The Met Museum Reveals the Beauty in One Immigrant’s Closet

Who knew the contents of your closet could be art? Artists Maira and Alex Kalman certainly seem to think so.

The two collected apparel and accessories from the closet of Sara Berman (their respective mother and grandmother), and they are presenting them in a special exhibition opening today at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The installation, called “Sara Berman’s Closet,” focuses on Berman’s collection of all-white clothing, which she meticulously organized in her Greenwich Village studio, where she lived from 1982 to 2004. According to the Kalmans, their grandmother felt that her monochromatic apparel “both contained her life and revealed it.”

Included are a wide range of personal items: nightgowns, shirts, pants, hats, beauty products, glasses and, of course, shoes.

While the items might be considered retro, their simplicity lends them a modern feel. A pair of linen-colored oxfords, for instance, could have been plucked off the latest Paris runways.

Berman herself has a universally American story. Born in Belarus and married in Tel Aviv, she eventually immigrated to the U.S. and settled in the Bronx, where she raised her family. She remained there until leaving her husband and all her possessions for a modest life in the Village.

Her daughter and grandson have created the installation as a tribute and memorial to this everyday individualist.

The closet will be on view May 6 to Sept. 5 on the first floor of the Met.

It will be presented as a small period room in dialogue with The Met’s recently installed Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room from 1882, which will feature 1880s clothing of the type worn by Arabella Worsham.

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