Costume Institute’s Spring 2017 Exhibition at The Met to Focus on Rei Kawakubo and the “Art of the In-Between”

Costume Institute Benefit on May 1 with Co-Chairs Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, and Anna Wintour; and Honorary Chair Rei Kawakubo

Exhibition Dates: May 4–September 4, 2017

Member Previews: May 2–May 3, 2017

Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, Floor 2

As expected (and the most gossiped-about morsel of news during the European leg of the Spring/Summer 2017 womenswear fashion shows), The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that The Costume Institute’s Spring 2017 exhibition will be Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons, on view from May 4 through September 4, 2017 (preceded on May 1 by The Costume Institute Benefit). Presented in the Museum’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall on the second floor, the exhibition will examine Kawakubo’s fascination with interstitiality, or the space between boundaries. Existing within and between entities—self/other, object/subject, fashion/anti-fashion—Kawakubo’s work challenges conventional notions of beauty, good taste, and, ultimately, fashionability. Not a traditional retrospective, the thematic exhibition will be The Costume Institute’s first monographic show on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983.

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

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

Rei Kawakubo said, “I have always pursued a new way of thinking about design…by denying established values, conventions, and what is generally accepted as the norm. And the modes of expression that have always been most important to me are fusion…imbalance… unfinished… elimination…and absence of intent.

The exhibition will be curated by Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who will collaborate on the exhibition design with Rei Kawakubo. Nathan Crowley will serve as exhibition production designer for the fifth time, working in collaboration with The Met’s Design Department.

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

The exhibition will feature approximately 120 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear designs for Comme des Garçons, dating from her first Paris runway show in 1981 to her most recent collection. Organized thematically rather than chronologically, the examples will examine Kawakubo’s revolutionary experiments in interstitiality or “in-betweenness”. By situating her designs within and between dualities such as East/West, male/female, and past/present, Kawakubo not only challenges the rigidity and artificiality of such binaries, but also resolves and dissolves them. To reflect this, mannequins will be arranged at eye level with no physical barriers, thereby dissolving the usual distance between objects on display and museum visitors.

Anna Cleveland

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

Rei Kawakubo is one of the most important and influential designers of the past 40 years,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “By inviting us to rethink fashion as a site of constant creation, recreation, and hybridity, she has defined the aesthetics of our time.”

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

In celebration of the opening, The Met‘s Costume Institute Benefit, also known as The Met Gala, will take place on Monday, May 1, 2017. The evening’s co-chairs will be Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, and Anna Wintour. Rei Kawakubo will serve as Honorary Chair. Raul Avila will produce the gala décor, which he has done since 2007. The event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.met-logo

Special support for the exhibition and gala will come from Apple, Condé Nast, Farfetch, H&M, and Maison Valentino.

A publication, authored by Bolton and designed by Fabien Baron, will accompany the exhibition. It will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

A special feature on the Museum’s website, www.metmuseum.org/ReiKawakubo, provides information about the exhibition. Follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to join the conversation about the exhibition and gala. Use #MetKawakubo, #CostumeInstitute, and #MetGala on Instagram and Twitter.

Landmark Exhibition Exploring Beauty, Power, and Spiritual Resonance of Native Indian Art Opens at Metropolitan Museum March 9

A major exhibition (Exhibition location: Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, Second Floor, Gallery 999) featuring extraordinary works created by Native American people of the Plains region will go on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, beginning March 9. Bringing together more than 150 iconic works from European and North American collections—many never before seen in a public exhibition in North America—The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky (made possible by the Enterprise Holdings Endowment, an Anonymous Foundation, and the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund and organized by the Musée du quai Branly, Paris, in collaboration with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and in partnership with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City ) will explore the beauty, power, and spiritual resonance of Plains Indian art.  Ranging from an ancient stone pipe and painted robes to drawings, paintings, collages, photographs, and a contemporary video installation, the exhibition will reflect the significant place that Plains Indian culture holds in the heritage of North America and in European history. Many nations are represented—Osage, Quapaw, Omaha, Crow, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Lakota, Blackfeet, Pawnee, Kiowa, Comanche, Mesquakie, Kansa and others. It will also convey the continuum of hundreds of years of artistic tradition, maintained against a backdrop of monumental cultural change. A selection of modern and contemporary works not seen at other venues of the exhibition will provide a compelling narrative about the ongoing vitality of Plains art.  The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky.

The exhibition was previously on view at Musée du quai Branly, Paris (April 7–July 20, 2014) and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (September 19, 2014–January 11, 2015) before arriving in New York City. In New York, the walls of the galleries –as a special feature of the exhibition–will be decorated with panoramic photographs of earth and sky printed on theatrical scrim. The photographs were taken by Shania Hall, an enrolled member of the Blackfeet tribe, on Molly’s Nipple Road on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Ms. Hall lives in Missoula, Montana.

