When most hear the word camp, they think of Boy Scouts roasting marshmallows around a fire. However, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York plans to introduce the world to a different definition of camp at their 2019 Met Gala, themed “Camp: Notes on Fashion.”
The spring 2019 exhibition will be based off of philosopher Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay, “Notes on Camp.” In the essay, Sontag describes camp fashion as “love of the unnatural” and “artifice and exaggeration.” Camp has no explicit definition, but we know the concept marries high art and pop culture to create extravagant artwork. It can include many elements, such as irony and parody, to create a bold product.
The concept of camp traces back to the extravagant style of late 17th century France under rule of King Louis XIV. In more modern history, the term has described theatrical style prominent in the drag queen community.
Sontag’s essay was the first to explore the term in a serious manner, and she describes the outlandishness of many things as camp, from Tchaikovsky’s "Swan Lake" to the Art Nouveau movement.
This theme has no specific guidelines, so we should expect to see many different interpretations of it from Met Gala guests. This contrasts from 2018’s theme, “Heavenly Bodies,” which was much more straight forward in terms of what to wear.
The Met Gala will be sponsored by Gucci. The celebrity co-chairs joining Gucci’s Alessandro Michele and Vogue’s Anna Wintour will be Harry Styles, Lady Gaga and Serena Williams.
Lady Gaga especially has embodied the essence of camp throughout her career, which has showcased outlandish art. Her infamous 2010 MTV Video Music Awards dress made entirely of raw meat, for example, is camp at its finest.
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The museum’s 175-piece exhibition, which will include both men’s and women’s fashion pieces, is predicted to be special and relevant to today’s issues, so political and pop culture references can be expected.
The 2019 Met Gala will take place on May 6, 2019, and the exhibition will be available at the museum from May to September 2019.
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