Arts, Column

A Cardinal Concern: Controversy at the Met

Celebrities always show up in full force to the annual Met Gala, and 2018 was no different. This year’s theme, however, was the most controversial yet. The extravagant fundraising event’s 2018 theme was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” While some who walked the red carpet donning high fashion garnered approval and admiration (Blake Lively’s dress seemingly won the whole country over in an instant), others quickly raised eyebrows. The Catholic Church gave the event full support, but where should it draw the line when it comes to its red carpet caricature?

The red carpet at the Met Gala was a unique one. From mitres to halos to veils inspired by the works of Michelangelo (Ariana Grande’s dress was taken from The Last Judgment) and his Renaissance counterparts, the red carpet was an avant-garde metropolis beaming with fashion ranging from intricately beautiful to pretentiously mocking.

However controversial the theme was, one thing is for sure: Art is integral to the identity of the Catholic Church. The regal display of wealth was one of the origins of the Protestant Reformation hundreds of years ago, yet the debate lives on today. The Catholic Church has been constantly ridiculed throughout history for using art as a rather ostentatious means to illustrate its power and great wealth. Whether the costume at hand was an example of divine artistry made with intricate care or one expressing an explicit gaudiness and mockery, all the subjects on the red carpet were using their vestments as direct displays of wealth and social power—just like the Church.

If conservative Catholics are to be fuming at any aspect of the gala, it should be the vast amounts of money that circulate it. Tickets for the event purportedly cost $30,000, and the event itself costs $3.5 million to produce. This year, Blake Lively’s dress cost $2 million. The Church no longer endorses elaborate displays of wealth, dripping with abundance from mantles and crucifixes on altars, so its involvement in such an affluently high-end evening is intriguing.

One last point to be made is the people who decided on this theme knew it would be controversial. In a time where political correctness reigns king and basic issues pertaining to American rights, ones we thought were resolved years ago, are being resurfaced, a debate about the intentions of the event were sure to arise. Call it conspicuous and loud all you want, but the art of the Catholic Church is renowned worldwide. Whether it be the Sistine Chapel or The Last Supper, Catholic art has pierced history every since its 15th-17th century resurgence. They could have easily used a theme such as “The Renaissance” to achieve this same artistic effect without the instigating religious controversy.

If anything, the controversy kept the gala in the news more than it would have been otherwise, and it has become the topic of debates all over. Not that the renowned ball needed any additional publicity, but it couldn’t hurt it at all, either. The Met knew religion on the red carpet is a risky move, and now it’s reaping both the consequences and benefits, garnering applause from designers whose unique work was displayed and raising the eyebrows of those who viewed the whole event as one big Catholic lampoon. They brought the Vatican to New York, and now the congregation is watching.

Featured Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 

May 11, 2018