You have to enjoy the myopia of fashion writers. Here the Telegraph’s Richard Dorment was invited to Beijing to see Dior’s exhibition of 21 Chinese Contemporary artists who created work in response to 60 years of Dior. It’s hard to judge without actually seeing the work, but Dorment’s own description of the art suggests . . . shall we say a dialectic show. Nonetheless, the fashion writer finds a way to gush about the House of Dior and read the artist’s work as an unfailing homage to the genius of France:
On first seeing the masterpieces by Dior and Galliano on show, I was afraid the whole exhibition was going to be unfair to the Chinese artists, who wouldn’t stand a chance when placed beside these two designers of genius. But, amazingly, they not only held their own but, with only a few exceptions, responded to the challenge with works of art that more than measured up to the formidable visual competition. [ . . . ]
On one wall of a narrow corridor, Wang Gongxin shows films of catwalk models wearing some of Galliano’s most outlandish dresses, while on the opposite wall real women with real bodies strut and pose in the artist’s own uncannily accurate imitations of the same dresses, which he makes using cheap materials crudely pinned and taped together. Needless to say, the cascading fabrics that look so wonderful on young women with bodies like stick insects look ridiculous on older women of normal height and weight.
The artist isn’t only mocking the artificiality of haute couture, exactly, but giving us a fundamental insight into the work of a designer like Galliano, who uses fabric the way sculptors use clay and painters colour. His work is essentially abstract, an end in itself, art for art’s sake. [ . . . ]
Just as in the 18th and 19th centuries Chinese artists developed an export market for their porcelain by adapting their designs to accommodate Western taste, so modern Chinese artists respond to Western design not by challenging or dismissing it, but by making it their own.