Orientalism Visions of the East
Orientalism, the historical term used to describe the West’s fascination with and assimilation of the ideas and styles of the East, is richly represented in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, specifically in the areas of European and American paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. The Costume Institute’s collection of dress is unrivaled in its holdings of Western Orientalist costumes, and this exotic cache has inspired Richard Martin, Curator, and Harold Koda, Associate Curator, to organize this book and the exhibition that accompanies it. The project continues the authors’ ongoing efforts to explore and display the Museum’s grand historical collection of costumes. Their purpose is to use that goldmine of material to define the resonances of the past that reside in contemporary design and to discover and convey the relationships that occur between historical and contemporary cultural issues through fashion. Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress is therefore based on both examples from The Costume Institute and loans that include the most recent work of important contemporary designers. The earliest costume, a 1906 gift to the Museum from J.
Pierpont Morgan is a Portuguese man’s cape made from late-seventeenth-century Ming Dynasty velvet. The latest two are loans from designers: a Chinese-inspired ensemble by Jean Paul Gaultier and a North-African-influenced gown by Giorgio Armani, both created in 1994. The result of this fertile mix is a dazzling array of luxurious fashions that portrays the enthralling and significant history of Orientalism that has unfolded over the past three centuries.