Skip to content

China: Through The Looking Glass – An Epic Exhibition – Met Museum

Spread the love

“China: Through the Looking Glass and the exhibition it accompanies take full advantage of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s encyclopedic collections to explore the long history of interaction between China and the West…” Maxwell K. Hearn

China: Through The Looking Glass - An Epic Exhibition - Met Museum - Collage of some haute couture designs by both East & West Designers

China: Through The Looking Glass – An Epic Exhibition – Met Museum – Collage of some haute couture designs by both East & West Designers

WFCTVofficial: China: Through The Looking Glass Exhibition The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

“Like Alice’s make-believe world, the China reflected in the examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear fashions in the catalogue and related exhibition is a fictional, fabulous invention, offering an alternate reality with a dream-like illogic. Its fanciful imagery, which combines Eastern and Western stylistic elements, belongs to the tradition and practice of chinoiserie, a style that emerged in the late seventeenth century and reached its pinnacle in the mid-eighteenth century. Within the conventions and trajectory of chinoiserie, China is a site on which historically changing fears and desires are projected. As a style, it belongs to the broader tradition and practice of Orientalism… (Prof Said) interprets Orientalism as the Eurocentric predilection to essentialize Eastern peoples and cultures as a monolithic other…” Andrew Bolton, Curator at The Met Museum

If you haven’t had a chance to see this exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum, I implore you to catch the last few days, as the museum has extended it till September 7. How does one begin to describe this feast for the mind and eyes? This is a full on experience of what the Metropolitan Museum has aptly described as “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.” What we get to see is what happens when, over centuries, East meets West, and co-options and collaborations take place. It is not a quick walk through a few rooms, or an excursion through rows and rows of wall paintings. This exhibit pulls in all your senses as you hear, see, touch and even smell, the incredibly engaging and enchanting experience of China: Through The Looking Glass.

“This epic exhibition, which could only have been realized at the Met, highlights the unparalleled strengths of the Museum’s collections and scholarship in both Asian art and costume….” Thomas P. Campbell, Met Museum Director

 China: Through The Looking Glass - An Epic Exhibition - Met Museum - Collage of breathtaking Gold gown by Guo Pei

China: Through The Looking Glass – An Epic Exhibition – Met Museum – Collage of breathtaking Gold gown by Guo Pei

Gallery views of The Costume Institute’s spring 2015 exhibition, “China: Through the Looking Glass,” narrated by exhibition curator Andrew Bolton.

“The invention of exuberant new silhouettes and ahistorical draping constructions with Chinese iconography – as seen in the work of John Galliano, Craig Green and Alexander McQueen suggests the creative liberty unleashed by an imprecisely known “other.” The Chinese expressed in the designs of the late twentieth century was as ever a response to ideas aggregated over centuries through trade and diplomatic exchange, myth-making and illusion.” Harold Koda, Curator in Charge at The Met Museum

Set on 2-3 floors, in the Chinese Galleries, Egyptian Galleries, and the Anna Wintour Costume Center, it felt like I was walking through an endless maze, set on multiple floors, with secret rooms popping up everywhere. The exhibition is a fashionistas dream of more than 140 haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear clothing from the top designers of the last/current century and beyond; both Chinese and Western designers are featured alongside Chinese art with film representations of China added for effect. I took hundreds of photos and you would have to come back later to feast your eyes on the fashions, fabrics, embroidery and impressive influences of Chinese culture on Western design. The juxtaposition of this cultural influence with Western movie interpretations is worth the visit.

If you’re in NY, I advice you to go see it and be prepared to stay for a long, long while. As the Museum suggests, “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”. I spent 3+ hours going through the exhibition and plan to return before it closes. It was that impressive… read – mind-blowing!

More Below!

