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The Met Spring 2020 Exhibition theme: About Time: Fashion and Duration
The Clock, a fashion photograph exploring time from 1999 by Sarah Moon

The Met's Costume Institute announces time-travelling theme for Spring 2020 exhibition

Fashion "flashbacks and fast-forwards" will be the theme of next year's major fashion exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, with exhibition design by Es Devlin.

Called About Time: Fashion and Duration, the spring 2020 exhibition at the Met's Costume Institute will explore the nature of time. It will form part of the museum's 150-year anniversary celebrations.

Set designer Es Devlin will work with the design department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to create the exhibition, which opens in May next year.

Spanning more than a century and a half, the exhibition will guide visitors through fashion from 1870 to the present, and back again.

"This exhibition will consider the ephemeral nature of fashion, employing flashbacks and fast-forwards to reveal how it can be both linear and cyclical," said Max Hollein, director of The Met.

The Met Spring 2020 Exhibition theme: About Time: Fashion and Duration
Surreal is a fashion photo by David Bailey that riffs on Salvador Dali's melting clock

Most of the 160 items in the show will be taken from the The Costume Institute's extensive collection.

By contrasting black and white outfits, the exhibition will move away from a traditional, chronological order that breaks fashion history down into a history of silhouettes.

The black outfits will follow a linear progression from 1870 – the year the Met was founded – to the present. Juxtaposed ensembles in white, made before or after the black pieces but sharing a motif, silhouette, material or technique, will offer a counterpoint and a connection.

An Alexander McQueen Bumster skirt, 1995, will be displayed next to a princess-line dress from the late 1870s in black silk, and a black, silk-velvet bustle outfit from the 1880s can be seen next to a Comme des Garçons piece from 1997, Body Meets Dress–Dress Meets Body.

A section at the end of the exhibition will look forward to the future of fashion, examining issues around sustainability.

Body Meets Dress–Dress Meets Body by Commes des Garcon
Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Body Meets Dress–Dress Meets Body, spring/summer 1997

"Fashion is indelibly connected to time," said Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu curator in charge of The Costume Institute.

"It not only reflects and represents the spirit of the times, but it also changes and develops with the times, serving as an especially sensitive and accurate timepiece. Through a series of chronologies, the exhibition will use the concept of duration to analyse the temporal twists and turns of fashion history."

About Time: Fashion and Duration will be guided by the work of the French 20th-century philosopher Henri Bergson. His philosophy of la durée, or duration, conceives of time as something that cannot be divided up into minutes or hours, but should be understood in its multiplicity.

His work informed modernist writers such as Virginia Woolf in her novels Mrs Dalloway and Orlando. Woolf will be one of the exhibition's "ghost narrators" as fashion is used to explore the theme of temporality, and vice versa.

The exhibition catalogue will feature a new short story by Michael Cunningham, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, The Hours, which drew inspiration from Mrs Dalloway.

Last year the exhibition and Met Gala theme was based around the American writer Susan Sontag's 1964 essay Notes on Camp.

Set against a Pepto-pink backdrop, 175 items on display next to letters, paintings and objects explored how fashion has always played with the idea of camp as defined in Sontag's seminal text.

Next year's Met Gala will be 4 May 2020, when celebrities and fashion notables will take up the challenge of dressing to the theme of the exhibition. Landscape architect Miranda Brooks will devise the decor for the benefit party.

About Time: Fashion and Duration will run from 7 May 2020 until September 7 2020.

Images courtesy of The Met unless otherwise stated.