The Brooklyn Museum will be the only East Coast venue for The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, the first international exhibition dedicated to the groundbreaking French couturier, organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The critically acclaimed touring show, already seen by half a million people, spans the Paris-based designer's 37-year career and includes iconic examples never before exhibited. The Brooklyn presentation will include new material not shown in the previous venues, including ensembles from his recent runway shows.
Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, started the project with the ambition of creating an exhibition about Jean Paul Gaultier because of his great humanity, his open-minded vision of society where everyone can be proud and distinctive because of his/her own identity, as much as for his technical virtuosity and the imagination of his creations.
This dynamic, multimedia contemporary installation devoted to Jean Paul Gaultier explores in depth his fashion themes of equality, diversity, and avant-garde daring through more than 140 cutting-edge couture and ready-to-wear garments for both men and women. It also features film, dance, and concert costumes, including the conical bra and corsets Madonna wore during her 1990 Blonde Ambition World Tour and 2006 Confessions Tour, costumes from the films of Pedro Almodóvar and The Fifth Element, and photographs by Richard Avedon, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Herb Ritts, and Mario Testino, among others. Video and television clips are featured as well. Other archival material includes sketches. The material on display dates from the mid-1970s to 2012.
Dubbed fashion's "enfant terrible" beginning with his first runway shows in the 1970s, Jean Paul Gaultier remains one of the most important fashion designers of the 20th century and the millennium. Distinctly different from traditional couture, his avant-garde designs demonstrate a deep understanding of the issues and preoccupations of today's multi-cultural society.
Jean Paul Gaultier himself considers this innovative exhibition as far more than a mere fashion retrospective but rather as a creative theatrical spectacle in its own right. Throughout the galleries, thirty-two unique mannequins wearing remarkable wigs and headdresses by Odile Gilbert, founder of the Atelier 68 in Paris who designed the wigs for Sofia Coppola's film Marie Antoinette, 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 from Montreal, Canada. A dozen celebrities, including Gaultier himself, have lent their faces projected onto the mannequins and often their voices to this project. In addition, many of the mannequins revolve to display all angles of each ensemble, while some circulate on a continuously moving catwalk.
"While paying tribute to the creative genius of Jean Paul Gaultier, this exhibition raises the bar in terms of fashion presentation as art in a museum as well as celebrates today's cultural and ethnic diversity," says Arnold L. Lehman, Brooklyn Museum Director. "Jean Paul Gaultier's mastery of the complex technical demands of haute couture is matched only by his rich and unrivaled artistic collaborations. His unconventional designs, frequently spiked with his sense of whimsy and quixotic humor, reflect the richness of our cultures."
For inspiration for his designs, Jean Paul Gaultier turned to his keen fascination with a variety of cultures and countercultures. Punk street wear is another key reference point for him. Openly gay, the fashion designer interpreted gender and transgender issues and created uniquely distinctive androgynous, gender-blending designs.
The multimedia exhibition is organized into six thematic sections tracing the diverse influences marking Jean Paul Gaultier's artistic development from his early years as a studio assistant for fashion designer Pierre Cardin to his role as chief creative director for Hermes and later.
The Odyssey of Jean Paul Gaultier introduces us to the couturier's universe by way of his trademark themes; sailors, mermaids, and religious iconography set the tone of this section where his very first design (1971), never before exhibited, is also on display.