“This exquisite exhibition juxtaposes high fashion with historic Chines costumes, film, and art to explore Western designers’ enduring fascination with Chinese imagery…” Marissa Mayer President & CEO, Yahoo (Sponsor of the Exhibition)

China: Through The Looking Glass - An Epic Exhibition - Met Museum - Collage of Lucite Bamboo garden with figures in designer clothing and martial arts depictions

China: Through The Looking Glass – An Epic Exhibition – Met Museum – Collage of Plexiglas rods lit from the bottom with LED lights – creating a Lucite Bamboo garden with figures in designer clothing and martial arts depictions

SinoVision English Channel Archives: China: Through the Looking Glass

Jake Beal: Metropolitan Museum of Art: China Through The Looking Glass

I was fascinated with the culture. In retrospect, I think it was because I knew so little about it. Before I visited China, it was the fantasy that drew me to it, the sense of danger and mystery conveyed through Hollywood. Much later, I learned more about the real China through research – paintings, literature, architecture. My design process involves in-depth research, and I make a scrapbook for every collection with images that show my current thinking. But yes, my initial interest in China was fueled by movies, by their fantasized and romanticized portrayals. Designer, John Galliano’s response to Andrew Bolton’s question: What drew you to China initially?

As you leave the exhibition, you are greeted by a towering structure that will make your jaw drop; the Plexiglas rods lit from the bottom with LED lights create a Lucite Bamboo garden with shadowy figures lurking within. As is the norm with every major exhibition at The Met, the museum published a coffee table book choc-a-bloc with photos and essays from experts in the field. It is well priced, and comes with a perfume swab and an extra little note-card giving a bit more on the exhibit. If you are lucky enough to make it to the museum today, you could get your copy signed by Met Museum Curator, Andrew Bolton, and Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour.

What I love about the rich red catalogue/book is that it has more photos of items I didn’t see and a full listing of all the curators, designers, loaners, sponsor notes and more. All the quotes I used for this post came from the copy that one of my daughters, who came on the tour with me, and took those amazing gold dress and Lucite bamboo photos, bought for me. I keep going back to the book to read up and marvel at the breadth and depth of the exhibit.  While I gather my photos and further thoughts on this astonishing exhibition, I encourage you to read a few reviews and consider seeing it if you are able to do so. Seeing it in person will give you a richer understanding and appreciation for what the curators, designers, and photographers have accomplished. Do you plan to see it? Read: NYT Review: In ‘China: Through the Looking Glass,’ Eastern Culture Meets Western Fashion

Positive Motivation Tip: When East meets West, co-options and collaborations can take place. Explore the process. Seek your medium and create!

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: Photos – From my personal collection, Videos from YouTube, and notes/quotes from book/catalogue purchased at The Met Museum Store.

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

88 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenn permalink
    02/09/2015 3:00 pm

    Stunning! There are no words. This is so fascinating. I could stare at the dress all day.

  2. 02/09/2015 3:29 pm

    Interesting …looking glass… china is indeed an interesting topic and how fashion inspiration come about a mixture of Chinese art infusing western fashion

  3. The New Classy permalink
    02/09/2015 4:50 pm

    I just love museums. That really does look like a great exhibit! I hope to be able to go to the Met one day.

  4. 02/09/2015 5:36 pm

    Wow, it sounds like they presented everything in a way that really makes an impact on people. This exhibition sounds wonderful.

  5. Nancy Johnson Horn (@themamamaven) permalink
    02/09/2015 5:42 pm

    My husband wants to take our daughter to see this over this Labor Day weekend (she’s almost 8). My mother and in-laws saw it already and loved it.

  6. Masshole Mommy permalink
    02/09/2015 6:16 pm

    I love the Met. I haven’t been there in a few years and I am looking forward to getting back again soon.

  7. Claudette Esterine permalink
    02/09/2015 8:12 pm

    What beautiful dresses!!! This looms so fascinating!!! Thanks for sharing this experience!

  8. leybainpublic permalink
    02/09/2015 8:58 pm

    Wow! Awesome creations. Love all the artwork and designs.

  9. Shann permalink
    02/09/2015 9:06 pm

    Looks like a fantastic exhbit. I would love to see it.

  10. 204 Park permalink
    02/09/2015 9:07 pm

    The met museum is a magical place – this post makes me want to go back!!

