Wong Kar Wai Will Direct Met Show on Chinese Influence in Fashion

Film Still from In the Mood for Love, 2000.
Photo by Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (c)2000 Block 2 Pictures Inc.

After successful shows devoted to punk and Alexander McQueen, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that its Costume Institute is preparing “Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film, and Fashion,” slated to run May 7 through August 16, 2015.

Spanning the Met’s Chinese galleries and Anna Wintour Costume Center, the exhibition is being art directed by none other than acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar Wai. It will explore the relationship between China and the Western world through history and up to the present. The show will comment on translations and frequent mistranslations of Chinese culture. A collaboration between the department of Asian art and the Costume Institute, the exhibition will juxtapose high fashion, from the likes of Giorgio Armani, John Galliano, and many more, with traditional Chinese costume, painting, porcelain, and other art, as well as Chinese films, to represent the ongoing conversation between the two world regions.

“Historically, there have been many cases of being ‘lost in translation’—with good and revealing results,” Wong Kar-wai said in a statement. “As Chinese filmmakers we hope to create a show that is an Empire of Signs—filled with meaning for both East and West to discover and decipher.”

Andrew Bolton, curator at the Costume Institute, added that “from the earliest period of European contact with China in the 16th century, the West has been enchanted with enigmatic objects and imagery from the East…In an intricate process of translation and mistranslation similar to the game of ‘Telephone’—which the British call ‘Chinese Whispers’—designers conjoin disparate stylistic references into a fantastic pastiche of Chinese aesthetic and cultural traditions.”

In celebration of its opening, the Museum’s Costume Institute Benefit will take place on Monday, May 4, 2015, with Chinese businessman Silas Chou serving as honorary chair. The annual gathering will no doubt bring out A-list guests, with Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence, Chinese actress Gong Li, Yahoo president and CEO Marissa Mayer, Artsy investor Wendi Murdoch, and Vogue‘s Anna Wintour all signed on as co-chairs.

This is the Costume Institute’s first collaboration with another curatorial department since “AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion” in 2006.

“I am excited about this partnership between these two forward-thinking departments that will undoubtedly reveal provocative new insights into the West’s fascination with Chinese aesthetics,” Met director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell said in a statement.


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