Say what you will about The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2018 Costume Institute exhibit Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination — whether it be that The Met got the fashion part wrong, or that it focused too much on Western Catholicism — but its popularity is undeniable.
Since opening on the first Monday in May, the exhibition has seen over one million visitors, making it the Costume Institute’s most attended show in history, The Met announced in a press release. It’s also the museum’s third most popular exhibit ever, replacing The Vatican Collections in 1983 and following Mona Lisa in 1963. The Met’s most popular retrospective to date is the Treasures of Tutankhamun in 1978, with 1,360,957 visitors.
Heavenly Bodies, which opened on May 10, is the largest exhibit both the Costume Institute and The Met has ever put on display, with 25 galleries spanning over 60,000 square feet. Heavenly Bodies is also the first time 42 pieces from the Sistine Chapel were loaned outside the Vatican. Heavenly Bodies will remain on view at the Costume Institute through October 8, but its run may be extended due to popular demand. (This also happened with China: Through The Looking Glass in 2015 and Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology in 2016).
As Diane Winston, MS, Ph.D., professor of media and religion at the University of Southern California, told Refinery29 of the exhibit: “To experience Catholicism is to experience not just a religion but an aesthetic. [Catholicism] is all about beauty. The Catholic Church has been very wealthy for a long time, so they’ve been able to accumulate amazing artwork, beautiful religious vestments, [and] amazingly built cathedrals.” So as odd as the pairing may have seemed, it makes complete sense that the exhibit has drawn such a large crowd.