The Art of the In-Between: Rei Kawakubo’s Work at the Met

The Met’s Costume Institute Benefit is arguably best known as the Met Gala. It’s probably true that not both names carry the same meaning. The Met Gala sounds more like something that easily travels across publications and broadcasts, transcending audiences and becoming part of the popular culture and its celebrity ambassadors.

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons. 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.

The Met’s Costume Institute Benefit, on the other hand, sounds like a diplomatic project (and it might well be, though not just because Ambassador Caroline Kennedy was an Honorary Chair for it in 2017). The Met itself has two names: the Met, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a name now rather formally left behind. Even used concurrently, neither of these names, in their respective linguistic couplings, can combine to convey meaning in full.

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons. 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.

Once there are two available options, each will go into a different direction, multiplying interpretations to the point that to bring them together again is destined to leave out something; something that can’t agree with both, yet something that is made real in the meantime. This sense of a duality that rises above its own internality, that says more about itself by reveling in the multiplicity of non-identity is the subject of the Costume Institute’s Spring Exhibition, whose opening the Met’s Costume Institute Benefit/Gala celebrated. In the exhibition, this duality has been named the Art of the In-Between, and it finds its distinguished embodiment in the extraordinary, skillfully unconventional and groundbreaking work of Comme des GarçonsRei Kawakubo.

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons. 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.

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