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Exhibition on China proves Met’s most successful fashion show

through the looking glass, metropolitan museum of art

The talk of Wall Street over the last week may have been Shanghai's plunging stock market, but many blocks farther uptown, where commuter traffic gives way to verdant sidewalks, a different set of numbers related to China was making news. As it entered its final week, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's spring Costume Institute show, "China: Through the Looking Glass," was attaining blockbuster status.

上周,华尔街谈论的可能是沪市暴跌,但是走过很多街区,来到住宅区——在那里上下班交通运行的车辆会给没经验的行人让路——另一组与中国相关的数据也正成为新闻。大都会艺术博物馆的春季时装学院展"中国:镜花水月"正获得轰动影响。该展览还有一周结束。

As of last Friday morning, 735,000 people had attended the show, with a week to go. That has already made it the most-visited Costume Institute show in the museum's history, displacing "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty," which pulled in 661,509 attendees, as well as elevating it to No. 7 — and climbing — on the museum's top-10 most popular list, on a par with other 700,000-plus-visitor shows such as the "Mona Lisa" (1963), "Origins of Impressionism" (1995) and "Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art" (2010).

截至上周五上午,这场展览的参观人次达到73.5万,展览还将持续一周。它已经取代"亚历山大·麦昆:野性之美"——参观人次为66.1509万——成为该博物馆时装学院史上参观人次最多的展览。它还挤进了该博物馆的十大最受欢迎展览之列,目前名列第七,名次还可能上升。其他参观人次超过70万的展览有《蒙娜丽莎》(1963)、《印象派起源》(1995)和《毕加索在大都会艺术博物馆》(2010)。

Andrew Bolton, curator at the Costume Institute and the man behind the show, said there have been more positive responses left in the visitor's comment box than ever before.

服装学院的策展人安德鲁·博尔顿是这场展览的组织者。他说,观众意见箱里的正面评价比以往任何时候都多。

By any objective measure, this will be the most successful fashion show the Met has ever had. The question is: Why?

不管以何种客观标准衡量,它都将成为大都会艺术博物馆最成功的时装展。问题是:为什么?

"Honestly, it totally surprised me," Mr. Bolton said. "I was prepared for it to be polarizing. We were predicting around 500,000 visitors. I never expected this level of response. "

"坦白地说,这完全出乎我的预料,"博尔顿说,"我以为观众的反应会两极化。我们预计会有约50万观众。我从未想到反响会如此之大。"

"No one expected it would surpass McQueen," said Maxwell K. Hearn, the Douglas Dillon chairman of the department of Asian art, and Mr. Bolton's collaborator on the exhibition, which is in the Asian art galleries on the second floor, some Egyptian galleries on the first floor and the Anna Wintour Costume Center on ground level.

"没人想到它会超过麦昆,"马克斯韦尔·K·赫恩说。他是亚洲艺术部的道格拉斯·狄龙主席,协助博尔顿策划了这场展览。展览在三层的亚洲艺术馆、二层的一些埃及展厅和一层的安娜·温图尔服装中心举办。

I didn't expect it, either. Not because I didn't like the show (it's visually engrossing in its mix of luxury, whimsy and point) but because it doesn't have the single iconic hook that can transform a purportedly high culture meditation into an extended pop culture moment.

我也没料到。不是因为我不喜欢这场展览(它集奢华、奇思妙想和所蕴含的意义于一体,具有强烈的视觉吸引力),而是因为它没有一个标志性的、吸引人的东西,能把所谓的高端文化的冥思,转变为广泛的属于流行文化的时刻。

After all, it isn't, as Mr. Bolton said, immediately obvious from the name what the show is about. (Answer: the way a received fantasy version of China engages the imaginations of Western designers.) And the subject itself was ripe for criticism from those who thought the approach played to a now-discredited stereotype of the East. You can't attribute it to the sheer size of the exhibition, the largest ever, or it's length, because size does not equate to allure.

毕竟,就像博尔顿说的,光看展览的名字,你不会一下子明白它是讲什么的(这个问题的答案是:普遍幻想中的中国与西方设计师想象力的交汇方式)。这个主题本身很容易遭到批评,因为有些人认为它会助长人们对东方的固有观念(如今这种观念正遭受质疑)。你也不能把展览的成功完全归功于它的规模(迄今为止最大的)或持续时间,因为规模大、时间长不一定吸引人。

There wasn't the sort of human gossip element that helped drive interest in the McQueen show, held a year after the designer's suicide and days after Kate Middleton married Prince William in a dress by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.

这场展览也没有八卦元素——麦昆展在一定程度上受益于此。那场展览是在这位设计师自杀后一年举办的,而且在展览前几天,凯特·米德尔顿身穿萨拉·伯顿设计的亚历山大·麦昆礼服嫁给了威廉王子。

There was, to be fair, lots of striking use of mixed media, which made it seem both very contemporary as well as historic. And it included film — Wong Kar-wai, who wrote and directed "In the Mood for Love," was the exhibit's art director, and clips from movies like "The Last Emperor" and "The World of Suzie Wong" abound — always a popular medium.

