Just as Wong announces his next feature, “Blossoms,” an adaptation of short stories by Jin Yucheng, set in Shanghai (which he will make before “The Ferryman,” his follow-up to “The Grandmaster”), he previewed a fabulous career detour. The filmmaker and Oscar-nominated production designer Nathan Crowley gave media a Fashion Week peek at their “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibition of Chinese art and costume that opens in May at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Wong is the artistic director of the show, an ambitious look at culture and art through China’s relations with the West. In Monday’s short announcement speech, flanked by Vogue editrix Anna Wintour and huge Buddha figures in the Met galleries, he cited the Buddhist principal that, “in the sky, there is no East or West,” and hoped the exhibition would build understanding between the two cultures.
Standing in front of a 2004 yellow evening dress with a ceramic sheen by Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent, chairman of the Met’s Asian Art Department Mike Hearn said: “We have this encyclopedic connection, so why not put western fashion with Chinese art when there’s some meaningful dialogue to be created?”
The project is Wong’s first experience designing a major museum exhibition. For Crowley, who is nominated this year for his design of Interstellar, it will be his fourth collaboration with the Met’s Costume Institute, and with curator Andrew Bolton. Their working relationship began with the Met exhibition “Super Heroes: Fashion and Fantasy” in 2008.
Crowley was the art director for Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning “Braveheart” (1995) and production designer for Christopher Nolan’s trilogy “Batman Begins” (2005), “The Dark Knight” (2008), and “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012). He received Oscar nominations for production design for his work on Nolan’s “The Prestige” (2006) and “The Dark Knight.”
Announcing the exhibition, the Met showed clips from five films, beginning with Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor” and ending with Wong’s “In the Mood for Love.” Wong, groggy from what he said was a 20-hour flight from Hong Kong, would not offer any specifics about his approach. “We are trying to figure that out,” he said.
“Every gallery will have a narrative from Andrew [Bolton], and we’ll try to represent that in some kind of physicality, a set piece. We’re going to project, as well. Kar Wai’s going to come up with a film reference that relates to each gallery,” he said. “The garments are going to be in some kind of scenery that hopefully melds them all together.”
“China Through the Looking Glass” is sponsored by Yahoo. The internet portal operates in China, while the New York Times, Facebook and Gmail are banned in the world’s largest internet market.
Additional support for the show comes from Conde Nast, and from private Chinese donors, including Wendi Murdoch, who is a producer of Wayne Wang’s 2011 drama, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” (Fox Searchlight). Murdoch described herself as a fan of Wong: “For everyone in the world, with cinema, it’s easy to make a connection, maybe even more than with high fashion.”
The connection promises to be as strong with art as with cinema. Chinese tourists now comprise the largest group of foreign visitors to the Met, with Chinese visitors quadrupling in the last five years.