In polite conversation, it is generally acknowledged that the two subjects one should avoid are religion and politics. But when an artist is creating a masterpiece, politeness is the least of his concerns. Art and fashion are meant to provoke reactions from the viewer, even if those reactions are shocking or distasteful. The theme for the Met Gala 2018, “Fashion and Religion” will similarly evoke some very strong emotions from critics.
The History of Art and Religion
Art and religion have been two threads of the same cord throughout history. The church patronized the Masters, who returned some of the world’s most beautiful works of religious art. Every world religion has its own art and iconography. It makes sense that fashion, one of the many branches of the fine arts, draws upon these images for inspiration.
Art and Religion in Fashion
Over the years, many renown fashion designers have included religious symbols in their collections. Jean Paul Gauthier‘s 2007 Spring Couture collection featured models walking the runway in fashions emblazoned with crosses, angels, and stained glass windows — each model wearing a halo.
Dolce & Gabanna paid homage to their Catholic upbringing with their Fall 2013 Ready to Wear collection. Mosaic religious iconography dominated each look that walked the runway.
Karla Spetic‘s Spring/Summer 13/14 collection featured brightly colored garments adorned with the face of Jesus the Good Shepherd.
Fashion and Religion in Pop Culture
Arguably the first celebrity to ostentatiously blend fashion and religion, Madonna is infamous for her envelop-pushing fashion choices. From using rosaries as fashion accessories to wearing crucifix earrings to sporting an actual crown of thorns, Madonna subverted Catholic images to make fashion statements. More recently, Beyonce drew from Christian symbology as well as imagery of the African goddess Oshun in her performance at the 2017 Grammys.
The Possible Controversy
Since fashion and religion have been intertwined for years, why are people worried about next year’s Met Gala theme? The gala is a place for celebrities and fashionistas to make a statement with their fashion choices. In an attempt to steal the spotlight, attendees have in the past blurred the line between provocative and offensive. Critics condemned attendees for cultural appropriation for past Met Galas, and the risk for such offenses is even higher with such a delicate topic as world religion.
There will always be those who are offended by edgy art, but where should the line be drawn? What one person deems tasteless, another may call brave, provocative art. We would love to hear your opinion. Will the Met Gala be an opportunity to showcase challenging, but inspirational, fashions or is it a recipe for disaster? Let us know in the comments or on social media.