No art shows to report in August, but September began with a bang Wednesday as I traveled to the Metropolitan Museum in New York with two friends to see China, Through the Looking Glass. This show closes on Sunday, so if you are anywhere near Manhattan I highly recommend it. It is a multi media extravaganza filled with ravishing costumes and art.
As soon as our little group emerged from the elevator into Gallery 980, we were in a dark room with black shiny walls and red lights. Some of the more spectacular scenes from Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor were showing on huge movie screens and Sakamoto's score for the movie, Open the Door, played throughout the space. We were suddenly enveloped in a dream world, and like dreams we lost our ’selves’ to the magic of the experience. The references to Alice in Wonderland were quite apt as the sensation of falling into another time and place was thrilling. Our own images were reflected in the black shiny walls making me feel a part of the drama and wishing I were wearing a kimono.
The display of gorgeous old Manchu robes were echoed by modern designed, absolutely fabulous costumes created by well known designers. Mirrors were placed to perfectly show all the angles of the costumes and give the sensation of many versions of the scene incorporating the art with the movie. The mannequins all sported wonderful head pieces created specifically for this show by British milliner, Stephen Jones incorporating the 12 imperial symbols. Even many of the spectators had beautiful Asian, and South American faces whose high cheek bones flowing through the dark rooms along with us amplified the dream- like feel of the whole experience.
This combination of sensory input could be overwhelming, but for me it was just the right mix to crack the shell of everyday and leave me open to enjoy the beauty. This is a tricky business. I hope more museums incorporate this kind of theatre as tastefully as the Met has. The whole show is curated by Andrew Bolton. Wong Kar Wai artistic director and Nathan Crowley production designer.
This was only one floor of the exhibit and there were two more. Here is a link that describes the others which were all quite wonderful.
We saw the John Singer Sargent show as well but I was not particularly interested in it, after the rich experience of the China show. I do admire the way Sargent moves from rich darks to the light on the faces of his portraits making their features sing.
However, I did find fascinating the show Navigating the West, George Caleb Bingham and the River. This is a show about his 40 year obsession. Bingham painted many, many paintings of the same subject, basically men on a boat traveling down the Mississippi. How he financed these paintings and what he chose to include and omit is very interesting. There are sketches of the characters and an infra red study of one of the paintings showing how it evolved.
It was a very full day but well worth the trip.
See you next month. Thanks for tuning in.