Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between

Is fashion art?  Can it be used to convey complex ideas and explore boundaries?  It can in the hands of Rei Kawakubo.

The Costume Institute’s spring 2017 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art features works by Rei Kawakubo, including pieces from her collections for Commes des Garcons.  The collection is stunning in its uniqueness and its power.  Yes, it is avant-garde. Yet is also witty, intelligent, and emotional.

As the curator of the exhibit, Andrew Bolton has stated, ““Since her first show in Paris in 1981, Kawakubo has consistently surprised us and disrupted our expectations. Season after season, collection after collection, she changes our eye by upending perceived notions of conventional beauty.”  It is refreshing to view fashion that places less emphasis on sexuality and physicality and more on artistic expression.  In so doing, Kawakubo empowers women and redefines beauty. She pushes us to see beyond the traditional roles of fashion and inspires us to make our own choices.

The exhibit is arranged thematically. Displays are placed at eye level in groupings that illustrate Kawakubo’s captivation with the “in-betweenness”, or interstitiality, of boundaries.  They include sections labeled Then/Now, Object/Subject, Fact/Fiction, Life/Loss, Beautiful/Grotesque, Birth/Marriage/Death. Through these groupings the artist explores the contrast and connections among themes. They become parts of the same whole.  In this “in-between” space, all is ambiguity, duality, and possibility.

What is beauty?  What is gender?  What is acceptable?  Who gets to decide?  The artist has said that through her clothes she set out to “change the value of beauty in a positive way.”  If one can approach them with an open and eager mind, they will discover that is exactly what she has done.


Exhibition Dates: May 4–September 4, 2017Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue. Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, Floor 2