What is Camp? This Year's Met Gala Theme

met gala

Every year since 1972, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announces a themed Costume Institue exhibition that will be attended by invited celebrities and members of New York high society. This was called the Met Gala and for almost 50 years the luxurious and blockbuster event is considered as "the jewel in New York City's social crown" or the "Fashion Oscars".

This year, the theme is about Camp. And no, it's not about what you're picturing right now.

Camp: Notes on Fashion

The 2019 Met Gala theme, Camp: Notes on Fashion, is inspired by Susan Sontag's 1964 essay Notes on 'Camp'. There, 58 definitions were penned to explain what Andrew Bolton, the museum's curator for the Costume Institue, has chosen as the most relevant fashion movement of the year.

In her very first point, Sontag starts by writing:

"Camp is a certain mode of aestheticism. It is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. That way, the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization."

In definition #14 from the same essay, it says that camp began with the ostentatious French courts of the 17th century like the Chateau de Versailles where King Louis XIV held royal ballets--which one would consider opulent.

Yet, according to one of the Camp counselors (pun intended), Gucci's creative director Alessandro Michele, camp--which was previously thought of as high brow, now has become mainstream:

“[Notes on Camp] perfectly expresses what camp truly means to me: the unique ability of combining high art and pop culture.”

While these certainly help uncover the essence of Camp, it's still hard to pin down its actual meaning. Maybe the co-chair for this year's Met Gala can help us figure it out.

camp met gala

Thank you, Lady Gaga.

Theatrics, Irony, And Humour

According to the event's press release, the museum’s upcoming “camp” exhibition, which opens on Met Gala day, spans from the 17th century to the present, tracing camp’s origins from Versailles to “the queer subcultures of Europe and America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

That's why the five-month exhibit will include over 200 art pieces such as fashion items, paintings, sculptures and drawings from the 17th century onwards. The work of designers featured in the exhibition include John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld, Rei Kawakubo, Mugler, and Alexander McQueen--putting theatrics, irony, and humor on the runway.


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