Friday, May 29, 2015

New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Costume Insititute - China Through the Looking Glass


New York:  The Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Costume Institute -  China: Through the Looking Glass. Located in the Chinese Galleries and the Anna Wintour Costume Center of The Costume Institute the exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass, until August 16, is curated by Andrew Bolton. 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 takes its name from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871), the heroine enters an imaginary, alternative universe by climbing through a mirror in her house. In this world, a reflected version of her home, everything is topsy-turvy and back-to-front. Like Alice's make-believe world, the China mirrored in the fashions in this exhibition is wrapped in invention and imagination. Stylistically, they belong to the practice of Orientalism, which since the publication of Edward Said's seminal treatise on the subject in 1978 has taken on negative connotations of Western supremacy and segregation. At its core, Said interprets Orientalism as a Eurocentric worldview that essentializes Eastern peoples and cultures as a monolithic other.
Video: The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Gallery Views - The Costume Institute - Spring 2015 Exhibition, "China: Through the Looking Glass," is narrated by exhibition curator Andrew Bolton.
Above - Manchu Road. When Western designers are inspired by China's long and rich history, they invariably gravitate toward the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), the Republic of China (1912–49), and the People's Republic of China (1949–present), and respectively, the Manchu robe
Above. Chinese – Formal Robe for the Tongzhi Emperor – 1862-74 – silk and metallic thread. House of Dior – John Galliano – Dress – Autumn/Winter 1998-99 – haute couture – yellow silk damask – embroidered with polychrome silk and gold metallic thread
Above. Jean Paul Gaultier – Socks - Autumn/Winter – 2010-11 - yellow silk satin embroidered with polychrome silk thread.

The Costume Institute -  China: Through the Looking Glass. Moon in the Water. The exhibition's subtitle, "Through the Looking Glass," translates into Chinese as "Moon in the Water," a phrase that alludes to Buddhism. Like "Flower in the Mirror," it suggests something that cannot be grasped, and has both positive and negative connotations. When used to describe a beautiful object, "moon in the water" can refer to a quality of perfection that is either so elusive and mysterious that the item becomes transcendent or so illusory and deceptive that it becomes untrustworthy. The metaphor often expresses romantic longing, as the eleventh-century poet Huang Tingjian wrote: "Like picking a blossom in a mirror/Or grabbing at the moon in water/I stare at you but cannot get near you." It also conveys unrequited love, as in the song "Hope Betrayed" in Cao Xueqin's mid-eighteenth-century novel Dream of the Red Chamber: "In vain were all her sighs and tears/In vain were all his anxious fears:/As moonlight mirrored in the water/Or flowers reflected in a glass."
Above. House of Dior - John Galliano – Dress – Spring/Summer 2003 - haute couture – red and polychrome silk brocade, gold lame and red synthetic crinoline.

The Costume Institute -  China Through the Looking Glass - Manchu Road. In a surrealist act of displacement, the British milliner Stephen Jones, commissioned by the Museum to create the headpieces in the exhibition and has relocated these symbols, whose placement on the imperial costumes of the emperor was governed by strict rules, to the head, where they appear as three-dimensional sculptural forms.
Above. French – Evening Coat – ca. 1925 – double-sided pink and blue silk velvet, quilted and inset with gold lame and brown mink fur.

The Costume Institute -  China: Through the Looking Glass - People's Republic of China. The Zhongshan suit, or Mao suit as it is more commonly known in the West, remains a powerful sartorial signifier of China, despite the fact that it began disappearing from the wardrobes of most Chinese men and women, aside from government officials, in the early 1990s. For many Western designers, the appeal of the Mao suit rests in its principled practicality and functionalism.
Above. Chinese – Ensemble – 1983 – blue polyester twill. Chinese – Ensemble – 1980s – worn by Tweng Kwong Chi – grey cotton twill. 

The Costume Institute -  China: Through the Looking Glass - People's Republic of China. The Mao Suit – Its uniformity implies, an idealism and utopianism reflected in its seemingly liberating obfuscation of class and gender distinctions. During the late 1960s, a time of international political and cultural upheaval, the Mao suit in the West became a symbol of an anti capitalist proletariat. In Europe, it was embraced enthusiastically by the left-leaning intelligentsia specifically for a countercultural and antiestablishment effect.
Above. Vivienne Tam - Mao Suit – Spring/Summer 1995 – white and black polyester jacquard. House of Dior – John Galliano – Ensemble – Spring/Summer 1999 – Jacket: green silk shantung with red silk-satin piping and gold metallic frogging: Skirt: pleated green silk Jacquard.

The Costume Institute -  China: Through the Looking Glass  
 Alexander McQueen – Dress – Autumn/Winter 2006-7 – cream and polychrome silk brocade. Portobello Wallpaper – On electrum gilded paper by de Gournay

The Costume Institute - China: Through the Looking Glass. Blue-and-White Porcelain. The story of blue-and-white porcelain encapsulates centuries of cultural exchange between East and West. Developed in Jingdezhen during the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), blue-and-white porcelain was exported to Europe as early as the sixteenth century. As its popularity increased in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in tandem with a growing taste for chinoiserie, potters in the Netherlands (Delft), Germany (Meissen), and England (Worcester) began to produce their own imitations.
Above.  Li Xiaofeng – The Weight of the Millennium – 2015 – blue and white porcelain shards.


The Costume Institute -  China: Through the Looking Glass
Blue-and-White Porcelain Room

 The Costume Institute -  China: Through the Looking Glass

Blue-and-White Porcelain Room

The Costume Institute -  China: Through the Looking Glass – Chinoiserie. The idea of China reflected in the Haute Couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear fashions in this gallery is a fictional, fabulous invention, offering an alternate reality with a dreamlike, almost hallucinatory, illogic. This fanciful imagery, which combines Eastern and Western stylistic elements into an incredible pastiche, belongs to the tradition of chinoiserie, a style that emerged in the late seventeenth century and reached its pinnacle in the mid-eighteenth century. China was a land outside the reach of most travelers in the latter century (and, for many others, still an imaginary land called "Cathay"), and chinoiserie presented a vision of the East as a place of mystery and romance. Stylistically, its main characteristics include Chinese figures, pagodas with sweeping roofs, and picturesque landscapes with elaborate pavilions, exotic birds, and flowering plants. That designers further elide the already reductive symbols of chinoiserie allows fashion to seductively and compellingly capture China's infinite complexities.

The Costume Institute -  China: Through the Looking Glass
House of Dior – John Galliano – Ensemble – Spring/Summer 2003 – Haute Couture – Jacket: polychrome-printed silk velvet with yellow, blue and green silk organdy; Skirt; white and blue printed silk Georgette

The Costume Institute -  China Through the Looking Glass – Perfume. Part of the power of perfume lies in its synesthetic possibilities, and the idea of China, confected from Western imagination, affords the perfumer a multiplicity of olfactory opportunities charged with the seductive mysteries of the East. Paul Poiret, famous for his fashions a la chinoise, was the first designer to produce a perfume fueled by the romance of China. Called Nuit de Chine, it was created in 1913 by Maurice Schaller and presented in a flacon inspired by Chinese snuff bottles designed by Georges Lepape.
Above. Bryenne – G.K. (George Kugelmann) BendaChu Chin Chow Perfume Presentation – 1916 – Flacon: enameled glass with gold (mercury) leaf; Box: varnished paper with gold metal and yellow silk.


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