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Metropolitan Museum of Art: China Through the Looking Glass

Every year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Costume Insitute put on a costume exhibition.  The theme this year is China Through the Looking Glass.  It is a fascinating and vibrant look at China culture and its influence on cinema, fashion, art, and the western world.  The exhibit also has videos of historical and current fashion trends.  It is a spectacle for the senses and a feast for the eyes.

The video below from the Metropolitan Museum of Art posted by the World Fashion YouTube channel is a 7 minute overview of the exhibition with fascinating insight.

On a sunny Friday morning, I visited the exhibition.  Aside from the stylish clothes, the way in which the fashion is exhibited on a fake lake, in a mock up of a house, and against video tunnels is spectacular.  The exhibition has extended until September 7, 2015.  I highly advise going on a weekday or very early on a weekend as it gets crowded quickly.

The exhibition description from the Met:

This 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.

From the earliest period of European contact with China in the sixteenth 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. Through the looking glass of fashion, designers conjoin disparate stylistic references into a pastiche of Chinese aesthetic and cultural traditions.

The exhibition features more than 140 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear alongside Chinese art. Filmic representations of China are incorporated throughout to reveal how our visions of China are framed by narratives that draw upon popular culture, and also to recognize the importance of cinema as a medium through which to understand the richness of Chinese history.

When you first walk into the exhibition, you enter Gallery 132:  People’s Republic of China.

Then you are led to a set of stairs that takes you to gallery 209: Empire of Signs: Galleries 

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From here, there is a series of connecting rooms which comprise of the following:

Gallery 207: Ancient China

Gallery 208: Guo Pei

Gallery 206: Wuxia

After this particular gallery, you will go back out to the Gallery 209 and head in the opposite direction to where the bulk of the exhibition is located.

Gallery 210: Saint Laurent & Opium and Chinoserie

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Gallery 211 and 212: Perfume

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Gallery 217: Moon in the Water

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Gallery 218: Ming Furniture

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Gallery 213:  Blue-and-White Porcelain

This is my favorite gallery.

39ChineseGalleriesBlueAndWhitePorcelainGalleryView

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Gallery 214: Calligraphy

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Gallery 215 and 216: Export Silk

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You are then back out to Gallery 209.  From here, you have to take two flights of stairs to reach Gallery 980 and 981.

Gallery 980: Manchu Robe

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Gallery 981: Hu Die (Butterfly Wu)

This exhibition took about three hours to view.  I took a long time admiring the intricate designs and the overall ambiance.  This is one of the best exhibitions I have seen and is unlikely to be presented again in the near future.  There are so many things to see that I was only able to showcase a few of the looks here so don’t miss this chance to see China Through the Looking Glass before it ends on September 7th.

For related articles, visit the Travel page.

Author:  Chau Hoang

Featured photo: Amy Dao

This entry was posted in: Travel
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