Andrew Bolton, curator in charge of The Costume Institute, discusses the exhibition Rei Kawakubo/Comme de Garçons: Art of the In-Between, on view at The Met Fifth Avenue from May 4 through September 4, 2017.
The Costume Institute's spring 2017 exhibition will examine the work of Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo, known for her avant-garde designs and ability to challenge conventional notions of beauty, good taste, and fashionability. The thematic show will feature approximately 150 examples of Kawakubo's womenswear for Comme des Garçons dating from the early 1980s to her most recent collection.
Andrew Bolton: There are very few designers working today whose body of work can sustain a monographic exhibition in an art museum like The Met. Rei is absolutely one of them. She has influenced a whole generation not only of designers, but also artists and architects, through her practice.
Rei is all about creativity. She's about innovation. She forces you to rethink notions of beauty, notions of the body, notions of fashion, notions of wearability, breaking down these barriers by creating hybrid identities.
Rei actually trained in aesthetics. She didn't study fashion design. She doesn't abide by any laws when it comes to techniques or construction. She conflates, sometimes in one ensemble, notions of the east or the west, or the male and the female, fusing ideas but also fusing garment types and fusing techniques and construction methods.
The exhibition is not a retrospective; it's thematic, focusing on how Rei Kawakubo creates in between these seemingly paradoxical dichotomies.
What we wanted to do in the catalogue is to work with different photographers, photographing the clothing on live models. There's a myth about how Rei's clothes aren't wearable, so seeing them on live models is a way of, in a way, dispelling that mythology, seeing this element of motion and dynamism.
Rei refuses to define her work. She once said, "The meaning is: there is no meaning." As a curator, you know, part of your role is interpretation. With Rei, it really is a riddle. She is open to interpretation, but not to one interpretation. It allows you to move beyond to the experience of her clothing, but it took me a long time to get to that realization. So, in a way, she's like a Zen master, encouraging students who do suffer to get to that level of enlightenment.
Director and Producer: Kate Farrell
Editor: Sarah Cowan
Camera: Alex Rappoport, Sarah Cowan, Dia Felix
Interviewer: Christopher Noey
Lighting: Ned Hallick
Gaffer: Foster McLaughlin
Production Coordinator: Lisa Rifkind
Production Assistant: Kaelan Burkett
Original Music: Austin Fisher
Special thanks to Nicholas Alan Cope, Ari Marcopoulos, Brigitte Niedermair, and Collier Schorr.In order of appearance:
© 2017 The Metropolitan Museum of Art