What happens when Instagram sponsors a mega museum?

Instagram is sponsoring the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Met Gala for the first time this year. Could this be a marriage made in heaven?

Serena Williams at the Met Gala in 2019 Photo: Dia Dipasupil/FilmMagic

Serena Williams at the Met Gala in 2019 Photo: Dia Dipasupil/FilmMagic

Insta’ gratification

Insta’ gratification is a monthly blog by Aimee Dawson, our Associate Digital Editor. Looking at how the art world and Instagram collide, each article tackles a topic around the innovations and challenges that spring up when art enters the digital world.

One of New York’s biggest annual events—and among the museum world’s most anticipated—is the Met Gala. Officially known as the Costume Institute Benefit, the extravagant night of fashion, art and celebrities (like Serena Williams, above, at the Met Gala in 2019) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the primary source of funding for the institute’s activities.

The annual party accompanies the two organisations’ collaborative fashion exhibition, the theme of which acts as the gala’s dress code. Last year’s event was cancelled because of the pandemic but this year the benefit (scheduled for 13 September) should be back with a bang—powered by Instagram rocket fuel.

While Instagram has long been an integral part of Met Galas (how can a red-carpet event at a hallowed institution not be sprayed all over the world’s biggest photo-sharing app?), this year, for the first time, it is sponsoring the gala, the exhibitions and the catalogue. The sponsorship deal includes “recognition as the lead sponsor” and Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, is a Met Gala honorary chair. The museum did not disclose the sponsorship value, but in 2015 the New York Times speculated a fee of $1m based on anonymous sources (others have claimed it was closer to $3m).

But will the shows and main event get more Instagram exposure than in previous years because of the deal? While the Met is already the second most-followed museum on Instagram (after its neighbour, the Museum of Modern Art), could this sponsorship be a social media coup for the museum?

The Costume Institute show this year is in two parts: In America: a Lexicon of Fashion (18 September-5 September 2022), looks at 20th- and 21st-century fashion in the US, while In America: an Anthology of Fashion (5 May 2022-5 September 2022) will present fashion from the 18th century to today amid the Met’s American Wing period rooms.

As a US-based company with “global reach and a strong fashion community”, Instagram is “a great fit to sponsor this American-themed exhibition”, a Met spokeswoman says in a statement. Meanwhile, Instagram says that it “has been a home for fashion” from the start and that it hopes “this historic exhibition... helps spark a global conversation on what fashion in America means today and tomorrow”.

The news outlet Business of Fashion wrote that the Gala “has earned a place amongst top-tier events like the Oscars and fashion businesses are harnessing the wattage of the annual spectacle to promote their own products and agendas”. Hence, previous sponsors of the Met’s bonanza have included designers like Gucci and Versace. But in more recent years they have come to include tech companies like Apple and Amazon. With the Met facing a budget deficit of a reported $150m or more due to the pandemic, Silicon Valley sponsors have never been more necessary.

Could this be a marriage made in heaven? We’ll have to wait until they roll out the red carpet to find out.