Since its opening in 2011 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the haute couture and prêt-à-porter designs in “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: from the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” have been electrifying audiences in Montreal, Stockholm, Brooklyn, and Dallas—and now, London.
I had the opportunity to see the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum this past March. I’m no fashionista, but I could certainly appreciate the craftsmanship and creativity of an absurdly talented artist. Credit is also due to the curator, Thierry-Maxime Loriot. I admittedly rarely read museum labels, but I was so impressed and eager to learn more that I read all of the wall text. All of it.
Seven themes showcase Gaultier’s 40-year career of status quo defiance: Punk Cancan, Muses, The Boudoir, Metropolis, Eurotrash, Skin Deep, and Urban Jungle. The exhibit begins with a multi-media timeline of Gaultier’s biggest works, shows, and cinematic collaborations, followed by the all-encompassing breaking of boundaries that defines the designer’s gender bending, street-punk, Dadaist, and Parisian aesthetic.
In typical Gaultier style, his cinematic and pop-star costumes, high-fashion gowns, kilts and corsets are brought to life through audiovisual projections on the faces of mannequins. Girls in corsets comment on their femininity and ironic sexual empowerment. There are elaborate hats made of human hair, dresses stitched together from one-inch satin ribbon, skeletal beaded and gemstone skin-tight jumpers, and of course Madonna’s conical bras.
American subscribers who won’t be able to attend the show in London, don’t fret: Artstor has just received a generous contribution of photos from the exhibit’s debut at the Dallas Museum of Art! A simple search for gaultier dallas in the Artstor Digital Library will yield images of the designer’s radical-chic craft. Also try gaultier brooklyn costume to see his works in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Brooklyn Museum Costumes collection.
Highly recommended: The Dallas Museum of Art’s series of posts on Gaultier on their own blog.