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The MET unveils ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’ exhibit

Two and a half times larger than any previous Costume Institute exhibition at the New York MET, this Andrew Bolton-created extravaganza features a moonlit oasis in the Astor Court, a LED-lit bamboo forest and what is meant to be reminiscent of an opium den.

The exhibition features 140 haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear pieces; not-to-be-believed Stephen Jones headdresses; The Last Emperor’s childhood robe; an array of Chinese masterpieces; costumes; paintings; porcelains, and other art. Then there’s the subtle mood lighting, mirrored walls reflecting projections of several award-winning films and dramatic music.

In line with the artistic direction of filmmaker Wong Kar Wai (who is known to take three years to make a movie), a cadre of electricians, lighting specialists and other construction types were painstakingly adjusting every last detail in the Anna Wintour Costume Center’s Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery. And “Interstellar” production designer Nathan Crowley has been ensconced in the museum, helping to heighten the multimedia elements of the show. Imperial China, Nationalist China and Communist China will be represented throughout the exhibition.

During Friday’s prep work, the production crew seemed to inhale collectively when one of the showstoppers — a piece designed by artist Li Xiaofeng that looks like a strapless dress made of shattered Ming porcelain — was raised onto a display form. The artist also designed the crate that was needed to stabilize the creation when it was shipped from China.

Another area inspired by Chinese opera will feature a handful of gowns that John Galliano designed for Christian Dior in 2003. (The designer already passed through and compared the experience to seeing an old friend.)

Organized in collaboration with the Department of Asian Art, “China: Through the Looking Glass” will also lead visitors through the museum’s Chinese Galleries, where they will find an Alexander McQueen gown set in a soothing Gournay wallpapered setting, a 1962 bulbous floral Balenciaga dress encased in glass like a piece of fine art and striking all-black Craig Green men’s wear hidden in the aforementioned forest.

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