i’m sitting on the downtown 6 trying to revive my experience at the met today through scribbly annotations written in this tiny purple journal. I took the G to the L to the 5, stopped at dean & deluca for some bougie iced tea and a few squares of dark chocolate, then darted off to the metropolitan museum of art.
i love wandering the endless exhibitions but was lucky enough today to stumble upon the acclaimed “china: through the looking glass” exhibition. i fell into a maze of white and red lights, blue and white porcelain, assorted Chinoiserie and an abundance of fantastic dresses. my love for alexander mcqueen was again confirmed by his incredible silhouettes, both in accessories and in dress. balenciaga, too, I learned, is a deity worth worshipping. ditto gautier. ditto dior. my love for fashion and curation was restored by this exhibit. i was overwhelmed by embroidery, gold-sequined dragons, shawls stitched with entire villages, and a plethora of snuff bottles and even opium perfumes (yves’s sketches for his “opium” perfume were surprisingly crude but nevertheless intriguing). my only qualm with the exhibit was that the focus was more on the interpretations of chinese aesthetics in western fashion as opposed to focusing on chinese fashion itself. for example, christian dior’s “letter to a stomachache” dress (which features calligraphy from a letter by zhang xu revealing the details of certain digestive problems) is a perfect example of how westerners misconstrued chinese aesthetics.
the exhibit was teeming with tourists, many of them asian, which again brought a sense of redemption to “china: through the looking glass” as asiatic art seems to be largely underrepresented in western culture. I did, however, eavesdrop to hear several asian woman expressing their discontent at the fact that the majority of the featured pieces were actually european and simply emulating chinese design as opposed to actually BEING Chinese design.
overall, however, i really enjoyed this exhibit as the moody lighting, lucite casings, gentle music, and massive pond created a delightfully overwhelming atmospheric experience reminiscent of the alexander mcqueen exhibit at the v&a. the amalgam of streamlined silhouettes, open backs, and delicate embroideries allowed me to fully understand the appropriation of the chinese aesthetic in western fashion. although a few chinese designers were featured, I would have, as aforementioned, liked seeing more of the original chinese pieces and less so their westernized imitations.
note: i would like to again reiterate my adoration for the met’s “pay as you wish” policy. i was able to explore my favorite decorative arts exhibitions and wander through ethereal atriums for hours all for the price of a dollar.