On view from May 4 through Sept. 4, 2017, the exhibition will examine Kawakubo’s fascination with interstitiality, or the space between boundaries. Existing within and between entities – self/other, object/subject, fashion/antifashion – Kawakubo’s work challenges conventional ideas of beauty, good taste and ultimately, fashionability. This thematic exhibition will be The Costume Institute’s first monographic show of a living designer since the Yves Saint Lauren exhibition in 1983.
“In blurring the art/fashion divide, Kawakubo asks us to think differently about clothing,” said Thomas P. Campbell, director and chief executive officer of The Met. “Curator Andrew Bolton will explore work that often looks like sculpture in an exhibition that will challenge our ideas about fashion’s role in contemporary culture.”
The Met’s Costume Institute Benefit, also known as the Met Gala, will take place on Monday, May 1. Co-chairs will be Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams and Anna Wintour. Kawakubo will serve as honorary chair. The event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions and capital improvements.
The exhibition and benefit will be supported by Apple for the second year in a row, as well as by longtime sponsor Condé Nast and Farfetch, H&M and Maison Valentino.
“Rei Kawakubo is one of the most important and influential designers of the past 40 years,” said Bolton, chief curator in charge of The Costume Institute. “By inviting us to rethink fashion as a site of constant creation, re-creations and hybridity, she has defined the aesthetics of our time.”
Kawakubo said, “I have always pursued a new way of thinking of design…by denying established values, convetions 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.”
The exhibition will showcase about 120 examples of Kawakubo’s women’s wear designs for Comme des Garçons, dating from her first Paris runway show in 1981 to her most recent collection. The show will be organized thematically, rather than chronologically, and examples will examine her revolutionary experiments in interstitiality or “in-between-ness” – the space between boundaries. Such dualities as East/West, male/female and past/present will be eexplored. Mannequins will be arranged at eye level with no physical barriers, eliminating the usual distance between objects on display and museum visitors.
In addition to Bolton’s curation, Nathan Crowley will serve as the exhibition production designer for the fifth time, working in collaboration with The Met’s Design Department. Raul Àvila will produce the gala decor, which he has done since 2007. The exhibition will be presented in the Museum’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall on the second floor.
The Japanese designer behind the Comme des Garçons label and Dover Street Market specialty stores, Kawakubo is a fashion maverick whose Paris fashion shows remain a highlight for the international retail and design community. She has done collections based on two-dimensional shapes, the color red and the “Ceremony of Separation,” the latter show a spectacle opening with a dress composed of neatly knotted white hobo sacks.