Since Europeans first made contact with China in the sixteenth century, Chinese art has exerted a heady influence on Western fashion. A new exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, China: Through the Looking Glass, examines the influence of Chinese aesthetics on some of the West’s most lauded fashion designers. A collaboration between the Met’s Asian Art department and The Costume Institute, it mixes high fashion with costumes, films, paintings, porcelains, and other art from China.
The exhibition seeks to draw out the image the West has of China, a country which has inspired nostalgia and fantasy in the minds of many of these designers. The curator’s decision to reference Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland in the title of the exhibition reflects the fantasy China has inspired in the West.
Chinese history and cinema are seen to have exerted a particular pull on the West’s imagination. Three periods of Chinese history are given particular emphasis — Imperial China, the Republic of China, and the Imperial Republic of China. In the Republic of China, Shanghai in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s receives the most attention.
Alongside Chinese art, the exhibition features more than 140 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear.
To continue reading about China: Through the Looking Glass, read the July/August issue of The Kurios. The exhibition is on at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, until August 16, 2015.
Photo: Gallery View, Chinese Galleries, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Wuxia. Ensemble, Jean Paul Gaultier, autumn/ winter 2001-2; Courtesy of Jean Paul Gaultier. Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.