Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, the archbishop of New York, cut straight to the chase in his remarks at Monday’s opening of “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“You may be asking, ‘What’s the church doing here? Why is the church part of all this?’ You may be asking, ‘What’s the Cardinal Archbishop of New York?’ I asked that when I was first invited a couple of months ago,” he said. “It’s because the church and the Catholic imagination are all about three things: truth, goodness and beauty. That’s why we have great schools and universities to teach the truth. That’s why we love to serve the poor to do good. And that’s why we’re into things such as art, poetry, music, liturgy and, yes, even fashion, to thank God for the gift of beauty.”
Dolan went on to thank Blackstone founder Stephen A. Schwarzman and his wife Christine (the exhibition’s underwriter with Versace) for their generosity to inner-city schools, Catholic charities and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. “In the Catholic imagination, the truth, beauty and goodness of God is reflected all over the place, even in fashion,” he said.
Schwarzman said he and his wife saw “’Heavenly Bodies’ as an important opportunity to help the museum’s audience understand the complex, ongoing and dynamic dialogue between religion and the world of fashion.” (He also mentioned Blackstone’s investment in Versace, with a 20 percent stake.)
Reminding the 675 or so media types in attendance that the exhibition is the largest for the Costume Institute and the Met in its history, president and chief executive officer Daniel H. Weiss said the show explores the historical relationship between fashion, art and religion. Donated Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, Pierpaolo Piccioli, Christopher Kane, Stephen Jones, Caroline Kennedy, Bob Sauerberg, Anna Wintour, Cecilia Dean and Li Edelkoort were some of the guests listening in. Andrew Bolton, curator in charge of the Met’s Costume Institute, noted the show covers 25 galleries amassing 60,000 square feet and is meant to be like a pilgrimage.
Afterward, James Martin S.J. greeted Thom Browne, as some took advantage of the open-until-one galleries and others boarded a bus for the show’s installation at The Cloisters. The serpentine route to a Fifth Avenue exit featured a glimpse of the Met Gala’s dinner seating, statues and a black grand piano with mic in place. A vendor trying to enter the museum earlier said he had been warned not to photograph the elaborate floral display at the main entrance. “I can assure you I will not,” he told a friend. “The problem is there are two populations here today — Condé Nast and the Met.”