Why Is This White T-Shirt Coming to the Museum of Modern Art?

White tees, little black dresses, and Levi's, oh my!

White T-Shirt.
Photo: Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

In news that’s sure to entice style mavens and art historians alike, the Museum of Modern Art recently announced plans of mounting a full exhibition dedicated to relics of the fashion world.

At the tail end of 2017, the museum’s second floor contemporary gallery spaces will be filled with t-shirts, Levi jeans, and little black dresses, among other items drawn from the 20th and 21st centuries. The exhibition, titled “Items: Is Fashion Modern?,” will include a selection of 99 garments and accessories.

“Historically, the museum has deliberately chosen not to engage with fashion in its galleries or its repositories, wary of those most anti-modern terms with which it is often derided: ephemeral, seasonal, faddish,” wrote exhibition curator Paola Antonelli in a blog entry on the MoMA’s website. As the institution’s senior curator of the department of architecture and design, Antonelli has developed a track record for elevating the role of design, organizing such shows as “SAFE: Design Takes on Risk” and “Design and the Elastic Mind.”

Klaus Maertens. Doc Martens. Classic Airwear introduced in 1960.<br>Photo: Courtesy of Melanie Levi via the Museum of Modern Art.

Klaus Maertens. Doc Martens. Classic Airwear introduced in 1960.
Photo: Courtesy of Melanie Levi via the Museum of Modern Art.

To demonstrate fashion’s multi-faceted historical contributions to modernity (or, more specifically, our contemporary world), Antonelli explained, “each of the 99 items will be explored along three tiers: archetype, stereotype, and prototype.”

High-fashion turned art-object is hardly new, and has led to a string of compelling museum exhibitions in recent years. North of MoMA on the Upper East Side’s Museum Mile, the Jewish Museum is currently hosting a show dedicated to the work of Isaac Mizrahi. Last year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art offered “China Through the Looking Glass,” a hugely-popular exhibition of haute couture costumes inspired by Chinese art objects that surpassed even the huge attendance figures set by another Met fashion exhibition, featuring the work of Alexander McQueen.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics