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Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, 'Blood and Roses' (detail), spring/summer 2015 | © Paolo Roversi/Comme des Garçons; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, 'Blood and Roses' (detail), spring/summer 2015 | © Paolo Roversi/Comme des Garçons; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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Comme des Garçons: A Legacy of Liminal Fashion at the Met

Picture of Rachel Gould
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 4 May 2017

Following the 2017 Met Gala on the evening of May 1, the Metropolitan Museum of Art unveils this year’s highly-anticipated Costume Institute exhibition: Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between.

Showcasing over 150 garments by revolutionary Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo, this year’s Costume Institute exhibition explores the art of liminality through Kawakubo’s label, Comme des Garçons.

Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Body Meets Dress–Dress Meets Body, spring/summer 1997; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, Body Meets Dress–Dress Meets Body, spring/summer 1997 | © Paolo Roversi / Comme des Garçons; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Inverting traditional notions of beauty and style, Kawakubo has transformed the fashion industry by shattering restrictive dichotomies: fashion/anti-fashion, design/not design, model/multiple, then/now, high/low, self/other, object/subject, clothes/not clothes. These eight polar themes are what guide Art of the In-Between.

Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), 18th Century Punk, autumn/winter 2016–17; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, 18th Century Punk, autumn/winter 2016–17 | © Paolo Roversi / Comme des Garçons; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

As the press release points out, this is “not a traditional retrospective.” Rather, Art of the In-Between is the Costume Institute’s first monographic profile of a living designer in over 30 years. That’s because Kawakubo’s contributions to the world of fashion have been both artful and unprecedented, characterized by “an unsettling zone of oscillating visual ambiguity.”

Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016 | © Paolo Roversi / Comme des Garçons; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“In blurring the art/fashion divide, Kawakubo asks us to think differently about clothing,” the Met’s Director, Thomas P. Campbell, notes. “Curator Andrew Bolton [explores] work that often looks like sculpture in an exhibition that will challenge our ideas about fashion’s role in contemporary culture.”

Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969). Not Making Clothing, spring/summer 2014. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, Not Making Clothing, spring/summer 2014 | © Paolo Roversi/ Comme des Garçons; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Working in a dimension of boundless transformation, Kawakubo’s hybrid, sculptural forms refuse conformation to standards of femininity, forcing us to “rethink fashion as a site of constant creation, recreation, and hybridity,” says the exhibition’s curator, Andrew Bolton. “She has defined the aesthetics of our time.”

Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Inside Decoration, autumn/winter 2010–11; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Craig McDean; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, Inside Decoration, autumn/winter 2010–11 | © Craig McDean / Comme des Garçons; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Avenue, New York, NY, 10028 on May 4, and will run until September 4, 2017.