The inaugural exhibition of the newly renovated Costume Institute at the Met examined the career of legendary twentieth-century Anglo-American couturier Charles James. The exhibit spanned two galleries; the special exhibition galleries on the Museum’s first floor and The Costume Institute’s Anna Wintour Costume Center on the ground floor. It explored James’s design process, specifically his use of sculptural, scientific, and mathematical approaches to construct revolutionary ball gowns and innovative tailoring that continue to influence designers today. James’s process was revealed and explained through the use of technology as approximately sixty-five of the most notable designs were examined.
Revealing the secrets in the seams
Big Show worked with the curators Harold Koda and Jan Glier Reeder and the architectural firm Diller Scofidio & Renfro, to reveal each gown’s construction and history through a series of animations, text, x-rays and images. The exhibit was evolving as ideas were developed, refined and rejected and at each phase Big Show had to engineer, budget and make recommendations to meet the fast approaching deadline.
The exhibit featured custom robots, developed in conjunction with Parallel Development, that “scanned” each gown and gave guests a close up view of the pieces via large streamed video projections around the walls of the galleries. Other robots utilized pico projectors to call attention to specific details on gowns while synchronized animations explained the process or inspiration on LCD monitors embedded in the custom decks and mounts that Big Show installed and fabricated. The robots and videos were synchronized with lighting effects and audio all of which were controlled by a central automation system. All of the elements in the 2nd floor gallery, from video to robots, had to be controlled wirelessly which was implemented with the help of Brooklyn Research.