The First Monday in May

  1. Reflect on the research methods you see in the film: Which aspects of the Met’s fashion exhibition “China Through the Looking Glass” were researched? Which research methods and techniques were used for each aspect of the exhibition? Do you think the research was effective? Why or why not?

Andrew Bolton conducted a tremendous amount of research in preparation for this exhibit. He began planning almost a year in advanced. He travelled the world looking at past collections inspired by Chinese culture. He spoke with all kinds of sources from different parts of the world so he could gather as many different perspectives as possible. He watched Chinese movies and spoke with people about the influence the movies had. He did not only want to learn about the history of Chinese fashion, but he wanted to learn about Chinese history as a whole. He learned about theater, film, fashion, architecture, politics, and everything else that helped him create the feeling of fullness the exhibition carried. So yes, I think his research was very effective. I got a chance to see the exhibit in person and it transported you to a different era. The balance of fashion, art, and film was so perfect which is a result of all of the research that was done.


2. An important theme in the film is the wish to avoid cultural appropriation and the desire to be respectful of ancient Chinese art and design. Do you think that the curators were able to avoid cultural appropriation and present an in-depth understanding of the topic? Why or why not? How did they do so?

I think the curators successfully avoided cultural appropriation. Bolton was aware that this could be an issue very early on which meant it was on his mind throughout the entire design process. He was so aware of not offending anyone that did everything he could to prevent it. He wanted to “deconstruct the stereotypes” and allow people to look past that and appreciate the art they are seeing. Many meetings took place where they discussed how to display the garments in the Chinese galleries at the Met. People were worried that bringing western fashion into Ancient Chinese galleries could be seen as a misinterpretation of who the Chinese people are. A lot of effort went into the layout of those rooms specifically and how to properly balance old and new. I think it was very successful. They were also very aware of the placement of the pieces relating to Chairman  Mao. They spoke with many people about where to put his images so no one was offended. Bolton felt strongly about displaying Mao in the same room Buddha was shown, but he was advised that this could be seen as offensive and had to let go of his original idea.


3. Write 5 research questions that you think the film is exploring. (questions that start with “why” or “how”).

-Why do modern designers look to China for inspiration?

-How can we balance the intellectual content of this exhibit with the visual experience of the exhibit?

-How can we not offend anyone?

-How can we successfully prove that the Chinese inspired fashion pieces newly on display and the Ancient Chinese art permanently on display are both art in their own way?

How do we shine light on a time in Chinese history that the Chinese people might want to look past?


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