View China Through the Looking Glass at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, now through August 16th
Since European explorers first landed on the shores of Far East Asia in the 16th century, people in the West have been fascinated by the rich and exotic culture of the greatest oriental civilization of all, China. In the centuries that followed, traders, travelers, soldiers of fortune and empire builders brought back a vast wealth of aesthetic products and works of art to decorate their homes and to quench the thirst of eager collectors.
Today, the fascination with the enigmatic objects and imagery from China continues unabated. Chinese artifacts and indigenous products are highly valued and can be found as decorative pieces in many Western homes. This love affair with Chinese culture has profoundly influenced modern Western culture and fashion, and became a source of inspiration for legendary fashion designers like Paul Poiret and Yves Saint Laurent.
“China Through the Looking Glass,” an exhibition on show from May 7 to August 16, 2015 at the Chinese Galleries and the Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is designed to explore the impact of Chinese aesthetics on modern Western fashion and how Chinese art and culture has fueled the imagination of fashion conscious Westerner for centuries.
In the exhibition, you will find Chinese costumes, carpets, paintings, porcelain and other works of art juxtaposed with modern high end fashion. Alongside Chinese exhibits, you will find more than 140 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready to wear fashion products designed by some of the best fashion designers today, including Cristobal Balenciaga, Paul Poiret, Roberto Cavalli, Vivienne Westwood and Yves Saint Laurent.
“Through the looking glass of fashion, designers conjoin disparate stylistic references into a fantastic pastiche of Chinese aesthetic and cultural traditions,” says Andrew Bolton, Curator in The Costume Institute. True to his words, the exhibition presents an awe-inspiring collection of Chinese masterpieces and modern fashion.
The exhibition also features numerous films on Chinese art, culture and history. These films reveal how our visions of China are framed by narratives that draw upon popular culture. When you are at the exhibition, you mustn’t miss these films if you wish to broaden your knowledge of China and understand how Chinese objects and imagery are helping shape and fashion our own arts and culture.
The Chinese Galleries, located on the second floor of the museum, showcases Chinese inspired fashion from the 1700’s side by side with decorative arts from Imperial China. Mostly drawn from the museum’s own collection, the Chinese imagery includes bronze, jade, lacquer and blue-and-white porcelain. At the Astor Court, located on the same floor, you can see vignettes of Chinese opera, mainly focusing on John Galliano’s 2003 Christian Dior Haute Couture Collection.
The Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery of the Anna Wintour Costume Center, located on the first floor, presents China through a series of “mirrored reflections” focusing on three different periods in the country’s long and tumultuous history: Imperial China, the Republic of China (with special focus on Shanghai from the 1920’s to 1940’s), and the People’s Republic of China. These reflections are illustrated with scenes from films by internationally known Chinese film directors, such as Ang Lee, Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige and Wong Kar Wai.
“China: Through the Looking Glass” is a collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Department of Asian Art, which is celebrating its hundredth anniversary. The exhibition is organized by the museum’s Curator, Andrew Bolton, with support from Harold Koda, Curator in Charge, and all the curators of the Department of Asian Art. The exhibition’s artistic director is the renowned filmmaker Wong Kar Wai, who is supported by his longtime collaborator William Chang.