Drawn from 81 institutions and private collections in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States, the exhibition will represent the art traditions of many Native Nations. The distinct Plains aesthetic will be revealed through an array of forms and media: sculptural works in stone, wood, antler, and shell; porcupine quill and glass-bead embroidery; feather work; painted robes; ornamented clothing; composite works; and ceremonial objects, works on paper, paintings, and photography. 

Organized chronologically, the first gallery will showcase pre-contact works, including important sculptural pieces in stone and shell. One of the highlights in this room will be the 2,000-year-oldHuman Effigy Pipe made of pipestone, depicting a deified ancestor or mythical hero. Influential works from adjacent regions are included in this section.   

The 19th-century works in the exhibition will include key pieces long associated with westward expansion. Among them are calumets, the long and elaborate pipes shared and given as gifts in the systems of protocol that were developed to establish diplomacy and trade between Europeans and the inhabitants of the “New World” whom they encountered on the Plains.

The reintroduction of the horse to North America by the Spanish, beginning at the end of the 16th century, revolutionized Plains Indians cultures in many ways—particularly as a boon to the buffalo hunt. In the exhibition, there will be a section presenting some of the best examples of 19th-century horse gear, weapons, clothing, and shields associated with a florescence of culture in the area. One highlight among them is a Lakota horse effigy, believed to honor and memorialize a horse that died in battle as the result of multiple gunshot wounds.

The substantial changes brought on by reservation life, beginning in the 19th century, engendered various artistic responses, ranging from instances of assimilation to acts of resistance to confinement. They will be conveyed by several masterworks in the exhibition, including important regalia used for the practice of prophetic religions. Among them are an elaborate bead-embroidered Otoe-Missouria Faw Faw coat with symbols, associated with ceremonialism and the desire to restore balance in a world that had become untenable; and a richly painted Arapaho Ghost Dance dress with visionary symbols associated with ritual practices.

Record books, paper, pencils, and ink were introduced on the Plains during the last quarter of the 19th century by settlers and traders. Among many fine examples of those included in the exhibition, the highlight will be The Maffet Ledger, a book consisting of 105 drawings, created by more than 20 Northern and Southern Cheyenne warrior artists to record their exploits in battle.

Modern and contemporary works of art will be exhibited near the end of the exhibition. Traditional-style works were still produced in the early 20th century for Wild West shows, agricultural fairs, and Fourth of July parades, and for the powwow, inter-tribal opportunities for the celebration of culture, dance, and art. Watercolors and “easel paintings” grew from long-standing Plains graphic traditions and through dialogue with other Native North American regions by the mid-20th century. Many fine examples of  paintings from the era will be presented in the exhibition. Brilliantly executed beaded works by such artists as Joyce and Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (b. 1950 and b. 1969, both Assiniboine-Sioux), Rhonda Holy Bear (b. 1959), Sans Arc, Two Kettle and Hunkpapa Lakota), and Jodi Gillette (b. 1959, Hunkpapa Lakota) will also be included in the exhibition.

The final gallery will also shed new light on 20th- and 21st-century works by artists of Plains descent, as well as by Native American artists from outside the region who have been inspired by its traditions. On view in this gallery will be one element of Edgar Heap of Bird’s (b. 1954, Cheyenne and Arapaho) site-specific installation Building Minnesota (1990), as well as a captivating four-channel video installation piece by Dana Claxton (b. 1959, Hunkpapa Lakota) called Rattle (2003) that incorporates the rhythmic images, colors, and sounds of artistic and spiritual life on the Plains, a perspective that endures in the exhibition galleries through the application of 21st-century media.

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum, said: “Through outstanding works of art from the Plains region, this ambitious exhibition demonstrates the long history of change and creative adaptation that characterizes Native American art. It is an important opportunity to highlight the artistic traditions that are indigenous to North America and to present them in the context of the Met’s global collections.”

The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky is curated by Gaylord Torrence, Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. In New York, the exhibition is organized by Judith Ostrowitz, Ph.D., Research Associate in the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Metropolitan Museum. In conjunction with the exhibition, an array of education programs will be offered, including a Sunday at the Met (March 15) panel discussion with contemporary artists Edgar Heap of Birds and Dana Claxton, moderated by Mario A. Caro. It will be followed by comments from Jodi Gillette, artist and Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs for President Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, as well as by an original performance with video projections composed for the Metropolitan Museum by Ms. Claxton. A gallery talk by Native American artist Brad Kahlhamer (March 13) and a printmaking workshop by Edgar Heap of Birds (March 14) will also be presented. The Audio Guide program (supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies), offers a tour of the exhibition, the curators and contemporary Native artists discuss the rich artistic traditions of Plains culture as seen in painting, drawing, embroidery, and sculpture.