Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between at The Met Fifth Avenue, May 4 – September 4, 2017

“Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between examines Kawakubo’s fascination with interstitiality, or the space between boundaries. In Kawakubo’s work, this in-between space is revealed as an aesthetic sensibility, establishing an unsettling zone of oscillating visual ambiguity that challenges conventional notions of beauty, good taste, and fashionability. A thematic exhibition, rather than a traditional retrospective, this is The Costume Institute’s first monographic show on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983.

The exhibition features approximately 140 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear designs for Comme des Garçons, dating from the early 1980s to her most recent collection. Objects are organized into nine dominant and recurring aesthetic expressions of interstitiality in Kawakubo’s work: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, High/Low, Then/Now, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/Not Clothes. Kawakubo breaks down the imaginary walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness. Her fashions demonstrate that interstices are places of meaningful connection and coexistence as well as revolutionary innovation and transformation, providing Kawakubo with endless possibilities to rethink the female body and feminine identity.” — The Met

“My clothes and the spaces they inhabit are inseparable — they are one and the same. They convey the same vision, the same message, and the same sense of values.”  — Rei Kawakubo, 2017

Gallery View, Title Wall © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, Absence/Presence © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, (from left) High/Low, Model/Multiple, Fashion/Antifashion, Design/Not Design © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, Then/Now © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, Self/Other: East/West © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, Object/Subject © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, Clothes/Not Clothes: Form/Function © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, Clothes/Not Clothes © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, Clothes/Not Clothes: War/Peace © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, Clothes/Not Clothes: War/Peace © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, (from left) Bound/Unbound, Order/Chaos © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“I have always pursued a new way of thinking about design…by denying established values, conventions, and what is generally accepted as the norm. And the modes of expression that have always been most important to me are fusion…imbalance… unfinished… elimination…and absence of intent.” — Rei Kawakubo

The exhibition is curated by Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who collaborated on the exhibition design with Rei Kawakubo. Lighting for the exhibition is created by Thierry Dreyfus @ Eyesight Group. Heads and wigs are created and styled by Julien d’Ys. The design for the 2017 Costume Institute Benefit is created by Raul Avila, who has produced the Benefit décor since 2007.

Top image: Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969); Courtesy of Commedes Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Images courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.