“I wanted imperfections to be admired,” points out Jean-Paul Gaultier. The French couturier has come to New York to present “The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier,” an exhibition dedicated to his creations at the BrooklynMuseum.
The exhibition features 140 of his most influential pieces that represent fashion “with no taboos or limits; one that welcomes all sizes, skin color and sexes,” explains curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot. It is undoubtedly the strongest social statement made by this generous exhibition that celebrates women in all their forms. On display, of course, are Madonna and her infamous cone-shaped bra, which has become an iconic fixture in pop culture; the frou frou camouflage evening gown worn by Sex in the City star Sarah Jessica Parker; Beth Ditto, the voluptuous singer; and Stella Ellis, a full-figured model. There is also a men’s pink satin corset and Gaultier’s famous unisex marinières, or French sailor shirts, from his “Ze Parisienne” collection. The underlying thread is his desire to provoke, to have fun and his refusal to accept the diktats of fashion as seen on the glossy pages of magazines.
Concerned that the exhibition might “look dead on a mannequin,” Gaultier set one condition: it must be a lively display that gives a second lease of life to his creations off the catwalks. Designed by Thierry-Maxime Loriot and Nathalie Bondil, who were also the masterminds behind the exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the scenography is original and playful. On show are mannequins with video projections on their faces, which seemingly talk and welcome visitors by reciting poetry as well as text by Roland Barthes. Sketches of Gaultier’s work, perfume ads and photographs of greats such as Paolo Roversi, Richard Avedon, Jean-Baptiste Mondiano and Peter Lindbergh make for a truly comprehensive exhibit that celebrates the creative genius of this “bad boy” of the fashion world.
“Is he still a symbol of French culture?” wonders exhibition director Arnold L. Lehman, who finds Jean-Paul Gaultier to be frankly “very Brooklyn.” In fact, there is a perfect symbiosis between NY’s largest borough and the boy wonder of fashion; the former, an area known for being a hub for new trends, and the latter, the man who claims to be transgender and cross-cultural.
“I went into fashion to be loved. By sharing it with you through this exhibition, I only hope to be loved all the more,” he says happily. Seen by an estimated 970,000 people around the world, the retrospective is sure to reach its millionth visitor at the BrooklynMuseum. Jean-Paul Gaultier can breathe easier.
Photo: Guerin Charles/ABACAUSA.COM
The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, October 25, 2013 – February 23, 2014
Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Pkwy New York, NY11238
Brooklyn Museum website