Everybody knows the first Monday in May, New York City shuts down for its most epic event-The Met Ball. Hosted by Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, this bonanza has raised more than $200 million for the Costume Institute wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Established in 1948 as a midnight dinner costing $50, prices have reached a stratospheric $35,000, with a waitlist of hundreds desperate to be allowed entry into the hallowed halls of Mrs. Wintour-who must extend an invite to the lucky 550 guests.
This year the Museum is celebrating its 150th anniversary and the theme: “About Time: Fashion and Duration:” is an homage to a century-and-a-half of fashion history. Andrew Bolton, the Curator in Charge, said the exhibition is a display of two distinct yet interconnected sections that highlight both a linear and cyclical concept of time-if someone can explain that to me in plain English that would be appreciated. Notwithstanding the undoubtable confusion many bubble-brained celebrities will experience as to what attire to don, Louis Vuitton is the underwriter of the exhibit, with co-chairs Nicolas Ghesquiere, Lin-Manuel Miranda and the real Miranda (Meryl Streep), and Emma Stone promising to make the event one of the most star-studded.
A year ago, one might have joked the only thing capable of stopping Anna Wintour from holding the event was a potentially lethal pandemic that had wreaked havoc across the globe. However, on March 1, 2020, it became clear New York could become the epicenter of coronavirus, with a subsequent shutting of schools and basketball games following soon thereafter. While the museum has closed all three of its Met Locations until April 3rd chief external relations officer of the Costume Institute Nancy Chilton has stated “given the uncertain public health environment, we will review on a rolling basis which museum event beyond April 3 will be canceled or postponed… public health and safety are our first priorities.”
The museum will undergo a thorough cleaning during this month-long period, yet the question remains whether the Gala can resume on May 4th without subjecting attendees to unnecessary health risks along with exposing the Museum and Conde Nast to significant economic liability. As an attorney, the most practical way to resolve this question would be to examine the passengers on the Princess Cruise ship who were exposed to the illness and were suing the cruise line despite a ticket contract expressly waiving class actions.
That lawsuit is asking for $1 million claiming gross negligence by the company for failing to have “proper screening protocol to minimize the risk of exposure.” Whether they will be able to prove that the cruise line did not take all reasonable measures and consequently they suffered life-changing injuries is unknown; however, exorbitant legal costs and irreparable damage to the company’s reputation will be the indisputable fallout.
A further stumbling block to the Costume Institute Ball is the recent ban of gatherings of more than 500 attendees for the indefinite future. Therefore, Wintour and the museum would have to undertake a multi-pronged effort to ensure the safety of all involved. Firstly, a wait-and-see approach should be employed to observe if the peak of the virus ebbs as the warmer weather sets in. Many experts claim the virus will virtually disappear during the heat of May. Moreover, reducing the number of attendees to under 500 and ridding the evening of non-essential personnel would be an important strategy to lessen crowding.
Giving celebrities, and their entourages waivers to sign ensuring they take full responsibility for their own health and well being as well as screening all incoming attendees to ensure their fever and health are intact would be critical. Those guests attending from hotspot areas should be required to get a doctors note attesting to their hardiness. Lastly and most importantly, seats and tables should be spread out generously, easy access to hand sanitizers and air purifiers must be available and dozens of security should be present enforcing necessary social distancing-which is about six feet.
Some have suggested postponing the Gala; however, this is impractical as celebrities’ schedules are jam-packed months in advance-promoting movies and the like. The definite advantages of the evening would be the undoubtable jolt to the economy and dispirited New Yorkers this would provide to a bereft Manhattan. Even if only a few hundred showed, the statement of resilience would impact millions just as those who continued celebrating in the aftermath of 9/11 did.
The importance of maintaining the continuity of this annual happening is critical to its longevity as once the chain is broken it is hard to predict if it can be effectively restored. The fact that reservations at the Mark Hotel, the hub of the evening, remain intact is an encouraging sign. After all who wouldn’t relish the opportunity of watching Meryl Streep, side-eye Anna Wintour in what might make a perfect sequel entitled “The Devil Beats Coronavirus.”