Andrew Bolton Gets Personal About Fashion & Technology As Met's 'Manus x Machine' Exhibit Opens

Rianne Van Rompaey Is Lensed By Steven Meisel In 'Manus X Machina Exhibition' For Vogue US May 2016

Star curator in charge of New York's Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute Andrew Bolton will achieve a pinnacle of success tonight, when he unveils the massive fashion exhibition “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology,” sponsored by Apple. The guest list, and what everyone wears, is controlled by Anna Wintour and her team at US Vogue, who will co-chair the gala alongside Idris Elba, Taylor Swift and Jonathan Ive, chief design officer at Apple: who is also sponsoring the gala.

'Manus x Machina' will examine how man and machine-made processes have evolved and become entwined in fashion. “I didn’t want a show on fashion and technology,” he says. “I’m not a great fan of gadgets. I don’t find them that beautiful to look at. I’m interested in how technology has been incorporated as part of the creative process.”
“When people present visions of the future, its utopian or dystopian. I think people expect this show to be daleks and it’s not. It looks at technology as something romantic,” says Bolton. “There’s a connection between fear and clothing,” he continues. “Was haute couture a reaction to the anxiety of the democratic possibilities of the sewing machine — the two came about in the same decade [the 1850s]?”

When he replaced the retiring Harold Koda this winter as curator in charge of the Costume Institute, the 49-year-old Bolton was praised by Thomas P. Campbell, director of the Met since 2009, as a curator with " a rare ability to bridge intellectual discourse with public appeal. The fashion world is so characterized by promotion and megawatt personalities, but Andrew remains humble and genuine and totally uninterested in all the glamour. He loves costume, and he brings an awareness of artistic, social, economic, and philosophical ideas into play.”

Before Bolton's blockbuster 2011 exhibit 'Savage Beauty', an event that brought 661,509 visitors to the Met over three months, Harold Koda described the Costume Institute as a girl who got all the dates but none of the respect.  Vogue recently profiled Bolton, in advance of tonight's May 2, 2016 extravaganza, writing:

Bolton’s struggle to match his McQueen success in the institute’s show last year, “China: Through the Looking Glass”—a nuanced exploration of tradition and transcendence in fashion—is the subject of a buoyant new documentary by Andrew Rossi, The First Monday in May, appearing this spring. Weaving between preparations for the 2015 Met ball and the creation of the China show, the film illuminates Bolton’s months of preparation, from conception to his final, moving walk through the completed exhibition. (Spoiler: Attendance topped out at an astonishing 815,992 visitors; both it and the McQueen show now stand among the ten most popular exhibitions in the Met’s entire history.) In “Manus x Machina,” Bolton’s challenge is not just to sustain this hot hand but to use it as a template. “We’ve experimented with levels of theatricality and audience engagement and technology that have redefined the potential of exhibition display,” Campbell says. “It will have repercussions far beyond the world of costume.”

The documentary by Andrew Rossi premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in mid April. It takes viewers through the whole process of Andrew Bolton's original conception of the 2015 exhibition into the gala night itself. Rihanna's famed arrival in her spectacular canary-yellow gown by Chinese designer Guo Pei is followed by her performance of 'Bitch Better Have My Money'.

First Monday in May Trailer

Andrew Bolton: The Humble Curator

Thom Browne -- Andrew Bolton's partner --, Baz Luhrmann, Anna Wintour and Andrew Bolton at the April 2015 Vilcek Prizes in New York.

Thom Browne -- Andrew Bolton's partner --, Baz Luhrmann, Anna Wintour and Andrew Bolton at the April 2015 Vilcek Prizes in New York.

There is an unusual word about Andrew Bolton in today's selfie-stick world: 'humble'. Vogue used the word to describe Bolton's receiving the top creative award at the 2015 Vilcek Prizes.

He (Bolton) thanked his colleagues at the Costume Institute, and of course the Vilceks, for doing their part to endorse fashion as a legitimate art form. But, in a sentiment that went beyond the borders of any field of study, and any nation, he saved his final thanks for Thom Browne (Bolton's life partner), for “teaching me to curate from the heart.”

More Andrew Bolton

Andrew Bolton: the man at the Met The Financial Times

Andrew Bolton's path into the world of fashion was not a direct one. He studied anthropology at the University of East Anglia and then earned an MA in non-western art. His first curatorial role at the V&A's East Asia department, where he introduced fashion into the collection. When he switched to the V&A's actual fashion department, Bolton staged provocative exhibitions such as 'Men In Skirts', a show that is still referred to by young menswear designers finding a path through gender fluidity.

How Andrew Bolton of Met Costume Institute Spends His Sundays New York Times