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In the Met Costume Institute’s New Show, Memory Maps Fashion’s Future

  • October 28, 2020

Time, after all, has become something of an abstract concept for us all; we exist in the discomfiting netherworld of the present, in which actions past are picked over and re-examined and what happens next seems impossible to parse. The political reality of the election has given rise to a broad conversation that harks back to the founding principles of the country even as it debates its future.

The concerns the show addresses have taken on a new, acutely personal, dimension. Its relatively restrained dimensions are soothing in an age of bombast. And the socially distanced, quieter museum visitation rules dictated by safety protocols, rather than diminishing the experience, actually enhance it.

Unlike the expanse of 2018’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” which escaped the bounds of a gallery to sprawl throughout the museum (and up to the Cloisters), “About Time” is contained within the bounds of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor rooms. You enter a darkened cocoon of a hallway to the soft, droning tones of Nicole Kidman reading from Woolf’s saga of time travel, “Orlando,” only to emerge into an equally somber clock of a room, a bronze pendulum swinging at the center (Es Devlin did the otherworldly exhibition design) synced to Philip Glass’s “The Poet Acts” from the film “The Hours,” itself based on the Woolf novel “Mrs. Dalloway,” tinkling on the soundtrack.

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