Saturday, February 4, 2012
One of the most memorable experiences that I had in Montreal wasn't the Jazz Fest (sorry Cubano) or the impressive art and foodie scenes. I was actually blown away by "The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From The Sidewalk to the Catwalk" at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. I expected to spend a few hours browsing through this traveling exhibit but I ended up devoting six straight hours to this exhaustive, multimedia, display of the art of fashion. Walking up the black carpeted steps with Jean Paul Gaultier's name in lights, I didn't quite know what to expect. This didn't look like any museum exhibit I had ever witnessed.
How right I was. This was clearly unlike any museum show, fashion or otherwise. I was greeted by a talking mannequin of Jean Paul himself, shown above. He spoke in his own voice, in French, English and Spanish. The mannequin's face flashed with expressions and movements. It was eerie but fascinating all the same.
The exhibit showcases 130 ensembles and accessories designed by Gaultier from 1976-2010. Even if you've never heard of Gaultier or know nothing about fashion, many of the designs will be familiar. His cultural impact is so broad that pieces like his cone bras popularized by Madonna, or the corsets that are now hot again, cross all sorts of social and categorical boundaries. The sailor dress above, is from his "Odyssey of Jean Paul Gaultier" section.
Gaultier is known for dipping into religious as well as cultural iconography so the crowns and altarpiece tapestries weren't surprising. The head covering on the mannequin above appeared even creepier by the eye movements that it made.
This is another example of Gaultier's religious mining, with a modified halo. Photos were only allowed in the first section, so I didn't get pix for the "Boudoir" section, which was filled with corsets, cone bras and lots of bondage symbolism that represented his reinterpretation of the "imprisoned female body." There was also a catwalk with rotating outfits, a display of his fashion illustrations, and a film section showing clips of movies that Gaultier designed costumes for including "The Fifth Element," Bad Education" and "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and His Lover". (I highly recommend all.) There was even a showcase of Gaultier's childhood teddy bear and the cone bra that he fashioned for it out of newspaper.
Famous for pushing boundaries, Gaultier designs provocative pieces for women and men. The sailor designs above are tame enough but the designer was the first to put men in skirts, below.
There was so much to absorb in this exhibit that I can't begin to cover half of it. I left with aching feet and a mind exploding with colors, shapes and analysis. The exhibit is in Dallas now and will move to San Francisco in March before heading to Spain, The Netherlands and Sweden. Don't miss it if you have any opportunity to see it, it is not just for fashion lovers. Here's a video that gives a glimpse of what it covers: