Design exhibitions, Japan: Yokohama Museum of Art hosts “The Elegant Other: Cross-cultural Encounters in Fashion and Art”

The synergy between Western and Eastern cultures is explored in Yokohama Museum of Art’s new exhibition

Apr 19, 2017 | By Teri Chong

The Yokohama Museum of Art presents its new exhibition: The Elegant Other: Cross-cultural Encounters in Fashion and Art. The exhibition explores how cultural exchanges between the East and West influenced the aesthetics of their respective societies. Held from April 15 to June 25, the exhibit will feature over 100 dresses and accessories from the Kyoto Costume Institute.

During the Meiji Period (1868-1912), Western fashion and customs began permeating Japanese lifestyle; meanwhile, Japanese art objects and kimonos were exported — and celebrated — in the West, as “Japonism” became fashionable in both art and design.

“The Elegant Other: Cross-Cultural Encounters in Fashion and Art” at the Yokohama Museum of Art will not only look at the gradual development and discoveries of new aesthetic standards at both ends of the world but also underline the seductive exoticism from each end. Foreign cultures were seen as “beautiful others,” with unfamiliar yet fascinating clothing, and their respective local traditions and craftsmanship.

The approximately 100 dresses and accessories from the Kyoto Costume Institute (KCI) will be shown for the first time in Yokohama. These range from sweeping court dresses with long trains to low-backed evening dresses to draped hostess gowns, examples of clothing and art blurred the boundaries between East and West.

The Yokohama Museum of Art, inaugurated in 1989, is one of the largest art institutions in Japan. Its location along the seaport highlights it as a key symbol of international exchange — when the Yokohama Port initially opened in 1859, the city became a gateway to Western culture, while also exporting Japanese culture abroad.

The Kyoto Costume Institute collects and conserves clothing from across eras, ranging from the 17th century to the present day, with holdings of 12,000 garments and 16,000 fashion-related documents. The institute has received donations from top designers and fashion houses, including Chanel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, as well as a monumental gift of approximately 1000 items from Comme des Garçons.

The exhibition also features accessories, handicrafts, paintings, and photographs, loaned from both Japanese and foreign museums and private collections, such as an 1882 painting by Jules Joseph Lefebvre, “La Japonaise,” and vases with cherry blossoms in relief from the Meiji era.

The Elegant Other: Cross-cultural Encounters in Fashion and Art will be on view April 15 to June 25, 2017.

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