Pin It Down
The effort of contextualizing, of establishing linear narrative from the gritty origins to the couture catwalks, is labored at the Met: next to Westwood's tattered shirts are thousand-dollar, artfully tattered dresses and jackets from Burberry, Junya Watanabe, Zandra Rhodes and other high-end designers. This dress by Versace is presented as a significant fashion moment; Johnny Rotten's well-circulated quote that safety pins could be used to keep "the arse of your pants falling out" doesn't make an appearance next to it, but some of Westwood's deconstructed looks do.
Here is the central conflict of the "Punk" exhibit experience for each Met attendee. If he/she looks at the reappropriation of safety pins on a thousand-dollar dress and finds the juxtaposition fascinating, it will be a fulfilling exhibit. However, if the response is apathy or condescension, the entire exhibit will reveal itself similarly. And given the ubiquity of these once-shocking pins and scrawls, the latter is understandable.
Seen here: Johnny Rotten in 1976; Gianni Versace look from spring/summer 1994, seen in Vogue Paris, February 1994.