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With its blockbuster gala and the opening of its newly renovated facilities coming in May, the Met’s Costume Institute is most definitely the place to be. AVENUE checks in with the Institute’s chief curator to look at a venerable institution poised for an exciting new era. by Christopher Lawrence

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t’s like that sexy old blues riff: “Baby, don’t you want to go?” And they surely do. Badly. But it takes more than a quarter-million dollars to secure a top table for the annual gala that funds the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. The privilege comes only after one has received the blessing of Anna Wintour, who has presided over 15 editions of the party since 1995. It’s big night out, to be sure. Two years ago, “Page Six” reported that then-reigning Sports Illustrated cover girl Kate Upton had written a check for $25,000 while sitting in Wintour’s Vogue office. It was a worthy gesture of support from the kind of person whose presence would itself be an asset. Kim Kardashian, on the other hand, another name then on everybody’s lips, was blackballed. Harold Koda, the Institute’s curator-in-charge since 2000, has been associated with the place—apart from some distinguished stints elsewhere—since the mini, midi, maxi days of the early 1970s. Koda is thoroughly elegant and speaks with the silky tone and finely calibrated diction of a scholar and a gentleman. He would seem to live a world away from the hustle and bustle of the party and the play of its big cash/ big flash pop-cultural swirl. This year’s gala will be held on May 5, and Koda told me recently that when The Big Night comes, “I’m on the perimeter, I’m observing it.” The pleasure was evident. These are exciting days for the Institute, and whatever happens going forward, Koda’s legacy is more than secured. The centerpiece of his achievement is the 2009 acquisition of the Brooklyn Museum’s famed costume collection. A trove that spans the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries it was a stunning strategic coup. It added an even greater historical depth to the Met’s holdings and bolstered its formidable claim to own, as Koda calls it, the country’s “most encyclopedic collection of Western high fashion.” In the costume collection race, there are differences in accounting and some institutions tally holdings by the individual piece. The Met, however, is arguably more rigorous, counting the trove by complete ensembles. And it holds no fewer than 35,000 of them.

Profile for AVENUE Magazine

AVENUE March 2014  

Founded in 1976, AVENUE is a must-read among the city’s most discerning, stylish and savvy audiences. As Manhattan’s oldest society magazine...

AVENUE March 2014  

Founded in 1976, AVENUE is a must-read among the city’s most discerning, stylish and savvy audiences. As Manhattan’s oldest society magazine...

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