  11. asbestrecipes permalink
    02/09/2015 9:10 pm

    Indeed an epic showcase of art and beautiful dresses I wish I was there =)

  12. 02/09/2015 10:35 pm

    Photography heaven, I love the ‘bamboo’ garden and the Dior dress in the video.

  13. upliftingfam permalink
    03/09/2015 12:14 am

    All of those photos are so beautiful. It sounds like you enjoyed your visit to the museum. I love going to museums too. I want to take my son to the childrens museum.

  14. Acadiana'sThriftyMom (@acadianathrifty) permalink
    03/09/2015 2:42 am

    These photos are breathtaking! Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  15. Eileen Mendoza Loya permalink
    03/09/2015 3:44 am

    All I can say is, “Wow!” Stunning designs and cool lighting effects. I love the blending of East and West in the designs.

  16. tina permalink
    03/09/2015 5:28 am

    WOW!! I wish I were in New York so I could enjoy this exhibit. But I have a feeling they’d have to drag me out of the museum at closing time!! Thanks so much for sharing this.

  17. Tammy permalink
    03/09/2015 6:25 am

    Oh my how beautiful.

  18. Esme Sy permalink
    03/09/2015 6:31 am

    The gowns are stunning, the gold gown most especially. I would have loved to see all these.

  19. 03/09/2015 6:39 am

    Lovely exhibits.

  20. Urvi permalink
    03/09/2015 6:52 am

    Seems like nice art museum. I loved the outfits….

  21. victoria permalink
    03/09/2015 6:54 am

    I love this exhibition love all the gowns and such a great videos

  22. Tiffany Cruz permalink
    03/09/2015 6:56 am

    I’d love to go see this for myself. Everything is gorgeous. I be it’s even better in person.

  23. LizZ H. permalink
    03/09/2015 7:24 am

    WOW!! I love unique fashion. So this post was fantastic 😀

  24. debchampagne70 permalink
    03/09/2015 8:46 am

    Great post! I really loved some of those dresses. They all were very elegant and beautiful.

  25. debchampagne70 permalink
    03/09/2015 8:48 am

    Great post! I actually would love a few of the dresses. They all were so elegant and beautiful. I loved reading your post.

  26. Lexie Lane permalink
    03/09/2015 9:51 am

    Wow! These dresses are absolutely stunning! I can’t believe what an amazing collection! The Chinese are definitely a very talented culture.

  27. tara pittman permalink
    03/09/2015 11:05 am

    That gold dress is so pretty. This place looks so cool.

  28. Jojo Vito permalink
    03/09/2015 11:18 am

    wow the creations were spectacular especially the Gold gown by Guo Pei

  29. Shannon P permalink
    03/09/2015 11:51 am

    Wow wow wow – those dresses are absolutely gorgeous! I miss living in a big metropolitan city and experiencing all the wonderful museums!

  30. 03/09/2015 12:23 pm

    I must admit, I avoid things made in china but that exhibition? Awesome! It really depicts the rich culture of their country and I must say, they are gorgeous intricate patterns! Must have taken at least a month of sleepless nights to finish one.

  31. Scott permalink
    03/09/2015 2:05 pm

    My daughter is super into fashion. She would love seeing those dresses in person!

  32. Pam permalink
    03/09/2015 4:52 pm

    Wow, so much beauty and grace. I would love to see one of these exhibitions in person. I will have to put that on my bucket list.

  33. Nova permalink
    03/09/2015 5:40 pm

    that is so magnificent… I mean those dresses are indeed amazing.

  34. SweetMemoirs Page permalink
    03/09/2015 5:54 pm

    Whoa! What a breathtaking exhibition!

  35. Anne V permalink
    03/09/2015 6:26 pm

    When I think of China all I can conjure up is Dimsum haha, Maybe it’s because I’m a foodie. Through your article I see a side of China that never peaked my interest before, through fashion and art. China is just majestic! What an awesome exhibit!

  36. Norah Salazar (@norah_s) permalink
    03/09/2015 6:35 pm

    I actually went to see this in August and thought it was FABULOUS! I loved every detail and how nicely it was done.

