Friday, May 23, 2014
The Met Roof and The Frocks of Charles James
The Met in New York City is one of the half dozen great art museums in the world, but I get the giggles every time I go to one of their contemporary rooftop installations. The current iteration gets points for creating a Green Space rather than the metaphorically blood-splattered floor of last summer's edition, but it still feels a bit silly.
I turned 60 on Thursday, a milestone which I never expected to experience for some reason, and tearing through the Met with seemingly half the rest of the world on a Thursday afternoon was a delightful way to spend it.
The most interesting special show was a fashion exhibit of rich ladies' ballgowns by Charles James from the 1940s through 1960s. David Byrne, who is a longtime blogger on top of everything else, wrote last week about the exhibit and its fascinations, and he was dead on. The designs of the gowns and the computer graphics in front of each of the structured frocks illustrating their engineering are totally fascinating.
Byrne also writes: "James was notoriously temperamental and fussy. One could say he was an artist who wanted his work seen in the best way possible, but after insulting too many rich lady clients and their friends (he called one woman a frump to her face and refused to dress her), well, the commissions began to dry up...James died penniless in squalor in the Chelsea Hotel in 1978. Changing times yes, but a lot of his problems he seemed to have brought on himself. The artist as a horrible, bad-tempered asshole—we all know them."
That is a perfect New York Cautionary Tale, if ever I have heard one.