I always like the exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Some are less inspiring than others, but I always enjoy and learn, and sometimes much more than that. For example, yesterday I enjoyed the John Singer Sargent portraits, all those white trousers and shirtwaists and boaters, Henry James, Rodin, Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, one stunning one of a brother and sister with the sister's face in powerful central focus just daring you not to give her her due.
There was also an exhibit of studies of facial expressions and emotion in drawing, print, and photography, especially tied to an effort to create a scientific dictionary of emotions. Most of them looked either hilarious--caricatures in Hogarth style-- or as if the subjects were being tortured. And none of the makers ever dreamed that a smile might mean some different emotion in a different culture.
So, so far, all Euro-centric, all interesting.
And then there was the enormous exhibit of Chinese-inspired clothing, unapologetically Orientalist. This was apparently a really big deal three months ago when it came out, and I missed reading about it. I didn't see the whole thing yesterday, either.
And I really, really, disliked it. Not the clothes, which were interesting enough, and not the video clips of kung fu movies and old Anna May Wong black and whites, but the fact that it filled the Asian galleries. Surrounded by ancient bronze gongs and monumental buddhas and ceramic war horses and camels. They even used the zen rock garden. It was crowded and seemed garish, all the ancient objects dim in the sidelines, diminished for the moment, impossible to look at.
I know the clothes will go away, but I’m not going close to those galleries till they do!