  37. Debbie Denny permalink
    03/09/2015 6:55 pm

    Oh my goodness. That is an awesome exhibit.

  38. Serendipity DP permalink
    03/09/2015 7:04 pm

    Looks very interesting,hmmm. I wish i was in the Metro now, but since i cannot make that right now, i’ll just contend to watch the show here.. Thanks for sharing 😀

  39. Maria Teresa Figuerres permalink
    03/09/2015 10:26 pm

    I would have loved to see this exhibition at the Met Museum, too! Really awesome photos you have here!

  40. phyliciamarie permalink
    03/09/2015 10:38 pm

    The gold gown by Guo Pei is really amazing! I can’t imagine the labor the designer went through just to make that dress, so intricate and beautiful!

  41. Caroline permalink
    04/09/2015 2:07 am

    This looks like an amazing exhibition. Love the colorful dresses, so nice and glamorous!

  42. Tiffany Yong permalink
    04/09/2015 2:09 am

    The golden dress is really epic. It’s glamorous and elegant with just its color. I’m totally in awe

  43. Eileen Mendoza Loya permalink
    04/09/2015 2:45 am

    I love how beautiful this came out. The blending of east and west designs are awesome. Love the lighting effects and the elegance of those gowns.

  44. Stephanie Pass permalink
    04/09/2015 4:23 am

    Wow, these are some amazing dresses. I would love to get up close to these beautiful designs.

  45. beckysbestbites permalink
    04/09/2015 4:38 am

    Gorgeous exhibit of such glamorous dresses!! I wish I could get up there before the exhibit closes to check it out!!

  46. Louise permalink
    04/09/2015 5:35 am

    That gold gown is just jaw-dropping! Not being biased because I’m Asian but I personally like Asian’s costumes as it speaks a lot of the country’s culture or history.

  47. poojakawatra permalink
    04/09/2015 6:38 am

    Thanks to your post that we got to read about this part of china as well. Frankly speaking even i knew very less about literature and architecture.

  48. 204 Park permalink
    04/09/2015 7:24 am

    This post made me want to go back to the met – such a great museum! 🙂

  49. Home Life Abroad permalink
    04/09/2015 7:27 am

    Wow, what an amazing exhibition! I’m so sad I can’t see it myself, but I checked out the videos you shared and I’m glad I had a sneak peak of the exhibition. Really gorgeous dresses!

  50. Mia Foo permalink
    04/09/2015 7:50 am

    wow, the exhibits are really breathtaking! that gold gown is so beautiful! i hope this exhibition will come to singapore too!

  51. franck permalink
    04/09/2015 7:52 am

    When it comes to outfit, China has a heritage of their own. They also have elegant designs.

  52. Claudette Esterine permalink
    04/09/2015 7:57 am

    The Chinese have such a beautiful culture and extremely colourful. I am always amazed at the intricacies of the designs/needlework in the ladies clothing. Beautiful.

  53. Boho Chic permalink
    04/09/2015 8:09 am

    Oh wow what an elegant display. I’d love to see this but I don’t think I’ll make it there before the time is up. Thanks for your photos so I can at least take a peek into this epic exhibition.

  54. Fred permalink
    04/09/2015 8:26 am

    Chinese culture is old and grand, and it continues to evolve with the modern times. This culture is always a good museum display with so many aspects that they can focus on.

  55. Jojo Vito permalink
    04/09/2015 8:51 am

    the collection were amazing … I’ve noticed one gown, was it made of blue and white ceramics?

    • 05/09/2015 5:51 am

      Thank you for noticing and asking JoJo! It is made of broken shards of ceramics… Pretty amazing!

  56. Chubskulit Rose permalink
    04/09/2015 9:27 am

    Those are very intricate design and beautiful too!

  57. paulinacm29 permalink
    04/09/2015 10:31 am

    Wow! This is a great post! I saw this exhibition and is stunning! It is amazing what creative minds can achieve.

