ANNA IN CHINA: Anna Wintour first visited Beijing in 2010. This week she was back for a second time to promote the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2015 Anna Wintour Costume Center exhibition — “China: Through the Looking Glass.”
In her suite at the Peninsula Hotel in central Beijing, the Chanel-clad editor told WWD the decision to unveil details in the Chinese capital, rather than in New York, stemmed from a desire to acknowledge the country that had ultimately inspired the exhibition.
This story first appeared in the January 9, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“We have a good tradition of going to the appropriate cities to launch these events…it’s a gesture of support and respect for whatever the subject matter of the exhibition might be,” she said. Wintour has organized the Costume Institute’s annual fundraising gala dinner since 1995 and last year, the museum named the Costume Center after her.
But Wintour was not alone on the trip. The Met sent a large, high-ranking delegation as a sign of just how important the exhibition is to the museum and possibly to the State Department.
A press conference Thursday morning in the Forbidden City saw speeches by the Met director Thomas P. Campbell; the Costume Institute’s chief curator Andrew Bolton; the exhibition’s artistic director, filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai and the U.S. Ambassador to China, Max Baucus. It was also attended by the Met’s outgoing president Emily Rafferty, the director of Beijing’s Palace Museum Shan Jixiang and Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife, Wendi Deng.
“It is important that the U.S. and China work on getting their relationship right and this exhibition goes a long way to help do that,” Baucus said.
The exhibition, which traces the impact of Chinese art and film on Western designers, will open on May 7, three days after the Gala dinner. Wintour said Chinese interest in tickets for the gala is likely to be higher this year due to the theme — “China: Through the Looking Glass.” The evening is being hosted by tycoon Silas Chou, one of the key investors in Michael Kors and Tommy Hilfiger who has extensive business interests in China, and actors Gong Li and Jennifer Lawrence.
Asked if the exhibition meant the Met might receive more donations from China in the future, Wintour said: “We already have Chinese donors but obviously you don’t say no to more.”
The trip was also an opportunity for the Met to try and secure Chinese exhibits for their show. The National Silk Museum in Hangzhou will lend a silk dressing gown that was made in China but sold in Liberty’s of London and it is possible the Palace Museum will loan a court-robe belonging to China’s last emperor, Puyi.
“Bertolucci’s film ‘The Last Emperor’ has had a huge influence on Western designers and that image of the young emperor in the court robe has become so iconic in the West,” Bolton said, adding that and other films, such as Wong Kar-Wai’s “In the Mood for Love,” will be widely used in the exhibition.
He and Wintour also used the trip to meet with Chinese designers Guo Pei, Lawrence Xu, Masha Ma, Ma Ke and Uma Wang. On the basis of their three-day trip, Wintour said she thought young Chinese women dressed with “charm and wit” but she said she didn’t think Chinese designers had yet broken thought to global audiences. “In terms of Chinese fashion designers, I don’t see the growth here yet,” she said.
However, she added that the huge number of Chinese students currently studying at prestigious foreign art and fashion schools meant that could all change soon. “I am sure it will have an influence,” she said.