The Costume Institute’s spring 2015 exhibition, China: Through the Looking Glass, is on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from May 7 through September 7, 2015 (extended). Presented in the Museum’s Chinese Galleries and Anna Wintour Costume Center, the exhibition explores the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion and how China has fueled the fashionable imagination for centuries. In this collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Department of Asian Art, high fashion is juxtaposed with Chinese costumes, paintings, porcelains, and other art, including films, to reveal enchanting reflections of Chinese imagery.
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 cochairs 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 readyto- 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.