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

Gallery views of The Costume Institute’s spring 2017 exhibition, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between, narrated by exhibition curator Andrew Bolton.

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

Exhibition Overview

The Costume Institute’s spring 2017 exhibition examines the work of 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 features approximately 140 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear for Comme des Garçons dating from the early 1980s to her most recent collection, many with heads and wigs created and styled by Julien d’Ys.

The galleries illustrate the designer’s revolutionary experiments in “in-betweenness”—the space between boundaries. Objects are organized into nine aesthetic expressions of interstitiality in Kawakubo’s work: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, Then/Now, High/Low, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/Not Clothes. Kawakubo breaks down the imaginary walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness.


The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, on The Met Fifth Avenue’s second floor, has been transformed into an open, brightly lit white box with geometric structures. Intended to be a holistic, immersive experience, the space facilitates engagement with the fashions on display. A suggested pathway begins with four ensembles enclosed in a cylinder, reflecting Kawakubo’s enduring interest in blurring the boundaries between body and dress. Visitors, however, are encouraged to forge their own paths and experience the exhibition as a voyage of discovery.


The spare space has no text on the walls—instead, at the entrance, visitors receive an exhibition guide with gallery text and object labels. Download the exhibition guide (PDF).


A publication, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between, authored by Andrew Bolton with creative direction and design by Fabien Baron and Yuki Iwashiro of Baron & Baron, accompanies the exhibition. It features new photography by Nicholas Alan Cope, Inez and Vinoodh, Katerina Jebb, Kazumi Kurigami, Ari Marcopoulos, Craig McDean, Brigitte Niedermair, Paolo Roversi, and Collier Schorr. A rare interview with Rei Kawakubo and a chronology of her career, amplified with quotes from the designer, provide additional insight into her aesthetic and career.


Exhibition Credits

The exhibition is curated by Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who collaborated on the exhibition design with Rei Kawakubo. Lighting for the exhibition is created by Thierry Dreyfus @ Eyesight Group. Heads and wigs are created and styled by Julien d’Ys. The design for the 2017 Costume Institute Benefit is created by Raul Avila, who has produced the Benefit décor since 2007.