‘China: Through the Looking Glass’

Book Design

Catalogue design for an exhibition at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Pentagram has designed the catalogue for China: Through the Looking Glass, the blockbuster exhibition currently on view at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Organized by Andrew Bolton, curator of the Costume Institute, the show explores the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion, and how China has inspired artists and designers for centuries. 

China: Through the Looking Glass is one of the largest exhibitions ever mounted by the Metropolitan Museum and features more than 100 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear by designers including Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood. These are juxtaposed with Chinese costumes, paintings, porcelains, and other artworks, including films, which are highlighted for their importance in influencing fashion. (The celebrated filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai served as the exhibition's artistic director.)

The designers' book design vividly illustrates the creative dialogue between East and West, past and present. Like the exhibition, the catalogue makes connections between objects and fashions across different periods and mediums. Works are paired in spreads and intermixed with other art forms—paintings, drawings, movie stills—that appear on translucent vellum pages, creating a cross-disciplinary flow that echoes the thematic arrangements of the galleries. Many exhibition objects were newly photographed for the catalogue by the renowned photographer Platon.

The catalogue is available in two editions, both lavishly produced. The deluxe edition features a Chinese-string binding and is housed in an elegant black box embossed with a traditional image of a dragon. Strictly limited to 500 copies, it also includes a framable print of a Platon photograph. The standard edition is printed on Chinese-fold pages and features a textural gold-stamped silk cover with a pattern adapted from a 19th–century festival robe in the museum’s collection. The book's title appears on a bellyband that wraps the volume.

Pentagram previously designed catalogues for three of the Costume Institute’s big spring shows, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy (2008), Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations (2012), and PUNK: Chaos to Couture (2013).

New York
Natasha Jen
Project team
Belinda Chen
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