Sean Martinfield Arts Contributor
Opening on March 24th and continuing its strong track record of exhibitions highlighting the work of the innovators and iconoclasts of the world of fashion, the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park presents, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, the first exhibition devoted to the celebrated French designer and his personal themes of “equality, diversity and perversity.” The de Young is the exclusive west coast venue for this critically acclaimed international exhibition after its premier at the organizing institution, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and its presentation at the Dallas Museum of Art. The exhibition will be on view at the de Young in the Herbst Exhibition Galleries from March 24–August 19, 2012. Click here for ticket information: GAULTIER
JEAN PAUL GAULTIER. Parisiennes collection, Les Particules élémentaires dress haute couture fall/winter 2010-2011. Photo, Patrice Stable/Jean Paul Gaultier
Dubbed fashion’s “enfant terrible” from the time of his first runway shows in the 1970s, Jean Paul Gaultier is indisputably one of the most important fashion designers of recent decades. Very early on, his avant-garde fashions reflected an understanding of a multicultural society’s issues and preoccupations, shaking up—with invariable good humor—established societal and aesthetic codes. More of a contemporary installation than a fashion retrospective, this major exhibition—which the couturier considers to be a creation in its own right—features approximately 140 ensembles spanning over 35 years from the designer’s couture and ready-to-wear collections, along with their accessories, and numerous archival documents. Many of these extraordinary pieces have never before been exhibited.
“Was there ever a more perfect match than Jean Paul Gaultier and San Francisco?” asked John E. Buchanan, Jr., the recently deceased director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “This exhibition fuses the energy of street culture with haute couture craftsmanship and presents it through the lens of cutting edge multimedia that is synonymous to the Bay Area. As the exclusive venue for previous exhibitions of the work of Vivienne Westwood, Yves Saint Laurent and Cristobal Balenciaga, we know the Bay Area is ready to explore the oeuvre of yet another master of design, Jean Paul Gaultier.
FAMSF curator of costume and textile arts Jill D’Alessandro expands, “Gaultier catapulted on to the fashion scene with his unconventional approach that drew inspiration from television, film, music and street culture. For the last four decades he has remained a catalyst for our times. This dynamic exhibition is a truly multi-media extravaganza complete with animated mannequins, runway clips and video excerpts from his extensive film and music collaborations, and succeeds in capturing the raw, sometimes chaotic energy that defines our contemporary lives and Gaultier’s world.”
“I wanted to create an exhibition on Jean Paul Gaultier more than any other couturier because of his great humanity,” explained Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. “Beyond the technical virtuosity, an unbridled imagination, and ground-breaking artistic collaborations, Gaultier offers an open-minded vision of society, a crazy, sensitive, and sassy world in which everyone can assert his or her own identity through a unique ‘fusion couture.’”
Keenly interested in all the world’s cultures and countercultures, Gaultier has picked up on the current trends and proclaimed the right to be different, and in the process conceived a new kind of fashion in both the way it is made and worn. Through twists, transformations, transgressions and reinterpretations, he not only erases the boundaries between cultures but also the sexes, creating a new androgyny or playing with subverting established fashion codes.
A celebration of Gaultier’s daring inventiveness and humanist vision, this exhibition pays tribute to his cutting-edge fashion and explores the audaciously eclectic sources of his ideas. “Jean Paul Gaultier,” notes Thierry-Maxime Loriot, originating curator, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, “initiates trends rather than following them, which explains why he is still relevant after more than 35 years of creation. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is not simply reminiscent of the past, but rather a link to the present as seen through the eyes of the couturier. By paying tribute to different cultures, mixing pop culture and couture, breaking the codes of fashion and taboos of society, you realize how open-minded and generous Gaultier’s fashion is. This unique exhibition offers visitors access to the world of Jean Paul Gaultier and haute couture, as well as articulating the strong social message behind his work, which truly defines his very own distinctive aesthetic.”
EMIL LARSSON. Body corset worn by Madonna. Blond Ambition World Tour, 1990. Dazed & Confused, April 2008. Photo, Emil Larsson
The multimedia installation is organized along six different thematic sections tracing the influences, from the streets of Paris to the world of science fiction, that have marked the couturier’s creative development:
- The Odyssey of Jean Paul Gaultier—begins the exhibition with an exploration of several signature Gaultier motifs – the blue and white striped sailor shirt in all its themes and variations, spectacular mermaids and virgins, and welcomes the visitor with singing mannequins and a special cameo by the designer himself.
- The Boudoir—explores Gaultier’s fascination with lingerie and underpinnings culminating in his signature collaboration with Madonna for her Blonde Ambition tour.
- Skin Deep—a risqué, provocative gallery featuring garments inspired by themes of bondage and body art.
- Punk Cancan—features the dichotomy between the typical upscale French couture client and the street punks of London.
- Urban Jungle—a multicultural clash of influences including Hussars, Mongolians, Hassidic Jews, Frida Kahlo and China. This gallery includes highlights of Gaultier’s haute couture detailing with unusual materials and techniques on view.
- Metropolis—concludes the exhibition with a presentation of Gaultier’s work for film, performance pieces and his relationships with pop icons such as Kylie Minogue and Tina Turner.
Sketches, stage costumes, excerpts from films, runway shows, concerts, videos, dance performances and even television programs on view further explore how his avant-garde fashions challenged societal and aesthetic codes in unexpected, and often humorous ways. The many legendary artistic collaborations that have characterized Gaultier’s global vision are examined in film (Pedro Almodóvar, Peter Greenaway, Luc Besson, Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet); contemporary dance (Angelin Preljocaj, Régine Chopinot and Maurice Béjart); and within the realm of popular music through performers such as Madonna, whose friendship with Gaultier has led her to graciously lend two iconic corsets from her 1990 Blonde Ambition World Tour that launched the cone bra into fashion iconography.
Fashion photography is also a major focus of attention, thanks to loans of never-before-seen prints from contemporary photographers and renowned contemporary artists including Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Erwin Wurm, David LaChapelle, Richard Avedon, Mario Testino, Steven Meisel, Steven Klein, Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott, Pierre et Gilles, Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, Paolo Roversi and Robert Doisneau.
PAOLO ROVERSI. Tanel Bedrossiantz, 1992. Barbès collection. Women’s prêt-à-porter fall/winter 1984–1985. Photo, Paolo Roversi
An innovative exhibition design by the Paris-based architectural and stage design company Projectiles, showcases the couturier’s designs, as well as prints and video clips, illustrating many of Gaultier’s artistic collaborations. Throughout the galleries, thirty unique mannequins wearing remarkable wigs and headdresses by Odile Gilbert, founder of the Atelier 68 in Paris, come ‘alive’ with interactive faces created by technologically ingenious audiovisual projections, surprising visitors with their lifelike presence. Poetic and playful, the production, design and staging of this dynamic audiovisual element has been produced by Denis Marleau and Stéphanie Jasmin of UBU/Compagnie de création. A dozen celebrities, including Gaultier himself, have lent their faces—projected on to the mannequins—and often their voices to this project.