Inside “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between” Exhibition

07.27.17

The decision to choose Rei Kawakubo, the designer of the Japanese fashion label, Comme des Garçons, for MET’s costume exhibition was effortless. Anna Wintour and Andrew Bolton, Head Curator of MET’s Costume Institute, are faced with the same challenging question every year. “Is fashion art?” The subtitle of this exhibition, “Art of the In-Between” refers to the idea of blurring fashion and art. Rei Kawakubo is not just a fashion designer, but is a true representation of an artist. She is a creator and boundary breaker. The exhibition displays 140 womenswear designs from Comme des Garçons, dating back to 1980s as well as her most recent collection. When you visit, you see 140 masterpieces, not just 140 garments.

Rei Kawakubo deserves recognition, praise and celebration. The MET Costume Institution had to stay away from typical ideas when creating this exhibition. They needed to think outside the box. There is nothing common about Kawakubo or Comme des Garçons. The brand is the quintessential example of avant-garde. The atmosphere of the exhibition was significantly different from other MET costume exhibitions. Normally, there is dim lighting for conservation purposes. When you first walk into this exhibit, you are almost blinded by the stark whiteness. As you walk through, you notice the maze-like design created of small, cylindrical and rectangular chambers.

Kawakubo’s designs are sculptures. She is known to play with the body’s conventional shape. The exhibition features dresses with “lumps and bumps” from her 1997 collection that incorporated padding in rare places, dresses made of knotted white sheets, and ceremonial gowns built inside cages. Many of her designs are asymmetrical.

The lack of text on the walls was very noticeable. Bolton decided not to include dates or descriptions. It can be inferred this was consciously done out of respect for Kawakubo. She is an advocate for progressing and concentrating on the future. Kawakubo wants the audience to form their own interpretations. She lets her designs speak for themselves as paintings and other art forms also do. I really enjoyed seeing it and I suggest you to go as well.

The exhibition is open to the public until September 4, 2017 and is located at 1000 5th Avenue, NY, NY in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall on the 2nd floor of the MET.

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