La planète mode de Jean Paul Gaultier de la rue aux étoiles – Part II

Yesterday we looked at the first half of The fashion world of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the sidewalk to the catwalk that will be on display at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts until October 2nd, 2011, after which the exhibition will be making its rounds to the Dallas Museum of Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young in the US.  It will also be shown at the Fundación Mapfre- Instituto de Cultura in Madrid, as well as at the Kunsthal Rotterdam.  Specific dates are listed at the bottom of this post.  See part I of this post here.

From the Skin Deep portion of the exhibition, viewers wander into the Punk Cancan room.  Alive with friction and momentum, platforms of Punks with tall mohawks, black leather, and plaid watch from pedestals around the outer perimeter of the room.  In the center of this long space is a moving runway that loops around in an extended oval.  Mannequins flash by with numbers in their hands or at their feet–recalling early runway shows. Viewers watched from the periphery with cameras in hand waiting for their favorite garments to come back around, cast in the role of the fashion photographer or paparazzi, which further adds to the ambiance of the room and the overall performative nature of the exhibition.

A personal favorite, was the dress above from the Punk Cancan haute couture S/S 2011 collection.  The exhibition catalog also contains a runway shot and a 2-page spread of the skirt lining print.

This themed area focused on the early and enduring influence of punk on Gaultier’s career, which started when he was just an apprentice to Pierre Cardin, and a youth intrigued by his first exposures to the London Trafalgar square punk scene.  Also explored within this context is his ability to fuse these outside influences with the Parisian sensibility.  While the ideologies of anti-materialism, deconstruction, and recycling were important to the designer, he also discusses the aesthetics of punk, and their enduring appeal to him: “…the raw side of punk, with its Mohawk haircuts, almost tribal makeup, allusions to sex, torn fishnet stockings, black, kilts, bondage straps, mixing of genders and materials—all that spoke to me, suiting me much better than some of the ossified conventions of the couture.”

The ease with which Gaultier is able to move from strapless ball gown to leather jacket is impressive and appears effortless, especially when viewed in this context.  Contrasts such as a white tulle skirt with a leather bustier embody his eclectic approach to design, and it is captivating to witness the bizarre harmony of a room like this where punk and couture are fused seamlessly.

At the end of the room, camouflage pieces from his Romantic India collection, such as the Dubar gown from S/S 2002 haute couture collection transitions into the Urban Jungle room.

Urban Jungle–a section that focuses on the eclectic and multi-cultural nature of Gaultier’s design influences– is a visual feast of texture and pattern.  Garments such as his La Mariee wedding gown from The Hussars F/W 2002-2003 haute couture collection and an intricately beaded trompe l’oeil leopard dress from The Russia collection from F/W 1997-98 haute couture, are isolated on separate platforms.  This allows viewers to examine the garments from three sides, and admire the lavish detailing used to create them–such as the elaborate and painstaking beadwork that replicates the look of leopard skin look on the gown above.

A projected image of a city-scape provides the backdrop for platforms that host clusters of mannequins.  Each garment is enticing, the tactility of feathers, beading, embroidery, and other interesting fabrics and trims beckoning to be touched.

As with the other parts of the exhibition, it was hard to leave the Urban Jungle room.  There was so much to take in, I could have easily spent a full day with the show.  At this point I was eager to see how the show would conclude though, and  I wandered into the last room of the exhibition titled Metropolis.

This room was a presentation of some of Gaultier’s artistic endeavors in dance, photography and film.  While several garments were displayed, which also spoke to these themes and mediums–such as his Etoiles and toiles gown from the Movie Stars (or Cinema) haute couture collection from F/W 2009-2010 or the Male Faces motif riding coat from his Photography Maniacs Mens F/W 1992-1993 prêt-a-porter collection–what really took center stage in this room was the wonderful photography, illustration, and film clips that spoke to the wide range of interesting collaborations the designer has participated in over the years.  It is important to note that there is a great deal of amazing photography seen throughout the exhibition.  Although the MMFA generously invited participants to photograph the clothing and mannequins–as many of these other items are being displayed in public for the first time ever, photography was not permitted.  Some of these images make it into the catalog, while others must be seen in person.  This includes the work of Richard Avedon, Steven Meisel, Herb Ritts, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, and many, many others.  There are behind the scenes images from film shoots for Nirvana‘s Heart-Shaped Box video and Depeche Mode‘s It’s No Good, shot by Anton Corbijn.  Columns with small screens play footage from La Défilé dance performances.

At the back of the room, at the foremost edge of the exhibition is a video projection.  This includes clips from many films that Gaultier designed costumes for, such as his work in The Fifth Element, The City of Lost Children, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, and Almodovar‘s Kika and Bad Education.  Standing around the screen was a small crowd of people watching the film clips.  At this point, it became hard to ignore an observation that had slowly been creeping into my subconscious throughout my visit–the number of people wearing sailor stripes.  At first, I noticed simply one or two people, but as groups of men & women clad in stripes started to trickle into the room, I became preoccupied with their appearance.  Was this the devotion of extreme fans?  Were they part of a tour group or club?  Perhaps the Canadian version of the red hat ladies?  I wasn’t sure how to explain their presence, and part of me almost didn’t want to know.  Standing at the back of the crowd, with so many stripes clustered in front of me only added to the strange and surreal tone of the entire exhibition.  These were also inhabitants of Gaultiers world, and they surely belonged there.

Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I inquired further.  It turns out that the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was offering half price admission to those who come wearing sailor stripes.

As you exit the exhibition an Herb Ritts photograph of Jean Paul Gaulier bids you farewall.  It shows the back of his head, gazing into the distance, or perhaps into the future…


There are two remaining film screenings this summer that are coming up at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to coincide with the show:

Tonight- Friday August 12th: Kylie Minogue: Live — Kylie X 2008,  at 6 p.m.

Saturday- August 13th: Mylène Farmer Stade de France,  at 2 p.m.

The Museum website notes:

Unless otherwise indicated, films are presented free of charge at the Maxwell Cummings Auditorium, Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion, 1379 Sherbrooke Street West. Doors open 30 minutes before the event begins. Places are limited and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.


Traveling Exhibition dates:

Dallas Museum of Art : November 9th to February 12th, 2012

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young: March 24th to August 19th, 2012

Fundación Mapfre- Instituto de Cultura, Madrid: September 26th to November 18th, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam: February 9th to May 12th, 2013.

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