TitleRei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between
Duration04 May 2017 to 04 September 2017
VenueThe Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fifth Avenue)
Opening HoursSunday to Thursday 10:00 – 17:30 / Friday and Saturday: 10:00 – 21:00
Telephone+1 212 535 7710
|Title||Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between||Posted In||Fashion, Fashion design, Exhibition||Duration||04 May 2017 to 04 September 2017|
|Venue||The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fifth Avenue)||Opening Hours||Sunday to Thursday 10:00 – 17:30 / Friday and Saturday: 10:00 – 21:00||Location||
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York City, NY 10028United States
|Telephone||+1 212 535 7710|
The Met’s Costume Institute Benefit is arguably best known as the Met Gala. It’s probably true that not both names carry the same meaning. The Met Gala sounds more like something that easily travels across publications and broadcasts, transcending audiences and becoming part of the popular culture and its celebrity ambassadors. The Met’s Costume Institute Benefit, on the other hand, sounds like a diplomatic project (and it might well be, though not just because Ambassador Caroline Kennedy was an Honorary Chair for it in 2017). The Met itself has two names: the Met, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a name now rather formally left behind. Even used concurrently, neither of these names, in their respective linguistic couplings, can combine to convey meaning in full. Once there are two available options, each will go into a different direction, multiplying interpretations to the point that to bring them together again is destined to leave out something; something that can’t agree with both, yet something that is made real in the meantime. This sense of a duality that rises above its own internality, that says more about itself by reveling in the multiplicity of non-identity is the subject of the Costume Institute’s Spring Exhibition, whose opening the Met’s Costume Institute Benefit/Gala celebrated. In the exhibition, this duality has been named the Art of the In-Between, and it finds its distinguished embodiment in the extraordinary, skillfully unconventional and groundbreaking work of Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo.
On the occasion of the exhibition, the New York Times’ Leanne Shapton gives a succinct account of how Kawakubo’s creations "don’t move from day to evening. They don’t flatter. They don’t slim. They don’t fit perfectly or offer comfort or reassurance. But then, given a beat, they do all of the above”. It’s quite true that the 74-year old Kawakubo, who founded Comme des Garçons back in 1969, does not design clothes exactly –clothes are just the material of her art. Her creations are perhaps more akin to sculpture. In them, Kawakubo tackles the performance of gender, of aesthetics, of fashion. “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”, says Kawakubo.
At the Met’s exhibition, her work is structured around 9 dominant dualisms: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, High/Low, Then/Now, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/Not Clothes. Once more, the essence of her work is in-between each of these terms, which her work audaciously redefines. The exhibition itself, designed in close collaboration with the artist, is housed on the Met’s second floor, which has been transformed for this purpose into a bright white box with geometric structures.
Kawakubo’s exhibition is a very rare occurrence for the Met as well, with the only other monographic show of the Costume Institute on a living designer being the homage to Yves Saint Laurent in 1983. In highlighting the stark differences between his own designs and Kawakubo’s, whose first Paris show was characterized as Hiroshima chic by shocked critics because of the critical jolt of aesthetic awareness that it provided and which continues to be Kawakubo’s signature, the Met consciously finds itself in between very different perspectives on fashion. This is not just a nod to Kawakubo’s work, but to the necessary non-place of all art as innovation.