The exhibition is made possible by Yahoo.
Additional support is provided by Condé Nast and several Chinese donors.
“I am excited about this partnership between these two forward-thinking departments which reveals provocative new insights into the West’s fascination with China,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Met. “The artistic direction of acclaimed filmmaker Wong Kar Wai takes visitors on a cinematic journey through our galleries, where high fashion is shown alongside masterworks of Chinese art.”
In celebration of the exhibition opening, the Museum's Costume Institute Benefit takes place on Monday, May 4, 2015. Silas Chou serves as Honorary Chair. The evening’s co-chairs are Jennifer Lawrence, Gong Li, Marissa Mayer, Wendi Murdoch, and Anna Wintour. This event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.
“From the earliest period of European contact with China in the 16th century, the West has been enchanted with enigmatic objects and imagery from the East, providing inspiration for fashion designers from Paul Poiret to Yves Saint Laurent, whose fashions are infused at every turn with romance, nostalgia, and make-believe,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator in The Costume Institute. “Through the looking glass of fashion, designers conjoin disparate stylistic references into a fantastic pastiche of Chinese aesthetic and cultural traditions.”
This is The Costume Institute’s first collaboration with another curatorial department since AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion in 2006, a partnership with the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. China: Through the Looking Glass features more than 140 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear alongside masterpieces of Chinese art. Filmic representations of China are incorporated throughout to reveal how our visions of China are shaped by narratives that draw upon popular culture, and to recognize the importance of cinema as a medium through which we understand the richness of Chinese history.
The Anna Wintour Costume Center’s Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery presents a series of “mirrored reflections” focusing on Imperial China; the Republic of China, especially Shanghai in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s; and the People’s Republic of China. These reflections, as well as others in the exhibition, are illustrated with scenes from films by such groundbreaking Chinese directors as Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Ang Lee, and Wong Kar Wai. Distinct vignettes are devoted to “women of style,” including Hu Die (known as Butterfly Wu), Oei Huilan (the former Madame Wellington Koo), and Soong Mei-Ling (Madame Chiang Kai-shek).
Directly above the Anna Wintour Costume Center, the Chinese Galleries on the second floor showcase fashion from the 1700s to the present, juxtaposed with decorative arts from Imperial China, including jade, bronze, lacquer, and blue-and-white porcelain, mostly drawn from the Met’s collection. The Astor Court features a thematic vignette dedicated to Chinese opera, focusing on John Galliano’s spring 2003 Christian Dior Haute Couture Collection.
Designers in the exhibition include Cristobal Balenciaga, Travis Banton, Bulgari, Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Callot Soeurs, Cartier, Roberto Cavalli, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano for Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Valentino Garavani, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Picciolo for Valentino, Craig Green, Guo Pei, Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin, Ralph Lauren, Christian Louboutin, Martin Margiela, Alexander McQueen, Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, Edward Molyneux, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, Dries van Noten, Jean Patou, Paul Poiret, Yves Saint Laurent, Paul Smith, Van Cleef & Arpels, Vivienne Tam, Giambattista Valli, Vivienne Westwood, Jason Wu, and Laurence Xu.
The exhibition, a collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Department of Asian Art, coincides with the Museum’s year-long centennial celebration of the Asian Art Department, which was created as a separate curatorial department in 1915. China: Through the Looking Glass is organized by Andrew Bolton, Curator, with the support of Harold Koda, Curator in Charge, both of The Costume Institute. Additional support is provided by Maxwell K. Hearn, Douglas Dillon Chairman; Denise Patry Leidy, Curator; and Zhixin Jason Sun, Curator, all of the Department of Asian Art.
Internationally renowned filmmaker Wong Kar Wai is the exhibition’s artistic director working with his longtime collaborator William Chang, who supervised styling. Nathan Crowley serves as production designer for the exhibition–he has worked on three previous Costume Institute exhibitions including Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy (2008), American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity (2010), and Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations (2012). All headdresses are specially created for the exhibition by Stephen Jones. Exhibition lighting design is by Philippe Le Sourd.
The design for the 2015 Costume Institute Gala Benefit is created by 59 Productions and Raul Avila, who has produced the Benefit décor since 2007.
“William Chang and I are pleased to work in collaboration with The Costume Institute and the Asian Art Department of The Metropolitan Museum of Art on this exciting cross-cultural show,” said Wong. “Historically, there have been many cases of being ‘lost in translation’–with good and revealing results. As Chinese filmmakers we hope to create a show that is an Empire of Signs–filled with meaning for both East and West to discover and decipher.”
Related Content and Programs
A book, China: Through the Looking Glass, by Andrew Bolton, has texts by Adam Geczy, Maxwell K. Hearn, Homay King, Harold Koda, Mei Mei Rado, and Wong Kar Wai, and an interview with John Galliano. This publication accompanies the exhibition, and is illustrated with new photography by Platon. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, the $45 gold-stamped flexibound edition has 256 pages, 40 printed vellum leaves, and 231 color illustrations. A deluxe limited boxed edition of 500 numbered copies has a traditional Chinese string binding and a framable print of a Platon photograph. It is $250 and available only at the Museum.
Met Museum Presents programs include an opening concert in conjunction with China: Through the Looking Glass by pianist Lang Lang in the Great Hall on May 14. Lang Lang at the Met is inspired by the exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass and made possible by Adrian Cheng. Additional funding is provided by Sarah Solomon Billinghurst.
May 4, 2015
Image: Evening dress, Roberto Cavalli (Italian, born 1940), fall/winter 2005–6,
Photography © Platon