'China: Through the Looking Glass' Tops 'Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty' Attendance Record

As of Sunday, 671,234 visitors have viewed the Met's latest Costume Institute exhibit.
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Lauren Indvik
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As of Sunday, 671,234 visitors have viewed the Met's latest Costume Institute exhibit.
"China: Through the Looking Glass" is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute until Sept. 7. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art

"China: Through the Looking Glass" is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute until Sept. 7. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art

After the legendary success of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" exhibit in 2011 — which attracted famously long waits and went on to become the museum's eighth most-visited exhibit ever — few might have expected that this season's Costume Institute exhibit, "China: Through the Looking Glass," could give it a serious run for its money.

But "Through the Looking Glass" has done just that, and more. As of Sunday, the show — which examines how China has inspired Western fashion designers, including the ways in which the country's aesthetics have been appropriated by them— has attracted 671,234 visitors, surpassing "Savage Beauty"'s former record of 661,509, a spokesperson for the museum said.

To be fair, "Through the Looking Glass" has enjoyed a longer run time. "Savage Beauty," which was extended a week past its originally scheduled date, ran from May 4 to Aug. 7, 2011; the China exhibit, which has been extended three additional weeks, opened May 4 and will close on Sept. 7. On Sunday, "China" had already been open nine days longer than the McQueen exhibit.

Still, what could have made the exhibit so popular? For one, access has been easier — a spokesperson noted that there have been no lines because the China show is three times the size of the McQueen exhibit, covering 30,000 square feet in 16 galleries. In addition, the Met's attendance figures are at an all-time high, and the exhibit itself has been widely well-reviewed, though without, perhaps, the same exuberance that "Savage Beauty" achieved.

No doubt the show can also attribute some of its popularity to the special — and occasionally controversial — attention its annual Met Gala received this May. Leading into the event, there was wide speculation that attendees, who are always asked to dress on-theme, might interpret it in offensive, career-damaging ways. And while there were some who certainly did cross the line — including Lady Gaga in a kimono-inspired getup and Dakota Johnson carrying a Chanel bag shaped like a China doll — it was mostly a success, attracting outsized media attention with little of the expected negativity.