ROME – Barely two months have passed since the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute in New York inaugurated the exhibit Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, yet according to a recent press release the show is on its way to becoming the most viewed art show ever for the museum.
The exhibit “is on track to be one of the Museum’s highest attended exhibitions in its history,” the Met’s statement read.
Over 500,000 visitors have already attended the exhibit at the Met on Fifth Avenue, and 70,000 more have seen the other part of the exhibit at the Met Cloisters, a 40 percent increase compared to the previous year.
The Metropolitan Museum is divided into three locations, The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Cloisters, and The Met Breuer.
“Heavenly Bodies” is the biggest exhibit of its kind in the history of the museum with over 110 items on display and will be open until October 8. Divided in three sections, the show pays caring homage to the longstanding tradition of Catholicism influencing fashion and vice-versa.
It includes designs by high-profile fashion designers, from Versace to Dolce and Gabbana, that are placed in conversation with Catholic art styles from which they drew inspiration.
Forty liturgical vestments are kept at the Anna Wintour Center, on loan from the Sistine Chapel sacristy. Some of these have never left the Vatican and showcase the divine nature of fashion when it comes to Mass, which is functionally the Catholic runway.
The museum announced yesterday that it welcomed more than 7.35 million visitors to its three locations in the 2018 fiscal year. Drawing crowds was the “record-breaking attendance” for Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer, which was on view from November 13, 2017 through February 12, 2018 and brought in over 700 thousand visitors.
Catholic art has proved efficient in boosting the museum’s visitors. In 1979, when Pope St. John Paul II first visited the United States, the Met managed to obtain on loan from the Vatican over 200 Catholic artifacts. The Met’s show, called The Vatican Collections: The Papacy and Art, was among the most popular in the history of the museum with almost 900,000 visitors.
This fiscal year, the museum set another record by bringing in over $250 million in philanthropic gifts, membership contributions, and government support.
The exhibit, and especially the Met Gala – a high-profile event in May where celebrities and designers visit the exhibit and interpret the theme through their outfits – drew criticism from many who believed that it was disrespectful toward Catholic culture.
The numbers released by the Met would seem to indicate that the power of Catholic imagination, beyond religious and political debates, still continues to draw crowds.