Jean Paul Gautier exhibition

Grand Palais, Paris

1st April to 3rd August 2015

I must say that I have been really impressed by the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition, where I first felt sort of reluctant to go to and not too sure what to expect.

It is hard to say what impressed me most: was it the more than 140 haute couture and prêt-a-porter ensembles, the sophisticatedly styled mannequins with their interactive faces or just to see how Gaultier’s avant-garde designs challenge society, gender and aesthetic codes?

Jean Paul Gaultier is considered to be the enfant terrible of haute couture. He has always been fascinated by world cultures and countercultures, conceiving a new kind of fashion – not only by the way it is worn, but also by the way it is made. He erases boundaries between cultures and sexes, redefining the idea of androgyny. He caused shock by using unconventional models for his exhibitions, like older men and full-figured women, pierced and heavily tattooed models, and by playing with traditional gender roles in the shows.

It is the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts that created the exhibition Jean Paul Gaultier which is on display at the Grand Palais until August 3, 2015. It began its tour in Montreal in 2011 and has gathered nearly 1.5 million visitors in Dallas, San Francisco, Madrid, Rotterdam, Stockholm, New York, London and, most recently, Melbourne. Next stop of the exhibition will be Munich in fall.

The multimedia exhibition is organized around seven themes tracing the influences on Gaultier’s development—from the streets of Paris to the cinema—since he emerged as a designer in the 1970s. It starts after an introduction with the trigger that revealed his vocation, the film Falbalas, that he watched 1944 as a child in his grandmother’s house and where he discovered the delight of Parisian haute couture.

This theatrically-staged exhibition brings together more than 165 cutting-edge couture and ready-to-wear garments, from the designer’s earliest to his most recent collections, many of which are displayed on custom mannequins with interactive faces created by high-definition audiovisual projections. It features accessories, sketches, stage costumes, excerpts from films, and documentation of runway shows, concerts, and dance performances, as well as photographs by fashion photographers and contemporary artists who stepped into Gaultier’s world. Have a look at the infamous conical bra and corsets Madonna wore during her 1990 Blonde Ambition World Tour or stage costumes designed for Kylie Minogue as well as pieces created for the films of Pedro Almodóvar, among others.

The exhibition is really worth a visit, even if you are not crazy about fashion. I will certainly dare a second visit – and take my children!


About Britta Sedemund


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