ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  exhibitions

  Haags Gemeentemuseum,
Stadhouderslaan 41
2501 C B Den Haag

Tel: +31 (0)70 3381 111
museum open: 11 to 5 every day exept Monday

7 April to 9 September 2001

Chinese Theatre Costumes: the Haks Collection

Theatre costumes from the Chinese Opera Group of Singapore dating from the 20s to the 50s with much embroidery.

The exhibition design is by Frans Haks, former director of the Groninger Museum, while the colour scheme is the work of the artist Peter Struycken.

  From 7 April Leo Haks' spectacular collection of chinese operas costumes will be on show in the Costume Gallery. Dating from the twenties to the sixties, some of the costumes are decorated with more than 50'000 sequins! In view of their exclusive designs and the elaboration of their detailing, these costumes can justly be described as "Haute couture".

Since the operas were performed by travelling companies in Chinese temples, these expensive costumes were primarily meant for the gods and not for the earthly spectactors. Hence it is not surprising that some of them are so richly decorated. These glittering costumes were meant to bring the generous donor happiness in love, good health, many children and a place in heaven.
But there was another reason for the transition from sober to decorated costume in the twenties and that was the decline in attendance at opera performances. To attract the public, costumes were made more exuberant, a ruse that proved successful. Sequins were clearly an up and coming fashion then and there are many Art Deco influences to be detected, these resulting from jet-set contacts between Shanghai, New York and Paris at that time. After 1950, however, the costumes became more quiet again and the attention shifted from sequins to embroidery and brocade. These developments can clearly be followed in the exhibition.

The presentation is just as impressive a spectacle as the Chinese opera itself. The costumes, arranged in twelve scenes, are brought to life by special lighting effects designed by specialists from the film world, while the shifting angles of the sequins constantly change the colours of the pieces. In the main showcases can be seen complete costumes, including the banners that indicate the ranks of the characters. In the side cases are shown the richly decorated neck pieces and headdresses, with hats, shoes and jewels in separate cases. Two projections of Chinese performances in side cabinets bring the operas to life.

home  content Last revised June 10, 2001