The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier – From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk

by Valerie Landry

Photo Credit - Valérie Landry, Bloginity

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, an exhibition dedicated to the work of acclaimed French designer Jean Paul Gaultier is finally open to the public at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. For the first time, the famous couturier agrees to an exhibition about his 30-plus year career. Gaultier said he was pleased with the Montreal museum show, saying he was reluctant to have exhibits in the past “because for me, it’s a funeral, an exhibition in a museum.” “I thought the shows were enough because I am alive,” he added.

The MMFA allowed Gaultier to reinvent his work, to create new collections from his existing pieces. “It was an opportunity to show all my themes,” he said, describing the exhibit as “fabulous”. The exhibit is divided into six different sections : The Odyssey of Jean Paul Gaultier; The Boudoir; Skin Deep; Eurostar; Urban Jungle; and Metropolis. “I am very happy and proud of this exhibition. I feel at home,” he said. “I could even sleep there.”

The exhibition includes about 120 ensembles (that were created between the early 1970s and 2010 and many have never been seen in public before), along with sketches, fashion photographs, and excerpts from runway shows and films. No era of Gaultier’s goes unacknowledged; there are the oh so famous French-striped shirts, but there are also the tartans, the men skirts, the Mohawk and, of course, Madonna’s legendary cone bra.

Not only is the collection of pieces remarkable, the design of the exhibit itself is breath-taking. A dozen animated mannequins are found throughout the exhibition, from Gaultier himself to some of his famous muses. Eve Salvail and Melissa Auf der Maur both have faces projected onto their heads and at times appear to be singing or speaking to the visitor and reciting bits of poetry.

MMFA wanted to show the contemporary artist behind his work. It was important to them not to show an academic approach to his work in fashion, but really what he wants to say as a human being. As Nathalie Bondil, director of the MMFA puts it: “If you don’t have this direct experience, if you don’t feel this sensual experience of the clothes, it is not possible to understand the level of quality, of excellence that is brought by the haute couture.”

“A museum should put on display objects that are not accessible.”

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk will be open at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts through October 2, 2011, at which point the exhibition will embark on an international tour with destinations such as the Dallas Museum of Art, The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, the Fundación Mapfre – Instituto de Cultura in Madrid, and the Kunsthal Rotterdam in the Netherlands.