T his autumn, Sotheby’s will join forces with China’s ‘Queen of Couture’, Guo Pei. In 2015, China’s most renowned couturier burst onto the international stage when Rihanna wore one of her designs to the Met Gala – a dramatic trailing yellow gown which sparked a global media frenzy and graced the cover of Vogue.
A modern messenger of her cultural heritage, Guo Pei has breathed new life into embroidery and painting traditions that date back thousands of years over the course of her 30-year career. Her elaborate designs showcase the finest of traditional Chinese craftsmanship while incorporating contemporary innovation and Western style. Over the next four months, Guo Pei will immerse her creative mind in two aspects of Sotheby’s activities that speak closely to her interests, inspirations and heritage.
In October, Guo Pei will turn her hand to curating a selection of works from the second edition of our GOLD: The Midas Touch sale in London. This auction celebrates the single metal which has compelled mankind for six millennia, building empires and destroying dynasties. The rich colours of gold and yellow, which used to be reserved for the emperor during the Qing dynasty, are a signature design element of Guo Pei’s creations, with some gowns featuring 24-carat gold thread.
"Through Sotheby’s, passionate art lovers will have a chance to appreciate the true value of my couture creations."
Alongside the selected pieces from the sale, four of the designer’s couture creations including the iconic Xiao Jin or ‘Little Gold’ will be exhibited, drawing together a passion for fine craftsmanship, shared between Guo Pei and artists from across the ages. The global collaboration will also see Guo Pei celebrate her Chinese heritage, working together with Sotheby’s specialists during New York Asia Week in September.
Guo Pei’s artworks are inspired by fairy tales, legends and even military history, with every creation telling a story which brings beauty, romance and the designer’s imagination to life. Fabrics, shapes and textures become a canvas to reimagine the tales which paintings have conveyed throughout the centuries.
Guo Pei says: "Working with a prestigious institution like Sotheby’s has always been a wish of mine. I am thrilled to make this collaboration a reality. Through Sotheby’s, passionate art lovers will have a chance to appreciate the true value of my couture creations."
In 2006, Guo Pei held her first couture show titled Samsara (Life cycle) during China International Fashion Week, inspired by her visit to the Musée de l'Armée in Paris. Guo Pei was struck by the intricate details and embroidered patterns of Napoleon’s military uniform, finding a sense of immortality in its layers.
The war had deprived people of their lives but, at the moment of death, the soldiers were still dressed in exquisite clothing – a dignity that deeply inspired Guo Pei. In the Samsara collection, Guo Pei used the language of colour to interpret changes of time and essence of life cycles, ranging from subtle beige hues to deep dark blues.
Painstakingly crafted over 40,000 hours, the Xiao Jin dress features metallic fibre thread and Indian metal wire embroidery. The delicate nature of this kind of embroidery thread means on average, one out of seven stitches will break – a mark of Guo Pei’s dedication to her craft. The embroidered pattern, inspired by Tibetan Buddhism, takes on a three-dimensional quality through the use of various techniques, such as padded embroidery.
GOLD: The Midas Touch will encompass Contemporary Art, Russian Works of Art & Fabergé, Design, Furniture & Decorative Arts, Asian & Indian Art, Sculpture, Old Masters, Medieval Manuscripts, Watches and Jewelry. From this eclectic mix, Guo Pei will carefully curate a selection of works to stand alongside her magnificent designs.
In addition to this exciting collaboration in London, Guo Pei’s works will be exhibited in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries, positioning her designs within the spirit of Asia Week in New York, establishing their place in the larger art historical canon. Sotheby’s New York will host a marquee week of exhibitions, objects and material culture, coinciding with the city-wide celebration. Now in its 11th year, the bi-annual New York Asia Week unites all facets of art from the region, ranging from ancient to contemporary.