Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Rei Kawakubo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute

I am a little behind since my father passed away but earlier last month I did attend a preview for the new exhibition at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is called "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçon: Art of the In-Between." Rei Kawakubo is of course the diminutive, avant-garde Japanese fashion designer who has been creating her artistic collections for her Comme des Garçon label since 1969. Kawakubo has been very influential in the world of fashion; you can see her effect on the work of designers like John Galliano and Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga. This is only the second retrospective at the Met for a living fashion designer; the first was for Yves Saint Laurent, which Diana Vreeland presented in 1983.

In the opening remarks at the preview, the curator Andrew Bolton noted that Kawakubo "blurs the distinction between art and fashion with designs that look like sculpture." Indeed, many of the garments on display defy the traditional norms of clothing with shapes and volumes that don't follow the lines of the body at all but create their own unique silhouette. I tended to like the more classic shapes like the red garments above and these dresses with a lace bodice –

The installation itself was very interesting too. I've never seen anything like it at the Met. Displaying about 150 garments, it's a white maze of different shaped modules that was designed by Kawakubo and Bolton together. Costume shows typically focus spotlights on individual pieces but this exhibition features 150 fluorescent lights overhead so it feels like you're in a very bright modern art gallery –

An additional treat was hearing Caroline Kennedy speak at the preview as she does not often appear in public in New York. Caroline Kennedy was the United States Ambassador to Japan during the Obama administration and so she talked about her friend Rei Kawakubo – 

For an exploration of clothing as abstract modern art, go see the new Costume Institute show at the Met, through September 5th. Up now also at the museum, which I plan to see, is an exhibition of photographs by the great master Irving Penn.


Gail, northern California said...

Forgive my absence for so long, Bart.

Just wanted to extend my condolences for the loss of your father. Such style and grace, an elegance about him....all of which you inherited.

Wouldn't it be lovely if we could all visit with one of our children and pass away peacefully during an afternoon nap? Gosh. The best.

Bart Boehlert said...

Hello Gail, I'm happy to hear from you. Thank you about my father -
All the best,