exhibition presents a cathedral-like structure, made up of scaffolding in scrims. 

Fashion and technology are inextricably connected, more so now than ever before,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Met. “It is therefore timely to examine the roles that the handmade and the machine-made have played in the creative process. This exhibition proposes a new view in which the hand and the machine, often presented as oppositional, are mutual and equal protagonists.” 

Upper Level Gallery View: Embroidery Case Study Dress, Yves Saint Laurent (French, 1936-2008), spring/summer 1983 haute couture; Courtesy of Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

In celebration of the exhibition opening, The Met's Costume Institute Benefit, also known as The Met Gala, took place on Monday, May 2, 2016. The evening’s co-chairs were Idris Elba, Jonathan Ive, Taylor Swift, and Anna Wintour. Nicolas Ghesquière, Karl Lagerfeld, and Miuccia Prada served as Honorary Chairs. 

Upper Level Gallery View: Artificial Flowers Case Study Wedding Ensemble, Karl Lagerfeld (French, born Hamburg, 1938) for House of Chanel (French, founded 1913), autumn/winter 2005–6 haute couture, back view; Courtesy of CHANEL Patrimoine Collection. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Manus x Machina features more than 170 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear, dating from the early 1900s to the present. The exhibition addresses the founding of the haute couture in the 19th century, when the sewing machine was invented, and the emergence of a distinction between the hand (manus) and the machine (machina) at the onset of industrialization and mass production. It explores this ongoing dichotomy, in which hand and machine are presented as discordant tools in the creative process, and questions this relationship and the significance of the long-held distinction between haute couture and ready-to-wear. 

Upper Level Gallery View: Embroidery. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

''Traditionally, the distinction between the haute couture and prêt-à-porter was based on the handmade and the machine-made, but recently this distinction has become increasingly blurred as both disciplines have embraced the practices and techniques of the other,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “Manus x Machina challenges the conventions of the hand/machine dichotomy and proposes a new paradigm germane to our age of technology.''

Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, said, “Both the automated and handcrafted process require similar amounts of thoughtfulness and expertise. There are instances where technology is optimized, but ultimately it’s the amount of care put into the craftsmanship, whether it’s machine-made or handmade, that transforms ordinary materials into something extraordinary.” 

Upper Level Gallery View: Artificial Flowers. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

The Robert Lehman Wing galleries, on the Museum’s first floor and ground level, have been transformed into a building-within-a-building using white scrims. The space houses a series of case studies in which haute couture and ready-to-wear ensembles are decoded to reveal their hand/machine DNA. A2014 haute couture wedding dress byKarl Lagerfeld for Chanel with a 20-foot train occupies a central cocoon, with details of its embroidery projected onto the domed ceiling. The scuba knit ensemble, one of the inspirations for the exhibition, stands as a superlative example of the confluence between the handmade and the machine-made–the pattern on the train was hand-painted with gold metallic pigment, machine-printed with rhinestones, and hand-embroidered with pearls and gemstones. 

View from Shohei Shigematsu's Manus x Machina exhibit. Image © Brett Beyer

''There was no real gallery space. We had to create a whole environment that would black out all the light.'' explained Shigematsu. ''To create a temporary space in such a historical and heavy context was really quite exciting. ''It doesn’t happen so often within the Met.” added Shigematsu.

''Too many flat screens take away from the opportunity to intimately confront the garments. It’s like a temple for fashion. ''Within the classical church structure, mannequins started to look like the other pieces of art in the Met—it elevates fashion to art.'' he added. 

Upper Level Gallery View: Case Study Wedding ensemble, Karl Lagerfeld (French, born Hamburg, 1938) for House of Chanel (French, founded 1913), autumn/winter 2014–15 haute couture, back view; Courtesy of CHANEL Patrimoine Collection. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

The exhibition is structured around the traditional métiers of the haute couture. The first floor unfolds as a series of alcoves, examining the petites mains workshops of embroidery, featherwork, and artificial flowers. The ground floor space is arranged as an enfilade, examining pleating, lacework, and leatherwork. A room dedicated to toiles and the ateliers of tailoring (tailleur) and dressmaking (flou)—the traditional division of a maison de couture—anchors the ground-floor gallery. On both floors, traditional hand techniques are discussed alongside innovative technologies such as 3-D printing, computer modeling, bonding and laminating, laser cutting, and ultrasonic welding. 

Visitors at the exhibition. Image © John Hill

Designers in the exhibition include Cristobal Balenciaga, Boué Soeurs, Sarah Burton (Alexander McQueen), Pierre Cardin, Hussein Chalayan, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli (Valentino), André Courrèges, Giles Deacon, Christian Dior, Alber Elbaz (Lanvin), Mariano Fortuny, John Galliano (Christian Dior, Maison Margiela), Jean Paul Gaultier, Nicolas Ghesquière (Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton), Hubert de Givenchy, Madame Grès, Halston, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough (Proenza Schouler), Iris van Herpen, Marc Jacobs (Louis Vuitton), Charles James, Christopher Kane, Mary Katrantzou, Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garçons), Junko Koshino, Karl Lagerfeld (Chanel), Helmut Lang, Louise Boulanger, Mary McFadden, Alexander McQueen (Givenchy), Issey Miyake, Noir Kei Ninomiya (Comme des Garçons), Norman Norell, Jean Patou, Miuccia Prada, Paul Poiret, Gareth Pugh, Paco Rabanne, Noa Raviv, Yves Saint Laurent (Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent), Raf Simons (Christian Dior), Maiko Takeda, Riccardo Tisci (Givenchy), threeASFOUR, Madeleine Vionnet, Catherine Wales, Junya Watanabe (Comme des Garçons), Yohji Yamamoto, and others. 

(from left) Christian Dior by Raf Simons ensemble, Issey Miyake for Miyake Design Studio “Flying Saucer” Dress, Hussein Chalayan “Kaikoku” Floating Dress, Christian Dior “Vilmiron” Dress, and Christopher Kane dress. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art/BFA.com. 

(from left) Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel suit, Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel ensemble, Iris van Herpen ensemble, Iris van Herpen dress, and Yves Saint Laurent evening dress. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art/BFA.com 

Upper Level Gallery View: Embroidery. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Upper Level Gallery View: Featherwork. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, speaks about The Met's upcoming exhibition, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art/BFA.com 

Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, speaks in The Met’s Great Hall about Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art/BFA.com 

 

Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art/BFA.com 

Top Image: Upper Level Gallery View: Embroidery Case Study “L’Eléphant Blanc” Evening Dress, Yves Saint Laurent (French,1936–2008) for House of Dior (French, founded 1947) , spring/summer 1958, haute couture; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, 1977 (1977.329.5a, b). Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

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