  58. Karen of MrsLookingGood permalink
    04/09/2015 10:49 am

    I would have loved to see this special exhibit, unfortunately I’m too far away. Will have to make do with your photos and videos. The gowns are beautiful and could not identify a favorite as each one is exquisitely made. I’m also amazed at the Lucite Bamboo Garden!

  59. 04/09/2015 2:09 pm

    What a beautiful display! I would love to see this in person, looks very interesting.

  60. purpledani9 permalink
    04/09/2015 6:13 pm

    These are some gorgeous dresses!!! I would love to visit this museum for this exhibit alone!

  61. Sojourner permalink
    04/09/2015 6:14 pm

    I love the MET! This exhibit looks so fascinating. What gorgeous pieces.

  62. Nova permalink
    04/09/2015 6:21 pm

    China does have quite few of their fascinating dresses to display. Thanks for sharing this.

  63. Yvonne Bertoldo permalink
    04/09/2015 6:39 pm

    Wow, that exhibition shows how artistic Chinese are. Those dress/gowns look absolutely royal and fit for a queen. It can also be very informative to visit exhibitions such as this one.

  64. sinyees permalink
    05/09/2015 1:23 am

    Gosh! My eyes couldn’t leave the dress alone! That is so beautiful!

  65. Lisa Rios permalink
    05/09/2015 2:56 am

    Looks like a great exhibition to explore a lot out of it. The outfits are absolutely amazing enough to explore the Chinese culture & trends. Would love to visit the museum sometime with my family.

  66. Coolchillmom permalink
    05/09/2015 8:04 am

    What a beautiful exhibit. I love how rich it is in beauty

  67. maria s. permalink
    05/09/2015 2:18 pm

    I didn’t even know an exhibit like this existed. I would really enjoy this. The lit “bamboo garden” is gorgeous and adds an ethereal feel to everything. I love this!

  68. Holly @ Woman Tribune permalink
    05/09/2015 3:11 pm

    Wow! What an incredibly stunning exhibit. The concept is amazing, and it was executed wonderfully.

  69. Holly permalink
    05/09/2015 3:12 pm

    Wow! What an incredibly stunning exhibit. The concept is amazing, and it was executed wonderfully.

  70. Kathy Ngo permalink
    05/09/2015 7:35 pm

    One of the things that I have always been passionate about are museums, galleries, and exhibits. I love how other countries are able to always carefully execute such exhibits. The Met remains on my list of places to visit as well as the Louvre. I wish in my country they can do these kind of things once more.

  71. Sunshine Kelly permalink
    05/09/2015 7:41 pm

    The China Through The Looking Glass Exhibition at Met Museum is extravagant! The rich culture of China blends well with western touch. Is perfect. I hope you could go to Beijing one day to visit the Summer Palace and more historical places there.

  72. Dawn McAlexander permalink
    05/09/2015 8:04 pm

    These are so gorgeous. I especially love the gold one.

  73. Kathleen Bailey permalink
    06/09/2015 10:52 am

    Wow. Is that a dress made from cups and plates? Wow. Beautiful.

  74. Lois Jones permalink
    06/09/2015 4:54 pm

    I am awe struck with the beauty of so many of those items in the exhibit. I could spend days there just looking at the details and intricacies! Just fascinating!

  75. M from The Stay-at-Home Life permalink
    06/09/2015 4:56 pm

    Wow, those clothes are amazing. I love the gold tone dress.

  76. Chinyere permalink
    08/09/2015 5:55 pm

    I saw the exhibit as it was drawing to a close,because it was the final week the galleries were crowded,but your post with its photos videos,and as always amazing writing,made me feel like I just had a private viewing,like a child being led by the hand into a world of fantasy and delight. Exquisite sights and sounds….hmmm……thank you.

  77. Lauren Paints (@tinylittlebows) permalink
    09/09/2015 10:19 pm

    Wow, these dresses are absolutely stunning and breath-taking! I can’t imagine all the work dedicated to making this beauty!


  1. Photo Challenge: DENSE | Mirth and Motivation

Your Comment is Appreciated!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: