If the record-breaking press attendance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between” exhibition is any indication, the present is sure to be successful. But it is one which’s been a very long time coming. Curator Andrew Bolton revealed on Wednesday evening, throughout a dialog with Comme des Garçons CEO Adrian Joffe and vogue journalist Vanessa Friedman, that he is been attempting to make the exhibition occur with Kawakubo since he first met her in 2003.
“At that time, Rei simply did not need to do it,” Bolton stated on the New York Times-hosted “Times Talks” occasion. But Bolton did not surrender based mostly on Kawakubo’s preliminary disinterest. Instead, he continued to carry up the chance each time he noticed her within the intervening years and advised Joffe, her husband and enterprise accomplice, “Whenever Rei’s prepared, we’ll do it.”
He might have ended up wishing he hadn’t stated that fairly so definitively when Kawakubo determined in 2016 that she was lastly prepared, as a result of the museum often schedules its exhibitions with far larger advance preparation time than Kawakubo was prepared to offer. “When Rei needs to do one thing, she needs to do it proper now,” Joffe defined. “I [told Bolton] it was subsequent 12 months, or under no circumstances.”
While most designers could be flattered that Bolton had supplied in any respect — just one residing designer had ever had a complete present on the Met devoted to them earlier than — Kawakubo was resistant as a result of she does not wish to dwell on her previous work, in keeping with Joffe.
“She’s at all times attempting to begin from zero. But by definition, wanting again… means there’s baggage,” he defined. “She was at all times saying the person who did these issues within the ’80s and ’90s just isn’t the individual she is now.” She would slightly, she advised Joffe, that any exhibition of her designs occur after she was gone.
Kawakubo can be famously immune to explaining her work and even putting it in context, which each curator seeks to do to a point.
“Rei… needs the work to face for itself. But as a curator, a part of your job is to interpret. So we have been at all times at odds, actually, proper from the beginning. We have been by no means actually on the identical web page,” Bolton defined.
So what satisfied the famously free-thinking designer to lastly settle for Bolton’s invitation? Having the possibility to form how an exhibition of her work got here collectively, not simply by way of curation but in addition in designing the exhibition house, was vital to her. Despite her appreciation for the Met’s inherent grandeur (she advised Joffe after visiting, “if we do it in any respect, it is received to be right here”), she had very particular concepts concerning the sort of house she needed to create for visitors to expertise her work in.
Because the museum was hesitant at first about operating together with her inside plans for the house, Kawakubo had a 116,000-square-foot, life-size duplicate of the exhibition design created outdoors of Tokyo to show the idea. Apparently seeing it in individual was compelling sufficient, as a result of the museum determined to go along with it.
That, in flip, created new complications for Bolton as a curator, who was used to designing the house to suit the curation of a present, not the opposite method round. “We had many tense conversations concerning the curation and design,” he stated. Other sleepless nights have been sparked by disagreements about what ought to or should not be included within the exhibition, with Kawakubo initially saying she solely needed to incorporate the previous couple of seasons of her work slightly than going all the best way again to the start of CDG. “I feel our largest battle was over the early ’80s work, just like the “lace” sweater, the holey sweater,” Bolton stated.
Ultimately, the sometimes-painful collaboration course of resulted in an exhibition that each the Met and CDG groups could possibly be happy with. Bolton made clear that the present just isn’t a retrospective of Kawakubo’s work a lot as an “essay” of it that helps introduce it to individuals who might not have historical past with the model. And getting that work in entrance of a wider viewers was one thing that Kawakubo has been desperate to do — a lot in order that she was prepared to miss her alleged distaste for the Met Gala itself to be able to make it occur.
“I feel one of many scary issues about doing it [for Rei] was the Met Gala,” Joffe stated. “She simply did not need to pose [for cameras or on the red carpet].”
In the top, Kawakubo not solely attended the Gala however even hosted the official Comme des Garçons after-party, suggesting that she was prepared to swallow her concern for the sake of her work. Looks like all of the blood, sweat and tears of collaboration have been price it in her e book, in any case.