It could be argued that no other person interested in fashion has the reach that Andrew Bolton has, not only to engage the world at large, but also to spark conversations about how it is defined.
As the Wendy Yu curator in charge of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bolton has used multi-layered fashion exhibits to delve into technology, automation, identity, cultural context, Catholicism, and camp (such as on kitsch, not pop-up tents and Pines).
The CFDA salutes you with the Founder’s Award in honor of Eleanor Lambert.
Open-mindedness, commitment and ingenuity have been integral to his 20-year tenure at the museum. Without a doubt, the massive media frenzy, both social and traditional, around the celebrity-studded Met Gala each year has forced unflinchingly unassuming Bolton into a brighter spotlight. More often than not, however, their instinctive tendency is to turn conversations to the topic at hand, and exhibits at The Met usually have a myriad at play.
“Fashion is the only art form that can respond so quickly and directly to the times we live in due to the ephemerality of fashion. Sometimes it’s done more deliberately in response to what’s going on and other times it’s more subtle and taps into the collective consciousness,” Bolton said in an interview with WWD earlier this year.
He has also been a true ringleader for The Met in terms of getting millions of people up its marble stairs and through its Fifth Avenue main entrance. Some of the exhibitions at the Costume Institute that he has curated are among the most visited in the museum. With more than 1.6 million visitors, the 2018 exhibition “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” ranks first, followed by the 1978 “Treasures of Tutankhamun” with 1.36 million visitors.
Affable and erudite, the British-born curator earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in non-Western art from the University of East Anglia. Before crossing the pond to join The Met in 2002, he worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London for nine years. At The Met, there’s plenty to take in, given the Costume Institute’s collection of more than 33,000 pieces spanning seven centuries. His repertoire of showings at The Met includes such hits as “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” in 2011, “China: Through the Looking Glass” in 2015 and “Manus vs. Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” in 2016. Together, by the way, Bolton has written 16 books and continues to lecture and contribute to other publications.
As encyclopedic as his knowledge is and as complex as his curations, Bolton has cultivated an all-welcome multimedia approach to both museum goers and collaborators. She has recruited such talents as music aficionado Brian Eno, filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, and OMA architect Sho Shigematsu in different capacities. For “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” which ended in September, nine prominent directors, including Martin Scorsese, Chloé Zhao, Janicza Bravo, Tom Ford and Regina King, were recruited to create cinematic vignettes in American period theaters.
That was the second part of a year-long exhibition that was designed to create “a living exhibit that could respond not only to current conversations and debates within fashion, but to broader ones culturally,” Bolton explained several months ago. .
There will be more Bolton-fueled talk to come, given that the Costume Institute’s “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” opens this spring and his associate Thom Browne takes on the role of CFDA president early in the new year. .