The Costume Institute’s “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty”, the ongoing exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is an ode to the near-seven decade career of the late German designer. It is currently on view until July 16.
With a focus on the designer’s collective oeuvre more than the man himself, the collection showcases over 200 garments from Lagerfeld’s extensive career in the fashion industry. Spanning Lagerfeld’s time as an apprentice at Balmain to his iconic creative direction at Chanel, archival pieces from the several houses Lagerfeld piloted are on display, including Patou, Chloé, Fendi, and his eponymous line.
Upon entrance, guests are greeted by a recreation of Lagerfeld’s famous scattered desk, covered by an expanse of sketches, books, and personal accoutrements related to his process. Though primarily based on his body of work, the paradox of Lagerfeld’s character is embodied throughout the exhibit as each room follows two central themes of his career, arranged in a synchronous juxtaposition.
From themes like masculine and feminine, historical and futuristic, and romantic and military, a collection of seemingly opposite “sublines” show consistencies in the grouping of ideas from Lagerfeld’s work. Each curated segment is centred by a single garment that fuses the contrasting concepts in what is dubbed the “explosion piece” by the leading curators, helmed by Andrew Bolton.
The title of the curation, “A Line of Beauty”, is a reference to William Hogarth‘s idea of the highly desirable serpentine “S” silhouette from the novel The Analysis of Beauty, which serves as guiding inspiration for much of Lagerfeld’s design practice—and is also contrasted by his affinity for the straight line concept, representing his unrelenting incongruity applied to his life’s work.
Designed by Tadao Ando, the celebrated Japanese architect constructed fluid curving walls that move museum goers seamlessly through the retrospective. The design of the space allows attendees to peer into other portions of the exhibition from different vantage points, suggesting a vast sweep of time that Lagerfeld embraced in his perspective on past, present, and future throughout his career.
The final stop is a domed room with several smartphones propped up on a centre podium and along the wall, playing a video of Lagerfeld laughing on loop—a peer into the person behind the elusive persona.