Met eliminates closet space

October 02, 1991|By Woody Hochswender | Woody Hochswender,N.Y. Times z

Visitors to the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan are in for a bit of a shock. The sprawling basement gallery areas, which once exhibited the clothes of Queen Victoria and Catherine the Great, have been converted into an employees cafeteria.

The transformation, which will reduce the exhibition area from six major galleries to one, began in late spring without official announcement.

Employees now consume soup and sandwiches in the area that once displayed the dress in which Empress Elizabeth of Austria was stabbed and killed (the knife hole is still in the dress). There are cash registers where Napoleon and Josephine's coronation clothes were exhibited. Food is served in an area that once held the clothes of Greta Garbo by Adrian.

"Fashion as we have known it is collapsing on many fronts, including the scholarly curatorial costume departments of the major museums," Bill Cunningham, the fashion historian and photographer, wrote in the fall issue of Visionaire, a journal of the arts and fashion.

Jean Druesedow, the associate curator in the charge of the Costume Institute, said the change simply reflects a reallocation of space within the museum and does not involve cutbacks. The exhibit space has been reduced from about 12,000 square feet to about 5,000 square feet, she said.

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