TheMet150 Celebration: Costume Institute’s Spring 2020 Exhibition to Present a Disruptive Timeline of Fashion History

Costume Institute Benefit on May 4 with Co-Chairs Nicolas Ghesquière, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, and Anna Wintour

The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently announced that The Costume Institute’s Spring 2020 Exhibition will be About Time: Fashion and Duration, on view from May 7 through September 7, 2020 (preceded on May 4 by The Costume Institute Benefit). Presented in The Met Fifth Avenue’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, it will trace more than a century and a half of fashion, from 1870 to the present, along a disruptive timeline, as part of the Museum’s 150th anniversary celebration. Employing philosopher Henri Bergson’s concept of la durée—time that flows, accumulates, and is indivisible—the exhibition will explore how clothes generate temporal associations that conflate the past, present, and future. The concept will also be examined through the writings of Virginia Woolf, who will serve as the “ghost narrator” of the exhibition. Michael Cunningham, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Hours, which was inspired by Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, will write a new short story for the exhibition catalogue that reflects on the concept of duration.

Surreal, David Bailey (British, born 1938), 1980; Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo © David Bailey

The exhibition will feature approximately 160 examples of women’s fashion dating from 1870—the year of The Met’s founding and the start of a decade that witnessed the development of a standardized time system—to the present. The majority of objects in the show will come from The Costume Institute’s collection, including gifts made as part of The Met’s 2020 Collections Initiative in celebration of the Museum’s 150th anniversary.

A linear chronology of fashion comprised predominantly of ensembles in black will run through the exhibition reflecting the progressive timescale of modernity, and bringing into focus the fast, fleeting rhythm of fashion. Unlike traditional chronologies, which reduce the history of fashion to a limited number of decade-defining silhouettes, this timeline will be presented as a ceaseless continuum that is more complete and comprehensive in scope. Interrupting this timeline will be a series of counter-chronologies composed of predominantly white ensembles that pre-date or post-date those in black, but relate to one another through shape, motif, material, pattern, technique, or decoration. For example, a black silk faille princess-line dress from the late 1870s will be paired with an Alexander McQueenBumster” skirt from 1995, and a black silk velvet bustle ensemble from the mid-1880s will be juxtaposed with a Comme des GarçonsBody Meets Dress – Dress Meets Body” dress from 1997.

The Clock, Sarah Moon (French, born 1941), 1999; Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo © Sarah Moon

The exhibition will conclude with a section on the future of fashion, linking the concept of duration to debates about longevity and sustainability.

This exhibition will consider the ephemeral nature of fashion, employing flashbacks and fast-forwards to reveal how it can be both linear and cyclical,” said Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “As such, the show will present a nuanced continuum of fashion over the Museum’s 150-year history.”

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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.