“Through the Looking Glass” goes through the roof

Gallery View, Chinese Galleries, Douglas Dillon Galleries, Chinoiserie. Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Attendance numbers for China: Through the Looking Glass are set to go through the roof. Curated by British-born Andrew Bolton, who received the Vilcek Prize in Fashion earlier this year, the popular exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art received over 635,000 visitors as of mid-August, and will likely beat the Costume Institute’s current record-holder, the 2011 Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition.

Although curated in partnership with the Department of Asian Art, the exhibition is not focused on Chinese fashion per se; rather, it is an examination of how Chinese aesthetics have influenced Western fashion for centuries. “Through the looking glass of fashion, designers conjoin disparate stylistic references into a fantastic pastiche of Chinese aesthetic and cultural traditions,” said Andrew.

China: Through the Looking Glass juxtaposes high fashion from Western designers with Chinese costumes and art. Couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear pieces from designers such as Roberto Cavalli, Tom Ford, and Coco Chanel are paired with items from the Met’s Asian Art collection, such as blue-and-white porcelain, imperial dragon robes, and calligraphy scrolls. The exhibition also includes film clips curated by acclaimed Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar Wei, in homage to cinema’s influence in shaping Western perceptions of China.

Gallery View, Chinese Galleries, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Wuxia. Ensemble, Jean Paul Gaultier (French, born 1952), autumn/winter 2001-2; Courtesy of Jean Paul Gaultier. Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Gallery View, Anna Wintour Costume Center, Imperial China. Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The exhibition spans 16 separate galleries in the Chinese and Egyptian Galleries and Anna Wintour Costume Center, and is the largest ever mounted by the Costume Institute. It is part of a blockbuster year for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which, in the latest fiscal year ending in June 2015, has seen the highest number of visitors in one year since the museum started keeping track over 40 years ago, with a total of 6.3 million visitors.

Due to its popularity, China: Through the Looking Glass was extended by three weeks through Labor Day — be sure to check it out if you can! (And if not, take a video tour with Andrew and check out his Q&A about the exhibition.)

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