Inside the Met's New Exhibit, 'Punk: Chaos to Couture'

Richard Hell meets Chanel in controversial new display
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Paul Cook in the late 1970s; Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), spring/summer 2006
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Dennis Morris; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Catwalking

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Both Sides of the Pond

Entering "Punk: From Chaos to Couture," viewers are greeted with a verbose message from the curators that explains their project: it is an appeal to celebrate punk's "corpus of sexual and political imagery that was intended to shock, provoke and confront," linking its trajectory from the grit of CBGB and King's Road to the most-high end (and high-priced) designers' creations. In fact, a detailed replica of the CBGB bathroom sits just off the front collection room, though the various repugnant odors of punk's infancy are mercifully absent.

Punk began in the mid-Seventies in either New York or London, depending on who is asked and where they shopped. In New York, CBGB and its famous shirt (replicas of which are now sold in the Met's gift shop) stood for punk's chrysalis period: the Ramones, the Dead Boys and Television stomped that East Village club's boards. In London, Kings Road scenesters Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood operated the clothing boutique Sex, which outfitted the Sex Pistols and Chrissie Hynde with the bondage-, S&M- and gay-thematic gear that would come to define the movement. (Sex also gave various punk musicians employment behind the register.)

Seen here: Paul Cook, drummer of the Sex Pistols, in the Seventies; a look by Comme des Garçons from their spring/summer 2006 collection.

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