through the looking glass

As I return to the art world of Paris, with so many must-see exhibitions going on, I reflect on an expo my mom and I recently saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. China : Through the Looking Glass was the most impressive show I had seen in a while.

IMG_3315What is it exactly? As stated by the MET, This exhibition explores the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion and how China has fueled the fashionable imagination for centuries. In this collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Department of Asian Art, high fashion is juxtaposed with Chinese costumes, paintings, porcelains, and other art, including films, to reveal enchanting reflections of Chinese imagery. Perhaps better if I explain visually what I saw through the looking glass…

IMG_3292Following are a few favorites, both the traditional costumes and their modern counterparts.

IMG_3281Semiformal Robe for Qianlong Emperor, 1736-95 + Yves Saint Laurent / Tom Ford 2004-5

IMG_3282Yves Saint Laurent / Tom Ford 2004-5 + Woman’s Semiformal Robe, 19th Century

IMG_3286Formal Robe for Guangxu Emperor 1875-1908

IMG_3289The three floors of the exhibition, including artifacts & films, transported us to another era.

IMG_3293Portobello Wallpaper / Alexander McQueen 2006-7

IMG_3299With more than 140 pieces of haute couture, including this gown by Guo Pei (2010) and avant-garde ready-to-wear alongside Chinese art, there was much to be inspired by. We left with eyes filled with visions hard to recount. Best to experience the richness of Chinese history for yourself, before it ends on August 16th.

year of the horse

This is the year of the horse. In the Chinese zodiac, that is. The spirit of the horse is recognized to be the Chinese people’s ethos – making unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. Returning to Paris just in time enjoy the local celebrations, living close by to one of the cities Chinese neighborhoods. In NYC I lived not far from Chinatown and reveled in the yearly parade that wound it’s way through the streets. This felt much like those days, living amidst an ethnic people and sharing in their traditions.




IMG_6156The traditional costumes were elaborate and impressive!

IMG_6097The parade took place near Arts & Metiers, close to the Marais. There lives a small population of the Wenzhounese from the Zhejiang province of China. The majority have settled in Belleville, which along with the 13eme arrondissement, is considered Paris’ Chinatown, the largest in Europe.

My quest this year of the horse, in addition to improving myself,  is to find a dim sum restaurant!

all aboard

What I love about traveling is not merely arriving to the destination but the actual movement from one place to another. The travel. While on the road for 13 months I embraced this ‘time inbetween‘, as it allowed me to reflect on the places seen and to anticipate those waiting to be discovered. Many 12 hour plane rides gave me plenty of time to muse, but it is via train, traveling over land (and perhaps under sea), that I always feel most connected to the journey. Put me on a train, and I am happy. (Even simply the Long Island Rail Road or these days, the Trenitalia.)

My most memorable train ride to date was 48 hours enroute from Lhasa, Tibet to Beijing. I could have easily flown and spent more time exploring China’s capital, but I chose the option of adventure.

With only my thoughts to accompany me, I observing as the worlds of Tibet and China converged in my midst. I was one of a handful of Westerners and shared my sleeping cabin with 2 Chinese men, a Tibetan, and a few good books. My conversations were limited to very basic English as I taught the Tibetan man to play backgammon and in turn he taught me a Tibetan game.

I became a voyeur. Much of my time was spent observing life on the train.

The dining cabin became my ‘room with a view’. The landscape my vista.

The sun rose and night fell. And again. I could have easily spent another 2 days enroute.

One day I hope to board the Orient Express to destinations unknown… But these days I will happily settle for the night train from Paris to Venice.

the Great Wall

The morning was misty. The arduous climb felt like the combination of a dream and trial of strength, hiking up to the Great Wall, the longest and most time-consuming ancient defense system, taking over 2,000 years to construct, a length of 6,300 kilometers. This piece of the wall was not restored and not easily found, and I was undeniably exultant to have reached this path that felt so close to heaven. To end my final day in Beijing, I feasted my eyes on a traditional Chinese Opera and my palate on Peking duck. Both proved most appetizing.

798 Art Centre

I agree with Duchamp’s conception of art that a person’s “life” is “art” in a way, and neither is more important than the other. 798 Art Centre is one of China’s largest art spaces, the former facility of state-run 798 electronic factories. Since 2002 artists have built their studios in these old warehouses, now home to impressive artwork that is being recognized internationally. These warehouses also boast independent designer boutiques and cafes, a world of not-so-hidden treasures.


I became quite the diligent tourist in Beijing with little time and very much to see in this city filled with sights. My life in Shanghai seemed to follow me as several of my friends appeared during my week of cultural jaunts. The history lesson began in Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, a huge complex of halls, towers and pavilions covered in golden tiles. Here was the home of 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for nearly 500 years. I was caught in a rainstorm while carousing this Palace Museum which added to the magestic mood. As evening fell I made my way to Jingshan Park which overlooks the Forbidden City.

I was very much taken with the Summer Palace which is in fact the largest existing ancient imperial garden of China. All day can be spent walking these grounds and marveling at the detail in the construction.
An old Chinese fortune teller inscribing my fortune which reads ‘everything is as I wish’. Clever man!