Welcoming 1 Million Fashion Pilgrims, ‘Heavenly Bodies’ Just Became the Met Costume Institute’s Most Popular Show Ever

The museum just welcomed the show's one-millionth visitor.

Installation view, Medieval Sculpture Hall. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Installation view of "Heavenly Bodies" at the Met, Medieval Sculpture Hall. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” has been a media sensation since it kicked off this past spring, starting with a red carpet gala that drew celebrities in their own elaborate vestments, including Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lana Del Ray, and Lena Waithe. But now the show, which was organized by the Met’s Costume Institute, has reached unprecedented heights in popularity.

The Met announced yesterday that it had welcomed its 1 millionth visitor, becoming among the top draws in the Met’s history, according to a statement from the museum. It is the highest attendance ever recorded for a Costume Institute show and the third highest for the Met overall, topping “The Vatican Collections in 1983 and landing just behind “Mona Lisa” in 1963. The Met’s most attended show is still the 1978 exhibition “Treasures of Tutankhamun,which drew 1,360,957 visitors.

Installation of "Heavenly Bodies" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Installation of “Heavenly Bodies” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Heavenly Bodies,” which draws connections between fashion and medieval art in the Met’s collection, marks one of the most ambitious undertakings yet. It is the largest show that either the Costume Institute or the Met has ever put together, spread across 60,000 square feet in 25 galleries of the Fifth Avenue headquarters, as well as at the Cloisters, the museum’s medieval art wing in northern Manhattan.

“In order to see this exhibition, one has to embark on a veritable pilgrimage,” Met CEO Daniel Weiss said during the exhibition preview this past May.

The show was organized by Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton and includes papal robes and accessories from the Vatican as well as more than 40 ecclesiastical masterworks from the Sistine Chapel sacristy, many of which have never been seen outside of the Vatican.

“Opulent gowns and accessories adorn mannequins interspersed among the statuary, architectural fragments, and ritual objects in the museum’s Byzantine and Medieval collections,” wrote critic Eleanor Heartney in a column for artnet News. The show, she concluded, was both “gorgeous and unsettling.”

“Heavenly Bodies” is on view at The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters through October 8.


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