In a last-minute announcement just weeks before this year’s Met Gala that is sending its star-studded guest list into a tizzy, the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has issued a new theme for the annual fundraising benefit. Scrapping their plan to pay tribute to the late designer Karl Lagerfeld, organizers revealed that the 2023 theme will be “Looting and Plunder,” a topical nod to the recent spate of headlines related to the museum’s holding of illicitly trafficked antiquities. The news was shared in a press release sent to media at exactly 4:59pm on Friday.
In line with a stated commitment to make the experience as authentic as possible, select A-list guests will be permitted to don looted artifacts from the museum’s collection, many of which have yet to be seized by the Manhattan District Attorney or are easily retrievable, as they are still stuck in customs. While some celebrities are scrambling to adapt their outfits to the eleventh-hour theme change, Kim Kardashian has already called dibs on any items from the museum’s African wing.
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Anna Wintour, Vogue editor-in-chief and namesake of The Met’s Costume Center, said in an interview that she could not resist the “unique opportunity to engage with some of the most fabulous objects in the museum’s trove of pillaged art.” (Wintour has co-chaired the gala since 1995, around the same time that looting intensified in some parts of Southeast Asia, a fact she referred to as “a fun coincidence.”)
When reached for comment by Hyperallergic, a Met Museum spokesperson responded with a facepalm emoji.
“This would be a good time to remind people that I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MET GALA,” reads a statement attributed to Met Director Max Hollein. “Frankly, I’ve always felt a little cringe about the whole thing, but they’ve really outdone themselves this year.”
Once known as the Costume Institute Benefit — a name the museum is begging the Institute to reinstate, according to several sources — the Met Gala is the main source of funding for the department’s programming and acquisitions. The party raked in a record $17.4 million in 2022, though this year’s figure could be even higher thanks to a concurrent fundraising auction of a trove of invaluable Pre-Hispanic treasures that will take place at Christie’s.
While many invitees have voiced their enthusiasm about the chance to wear Native American headdresses without being accused of cultural appropriation, some guests are opting to skip the “Looting and Plunder” theme altogether in lieu of a political statement. US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for instance, has already announced on Twitter her intentions to sport a white gown with the words “Museums Are Not Neutral” scrawled in red.