Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen the extravagant looks that graced the steps at the Met Gala this year. For New Yorkers, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has extended the celebration of Camp with an exhibit that will stay open until September, and it promises an experience that you will not want to miss.
What is Camp? If you’re still confused, you are not alone. The exhibit’s curator Andrew Bolton quoted cultural historian Andy Medhurst saying: “Trying to define camp is like attempting to sit in the corner of a circular room”.
In simple terms, Camp highlights the outrageous and gaudy fashion styles that stem from 17th Century European queer culture. The exhibit touches on the history of Camp style and then takes viewers through costumes, sculptures, paintings, and drawings that have evolved under Camp influence and aesthetic.
Aside from the cacophony of elaborate costumes and colorful showrooms, the root of Camp is in its celebration of humanity and creative expression in all forms. In a sense, Camp embodies the New York melting pot — a hub of culture, style, and everything in between.
The Camp exhibit comes in a timely fashion, coinciding with NYC’s Pride Month. Below we’ve identified some of the most striking and must-see pieces displayed at the exhibit.
Let’s start with the basics — the origins of Camp.
Exhibit Curator, Bolton, begins by touching on the first uses of “Camp”, which correlate with crossdressing in the 18th century. Pictured below is French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier’s take on the classic feminine silhouette merged with a men’s suit from the nineteenth century.
Next you’ll find the “Sontagian Camp” section, modeled off of the original essay “Notes on Camp” by Susan Montag . These pieces include Met collection items such as Tiffany lamps and beaded dresses from the 19th century, as well as Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell’s tomato soup dress. All of these selections fall in line with Montag’s theme. History is alive and well, as the showroom is also decorated with an electronic ticker showcasing quotes from her original essay.
Bring on the color. In “Failed Seriousness” we get a glimpse into more of the extravagance and theatrical quality of camp. Think Vivienne Westwood Couture pink bows, flamingo headpieces, and rainbow platform shoes. In regard to Camp, excess is a must.
Finally, Bolton has created “Camp Eye” section. This section has a chic and aesthetically pleasing vibe, in which fashion pieces are displayed in miniature boxes. The display features examples of the camp aesthetic in fashion today. Inside you’ll find “The Psychopathology of Affluence” a dress made of dollar bills, and “The Mode of Enjoyment” featuring a heart shaped coat and a dress made up of a bouquet of flowers.
Trust us at Popshop and take a trip to the Upper East Side. The extraordinary awaits.
Written By: Rebecca Robin