From May 5 to August 14, 2016, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s costume institute presents its Spring 2016 exhibition — Manus x Machina: fashion in an age of technology. The monumental show comprises more than 170 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear, dating from the early 1900s to the present. The exhibited pieces address the distinction between the hand (manus) and the machine (machina), with ensembles ranging from Iris van Herpen’s 3D-printed pieces, to embroidery by Yves Saint Laurent highlighting the cultural and symbolic meanings of the hand-machine dichotomy.
OMA New York has realized the exhibition design in collaboration with the MET’s design department. Led by director Shohei Shigematsu, OMA has transformed the Robert Lehman wing galleries — situated at the museum’s first floor and ground level — into a building-within-a-building using layers of white fabrics. The space hosts a sequence of ‘case studies’, where haute couture and ready-to-wear pieces are presented to reveal their hand/machine-made characteristics.
At the centerpiece of the exhibition, a 2014 haute couture wedding dress by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel with a 20-foot train occupies a central cocoon. Details of its embroidery are projected onto a domed ceiling. This scuba knit ensemble stands as a unparalleled example of the meeting point between handmade and machine-made: the pattern on the train was hand-painted with gold metallic pigment, machine-printed with rhinestones, and hand-embroidered with pearls and gemstones. The dress is presented on a long white platform that extends through the gallery space, highlighting the length of the train and its intricate detailing.
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