The Met Gala, the buzziest fashion-society-politics-celebrity gathering of the year, just ran out of time. On Monday, the museum announced that in order to avoid gatherings of 50 people or more, as per health guidance around the outbreak of the new coronavirus, “all programs and events through May 15 will be canceled or postponed.”
That programming includes the annual fund-raising party, which heralds the opening of the Costume Institute’s yearly blockbuster and has become the starriest draw of the New York gala circuit — as well as its most lucrative. According to a spokesperson for the museum, no new date or further plans for the party, originally scheduled for May 4 and meant to unveil the show “About Time: Fashion and Duration,” had been announced.
Chaired by Anna Wintour, the artistic director of Condé Nast, the gala is both a party that attracts millions of eyeballs on social media as guests attempt to out-dress one another and a vehicle for securing the annual operating budget of the Costume Institute, the only curatorial department in the museum required to pay for itself. A publicist once called it “an A.T.M. for the Met.”
In 2019, the gala for the exhibit “Camp: Notes on Fashion” raised $15 million from 550 guests. Brands typically spend more than $200,000 to secure a table at the event; an individual ticket costs $35,000 and can only be purchased by invitation. Attendance is also by invitation (Ms. Wintour vets every guest, even the ones invited by brands) and is a sign of currency far more powerful than any actual amount of currency can signify.
Along with Ms. Wintour, this year’s gala’s co-hosts included Nicolas Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton (the brand was also underwriting the exhibit), Emma Stone (the actress and Louis Vuitton brand ambassador), Meryl Streep (it would have been her first Met Gala), and Lin-Manuel Miranda. After the extremity of “Camp” — to which co-host Lady Gaga wore four different outfits, Billy Porter arrived born aloft on a stretcher carried by six shirtless men, and Katy Perry came as a working chandelier — expectations were this year’s theme would prompt a return to more classic (read: timeless) dress.
It’s widely viewed as the biggest night in fashion, even more so than the Academy Awards — and that’s just the red carpet. Reporters and social media are both banned from the dinner, which takes place inside the museum, the better to ensure exclusivity. What happens at the Temple of Dendur (and the other galleries) stays inside the galleries. Except when a guest takes an errant bathroom selfie.
In a statement posted on the Vogue website, Ms. Wintour called the decision “unavoidable and responsible,” and promised a preview of this year’s planned exhibition in the May issue of Vogue. (She also used the opportunity to endorse Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.)
The museum on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan — plus its two other locations, the Met Breuer and the Met Cloisters — initially closed to all visitors on March 13, in line with guidance from the mayor’s office. Still, as recently as March 9, the museum was still hoping the gala would go on as planned. The museum has not announced a reopening date.