Almost 10 years have gone by since the Costume Institute’s last acquisitions show, blog.mode: addressing fashion. Given how much the Institute must receive, it’s surprising that it’s taken this long for Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion (now on view) to come about. In addition to donations and purchases the museum has made, recent years have also seen the transfer of the Brooklyn Museum’s costume collection to the Met, overseen by the then curator in charge Harold Koda. As a tribute (and particularly sentimental move) to the now-retired Koda, the Institute also requested that various designers donate some of his favorite pieces. They were happy to oblige (a testament to how beloved he is), and those looks are displayed in the exhibit in the Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery.
Entering Masterworks, visitors are greeted by the work of Viktor and Rolf twice: First when walking down the grand staircase into the space, where a garment from the design duo’s Fall 2015 couture show is draped on a pedestal (this was, after all, the collection in which the designers went ultra-literal with wearable art), and then again at the bottom of the staircase, with an impressive tulle ball gown from the Spring 2010 collection. For the most part, the space is organized by era, although there are some instances in which curator Jessica Regan has paired a contemporary piece with a historical one, to illustrate how designers draw from both the past, and each other.