公平地讲,展览中使用了很多吸引人眼球的多媒体,让展览具有强烈的时代感和历史感。其中还包括一向受欢迎的媒体形式——电影,比如《花样年华》。该片的编剧兼导演王家卫是这场展览的艺术总监。展览中还有《末代皇帝》和《苏丝黄的世界》等影片的很多片段。

When I first saw the show in May, I was struck by the facile nature of the fashion when juxtaposed against the antiquities. No matter the clothes' beauty — I remember the runway impact of Tom Ford's pagoda collection for Yves Saint Laurent and being amazed by the broken blue and white china shards of porcelain on an Alexander McQueen bodice — they pale when compared with the source of the inspiration, in part because the latter has a creative integrity the former only borrows. Often too literally.

5月份,第一次去看展览时,我感到震惊,因为与古董放在一起时,服装显得轻率肤浅。不管那些服装有多美——我还记得汤姆·福特为伊夫·圣罗兰设计的宝塔系列在秀台上的震撼效果,也曾被亚历山大·麦昆连衣裙上身的青花瓷碎片图案迷倒——但是在灵感来源面前,它们黯然失色,部分原因是古董拥有富于创意的完整性,而那些衣服则往往浮于表面。

It's a good thing for the Asian art, because it makes you look twice at what otherwise may have been background pottery, for example, but not necessarily the clothes. It's no accident my favorite room is the "small Buddha room," which features an enormous gold dress by Guo Pei, the Chinese designer who made Rihanna's yellow egg-yolk cape for the opening gala, surrounded by multiple earthen Buddhas. The connection being one of silhouette and shade as opposed to anything overt.

对亚洲艺术来说,这是好事,因为它能让你重新审视那些东西,它们原本可能只是作为背景的瓷器,不一定能成为服装。我最喜欢"小佛陀展厅",这绝非偶然。那个展厅的中心是中国设计师郭培设计的一件巨大的金色连衣裙,周围是很多陶制佛像。蕾哈娜在大都会艺术博物馆慈善晚宴开场穿的煎饼裙就是郭培设计的。

This probably has more to do with my own discomfort with what the exhibit revealed about the superficiality of the fashion imagination rather than the exhibition itself; as Holland Cotter wrote in his review, "the difference between the two disciplines is, too often, made glaring."

很可能,我更多的是为这场展览揭露了时装想象力的肤浅而感到不满,而不是对展览本身不满。就像霍兰德·科特在评论中写的,"这两个门类的区别遭到太过频繁的彰显。"

It turns out reviews have nothing on word of mouth as an audience-driver. "I call it the ‘Harry Potter' effect," Mr. Bolton said.

结果发现,在拉动票房方面,评论远比不上口碑。"我称它为《哈利·波特》效应,"博尔顿说。

And the word "China" was magical. Mr. Hearn said, "Chinese visitors often want to see how China is presented in Western museums." Forty percent of the show's visitors have been international, and since June, 14 percent of total international visitors have been Chinese, the Met's largest single group of overseas visitors. China was also, until recently, the one of the most lucrative markets for Western fashion designers.

"中国"这个词具有神奇的魔力。赫恩说,"中国游客经常想看看西方博物馆是如何展示中国的。"这场展览40%的观众来自国外,从6月份起,外国观众中有14%来自中国,中国人是大都会艺术博物馆海外观众中最大的群体。直到不久前,中国也是西方设计师品牌最赚钱的市场之一。

Indeed, when the cynic in me first heard the exhibition's title, I wondered if it was a calculated move to capture some of that gold dust. When pressed, Mr. Bolton claimed "we never think about the numbers," though he did say, "I want to do exhibits that are relevant and resonate in contemporary culture." It's a slightly specious distinction, but when it comes to the latter, there's no question that China has been the buzz of many conversations, in every sector from Hollywood to finance, travel to e-commerce.

的确,当愤世嫉俗的我第一次听说展览的名字时,我怀疑它是一场意在吸金的精心算计的展览。我逼问博尔顿时,他声称"我们从未想过参观人数",不过他确实说过,"我想举办与当代文化相关、能引起当代人共鸣的展览"。两者之间的差别有点可疑,不过,毋庸置疑,中国已成为很多话题的热点,从好莱坞、金融、旅游到电子商务等各个领域。

In any case, the museum quickly learned that its original expectations were going to be surpassed, and in late June, Thomas P. Campbell, the director and chief executive of the Met, decided to extend the show another three weeks. It was only the second time a Costume Institute show had been extended.

不管怎样,大都会艺术博物馆很快意识到,它最初预测的数字将被超越,所以6月底,博物馆馆长兼首席执行官托马斯·P·坎贝尔决定把展览延长三周。这是第二个获得延期的时装学院展览。

2016-06-23

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