Every May, regular visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art know that one of the best exhibitions of the year is about to open – the Costume Institute’s Spring Exhibition. The exhibition begins with a grand, star-studded gala. Famous musicians, actors, and public figures dress in festive attire inspired by that year’s exhibition theme, and then throughout the summer visitors flock to the museum to explore it. This year’s exhibition is a real treat, a fashion-based art exhibition that requires visitors to interrogate their own assumptions as their ideas of fashion are challenged. Titled Comme des Garçons – Art of the In-Between, the exhibition focuses on the avant-garde work of designer Rei Kawakubo.
Here’s the museum’s overview description of the exhibition (you can find the full exhibition guide here on the museum’s website.):
The galleries illustrate the designer’s revolutionary experiments in “in-betweenness”—the space between boundaries. Objects are organized into nine aesthetic expressions of interstitiality in Kawakubo’s work: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, Then/Now, High/Low, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/Not Clothes. Kawakubo breaks down the imaginary walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness.
There are approximately 140 designs in the exhibition, making it a feast for the eyes. I’ve included photos of some of the designs below, with notes about what aesthetic themes they are associated with. As you can see, there is a real range of ideas represented in Kawakubo’s work.
First, we have Object/Subject:
This one is Good Taste/Bad Taste:
Here, we have Elite Culture/Popular Culture:
This striking piece is an example of Fact/Fiction:
And this one is War/Peace:
I love the contrasts between these next two, labeled Beautiful/Grotesque:
And finally, ending with my favorite gallery in the exhibition, Order/Chaos:
Comme des Garçons – Art of the In-Between is open to the public through September 4, 2017, so there is still plenty of time to see the full exhibition in person.