Met Gala 2024 theme, exhibit will bring Costume Institute’s most fragile pieces out of mothballs

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Wednesday announced the theme for its Costume Institutes’ spring 2024 exhibition — which is launched by the museum’s annual fashion-meets-fabulous benefit extravaganza known as Met Gala.

“Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” will explore ideas of rebirth and renewal, using “nature as a metaphor for the impermanence of fashion,” the museum said in a statement.

The exhibition will run from May 10 through Sept. 2, while the headline-grabbing night that celebrates its opening, the Met Gala, will take place on May 6. Co-chairs for the event, often dubbed “the biggest night in fashion,” will be announced in the coming months.

Curators say the exhibition will employ the natural world “as a uniting visual metaphor for the transience of fashion,” using research and technology “to revive and explore the sensory capacities of masterworks in the museum’s collection.”

Visitors will be invited to examine garments from the institute’s own collection that can no longer be displayed on mannequins due to their “extreme fragility.”

These pieces — the theme’s “sleeping beauties” — will be displayed in glass “coffins,” allowing art lovers to analyze their states of deterioration “as if under a microscope.”

“When an item of clothing enters our collection, its status is changed irrevocably. What was once a vital part of a person’s lived experience is now a motionless ‘artwork’ that can no longer be worn or heard, touched, or smelled,” said Andrew Bolton, the institute’s head curator.

“The exhibition endeavors to reanimate these artworks by re-awakening their sensory capacities through a diverse range of technologies, affording visitors sensorial ‘access’ to rare historical garments and rarefied contemporary fashions,” added Bolton, who has been behind the Costume Institute’s exhibitions since 2006.

The technologies — from artificial intelligence to “traditional formats of x-rays” — will breathe new life into some pieces in the institute’s collection through immersive activations “designed to convey the smells, sounds, textures, and motions of garments that can no longer directly interact with the body.”