The storyteller

Andrew Bolton on Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Andrew Bolton, Anna Wintour, Stephen A Schwarzman, Timothy Cardinal Dolan (Archbishop of New York), Donatella Versace, Christine Schwarzman, and Daniel H Weiss (The Metropolitan Museum of Art President and CEO)
Andrew Bolton, Anna Wintour, Stephen A Schwarzman, Timothy Cardinal Dolan (Archbishop of New York), Donatella Versace, Christine Schwarzman, and Daniel H Weiss (The Metropolitan Museum of Art President and CEO) Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Wim Wenders' Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word will première at Cannes just days after The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute gala celebration for Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, co-chaired by Anna Wintour, Rihanna, Amal Clooney, and Donatella Versace. Sarah Jessica Parker, Jared Leto, George Clooney, Salma Hayek, Alicia Vikander, Emilia Clarke, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Frances McDormand, Shailene Woodley, Blake Lively, Amber Heard, and Priyanka Chopra were among the stars who heard Madonna perform.

Thom Browne's evening ensembles inspired by the "ecclesiastical fashion show" in Federico Fellini's Roma
Thom Browne's evening ensembles inspired by the "ecclesiastical fashion show" in Federico Fellini's Roma Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Anjelica Huston, Rita Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Jon Hamm, Wes Anderson, Bill Murray, Alan Cumming, Sofia Coppola, Naomi Campbell, Fran Lebowitz, Lenny Kravitz, Elaine Stritch, Nina Garcia, Paul Shaffer, Graydon Carter, Vera Wang, and Woody Allen are huge fans of The Carlyle Hotel and it is a post-gala celebration hotspot on each First Monday in May as shown in Matthew Miele's latest documentary Always At The Carlyle.

At the press preview for Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute chatted with me on the origin of the name for the exhibition, celebrating the beauty involved with Catholicism, childhood nostalgia, and fashion as storytelling.

Anne-Katrin Titze: The title Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination is again wonderful. It's a similar structural idea as China: Through the Looking Glass, isn't it?

Andrew Bolton: Sort of. The title really came from a book by a sociologist and theologian called Andrew Greeley who tries to define what the Catholic imagination is. And he defines it as a storytelling tradition.

Artists and writers who grew up Catholic have this way of looking at the world which is very much through the eyes of metaphor, in a way, through the eyes of storytelling.

Thom Browne in the Temple of Dendur - The designer also has work in the show influenced by the nuns of the Salzburg Nonnberg Abbey in Robert Wise's The Sound Of Music
Thom Browne in the Temple of Dendur - The designer also has work in the show influenced by the nuns of the Salzburg Nonnberg Abbey in Robert Wise's The Sound Of Music Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

So the Catholic imagination what it really is - it's the narrative approach to one's creativity and how one sees the world through metaphor. That's really the idea behind the show.

AKT: The body and the imagination together - through fashion as storytelling?

AB: Absolutely.

AKT: There is the theory that real fantasy is the fantasy of the sin of enjoyment. There's a bit of that in the show. The lure of the forbidden. The fashion that uses religious imagery - there's a kind of sinfulness to it that makes it all the more interesting. Do you agree?

AB: It's so interesting in terms of how designers work with it. Sometimes they use Catholic imagery for provocation. But what I find is how for a lot of them, most of them, it's about nostalgia. And I think that growing up Catholic, there's a deep nostalgia to …

AKT: Childhood?

AB: Childhood! I think a lot of it is about that actually. Of course, sometimes it's about provocation, sometimes it's a celebration. Balenciaga, his work certainly was about celebrating the beauty involved with Catholicism.

Andrew Bolton: "The title really came from a book by a sociologist and theologian called Andrew Greeley who tries to define what the Catholic imagination is."
Andrew Bolton: "The title really came from a book by a sociologist and theologian called Andrew Greeley who tries to define what the Catholic imagination is." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: I can see that clearly.

AB: He was a very devout Catholic. I think it's more about nostalgia.

Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, made possible by Versace, Christine and Stephen A Schwarzman with additional support by Condé Nast will open to the public on May 10 and run to October 8, 2018 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Met Cloisters.

Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word will have its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 13 and open in the US on May 18.

Coming up - Matthew Miele in conversation on Always At The Carlyle at The Carlyle Hotel.

Always at The Carlyle will open in the US on May 11.

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