A Sneak Peek at the Met Gala Theme Exhibition: ‘Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons’

The fashion industry’s finest started off the first Monday in May at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this morning. Ahead of tonight’s highly anticipated Met Gala, The Costume Institute opened its doors to the press for an early preview of its spring 2017 exhibition: “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between.”

Vogue‘s Anna Wintour sat front and center inside the museum’s European Sculpture Court as museum director Thomas P. Campbell, Caroline Kennedy and Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton spoke about the exhibition and Tokyo-based designer and Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo.

“Rei has changed the course of late 20th- and early 21st-century fashion,” said Bolton. “If she didn’t already exist, we’d have to invent her.”

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibition
Gallery view, Clothes/Not Clothes: War/Peace.
CREDIT: Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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, while also examining nine expressions of “in-betweenness” in Kawakubo’s collections: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Antifashion, Model/Multiple, High/Low, Then/Now, Self/Other, Object/Subject and Clothes/Not Clothes.

As The Costume Institute’s first monographic show on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit in 1983, “Art of the In-Between” examines Kawakubo’s fascination with interstitiality, or the space between boundaries.

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibition
Gallery view, Clothes/Not Clothes.
CREDIT: Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

According to Bolton, the concept of in-betweenness is reflected in the design of the exhibit. For instance, the entire space is white, which focuses your attention on the fashion. Typically, the museum uses spotlights to highlight each piece of art, but instead visitors and artworks are here lit uniformly.

As Kawakubo is known not to explain her work, The Costume Institute made the conscious decision not to display any text descriptions throughout the exhibition. Visitors are provided with a guide booklet upon arrival, which explains that the exhibition “is intended to be a holistic, immersive experience, facilitating a personal engagement with the fashions on display.”

“She lets her clothes speak for herself,” added Bolton.

Click through the gallery for a sneak peak of the show, on view from May 4 through September 4.

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