Swifties, rejoice! The Museum of the Arts and Design in New York has dedicated an entire floor to exhibiting a hoard of costumes, props, and jewelry worn by Taylor Swift over her decade-plus, Grammy award-winning career.
Across “Taylor Swift: Storyteller,” fans will find ensembles she donned in music videos for tracks including (2014) and (2022), guitars she wielded in live performances, and concert attire designed by couture houses. These 50-some artifacts are displayed alongside live projections of Swift’s music videos and wall-sized blow-ups of her handwritten lyrics.
As hinted at by its title, the exhibition is intended to showcase Swift’s storytelling prowess, which has grown in scope and ambition throughout her 10-album-strong discography and expanding videography.
“The music is telling you a certain story and she uses costumes and props in order to build upon those stories and characters she’s creating,” Tim Rodgers, MAD’s director, told Artnet News. “Like all artists, she is taking that into other realms—there’s fantasy woven into this, notions of larger archetypes.”
The show was masterminded by Swift’s management company, 13 Management, which approached MAD specifically after seeing images of its Machine Dazzle retrospective. The showcase was put together in the short span of two months—a “speedy” sprint, in Rodgers’s words, to coincide with Swift’s current The Eras Tour, which rounds the tri-state area at the end of May.
There is every likelihood at the exhibition will be inundated by ardent Swift devotees (hence the timed entries and a gift shop stocked with Taylor Swift merch), but Rodgers is adamant that you don’t have to be a deep-dyed Swiftie to get sucked in.
“Yes, this is about Taylor Swift, but this is about something bigger than Taylor Swift,” he said. “This is really about our own culture and how it is that women are being presented, thought about, and written about. These are the ideas that we wanted to explore.”
Below, we’ve picked five highlights from the show ahead of your own inevitable visit.
1. The cheerleader and ballerina ensembles from “Shake It Off”
Swift’s video for “Shake It Off” made her the only female artist to hit a three-billion view count on YouTube, but also illustrates her wont of playing to and against archetypes. The four-minute clip sees her don personas from an inept break dancer to an inept performance artist, aided by vibrant costuming. Two of the most iconic, the ballerina (bearing hints of The Black Swan) and cheerleader (“You Belong to Me” callback, anyone?), are included here, encapsulating Swift’s inquiry into “notions of what women are supposed to be, can be, or should be,” per Rodgers.
2. One spangly guitar
Quite likely Swift’s most recognizable instrument, this GS6 acoustic guitar, bejeweled with Swarovski crystals, is manufactured by Taylor Guitars (no relation) and harks back to the musician’s Speak Now era (c. 2010–12). It is not the only model out there though: the one on view is labeled guitar #3 and yet another one is now accompanying Swift on her The Eras tour.
3. This cat-themed outfit from “Look What You Made Me Do”
Will Taylor Swift ever run out of archetypes? Don’t bet on it. Her 2017 video presented us with a whole new slew of characters, including one dressed in an oversized Gucci hoodie sequined with a tiger’s face and wearing a cat mask. It’s in this costume that Swift is filmed amid a rifled bank vault, dollar bills at her Louboutin boots, practically inviting all manner of cat burglar puns.
4. The flamingo lawn ornaments from “You Need to Calm Down”
The video for Swift’s 2019 single is less a music video than a series of random celeb cameos (RuPaul! Katy Perry! The guys from Queer Eye!). But the real star turn comes from, of course, the flamingo ornaments that generously bedeck Laverne Cox’s trailer park lawn. Produced by art supplies company Ohuhu, the objects are here paired with the spiffy costume Swift wore in the video, an ensemble of designs by Saint Laurent, Marina Hoermanseder, and Irregular Choice.
5. A painting of Taylor Swift’s cat, Benjamin Button
Did you know Taylor Swift loves cats? She has three of them, christened with names like Meredith Grey, Olivia Benson, and Benjamin Button. The last, who she adopted after he appeared in her “ME!” video, is immortalized here in a painting, artist unknown, peering out endearingly from a misty blue backdrop. If you can’t view it in person, the work can also be glimpsed in (where else) another video, 2019’s “Lover.”