Jean Paul Gaultier – Réunion des Musées Nationaux - Grand Palais

Stephanie van den Hende
May 19, 2015 6:57AM

An exhibition mounted by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts with the Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand Palais, in collaboration with the Maison Jean Paul Gaultier, Paris.

This first exhibition devoted to the French couturier Jean Paul Gaultier has already captivated nearly one and a half million visitors from Montreal, where it has been created in 2011, Dallas, San Francisco, Madrid, Rotterdam, Stockholm, New York, London and as far afield as Melbourne. The tenth leg of the exhibition has been enriched with installations specially designed for Paris.

Jean Paul Gaultier started out in the ready-to-wear business in 1976 before founding his own haute couture house in 1997. The press called him the “enfant terrible” of the fashion world from his first shows in the 1970s and he is undeniably one of the most important designers of recent decades.

His avant-garde fashion quickly addressed the concerns and stakes of a multicultural society, humorously shaking up established sociological and aesthetic codes. Apart from his technical virtuosity based on his great skill in tailoring, his unbridled imagination and historic partnerships with other artists, he offers an open-minded vision of society, a crazy, sensitive, droll, impertinent world in which people are free to be themselves, a world without discrimination, a unique “fusion couture”. There is something truly generous in Jean Paul Gaultier’s world and a powerful social message delivered in a light, witty way.

Curious about all cultures and counter cultures, Jean Paul Gaultier picks up the mood of the times, claims the right to be different, and imagines new ways to make and wear fashion: he twists, metamorphoses, transgresses and reinterprets. He mixes cultures and genders, creating a new androgynous figure or delighting in inverting the codes of hyper-sexualised fashion.

The exhibition — which Gaultier sees as a creation in its own right, a new collection and not a retrospective — brings together 175 haute couture, but also ready-to-wear outfits designed between 1976 and 2015. Top hair designer Odile Gilbert (Atelier 68) has created extraordinary hairstyles for each model. Numerous objects and archival documents are also shown to the public for the first time. Sketches, stage costumes, footage from films, fashion shows and concerts, video clips, dance performances and even TV shows illustrate his most emblematic artistic partnerships: with filmmakers (Pedro Almodóvar, Peter Greenaway, Luc Besson, Marc Caro and Jean Pierre Jeunet), dancers (Angelin Preljocaj, Régine Chopinot, Maurice Béjart), French singers (Yvette Horner, Mylène Farmer…) international pop stars (Madonna, Kylie Minogue…).

Fashion photography is there too, with often unpublished prints by well-known contemporary artists and photographers (Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Peter Lindbergh, David LaChapelle, Richard Avedon, Mario Testino, Steven Meisel, Steven Klein, Pierre & Gilles, Paolo Roversi, Robert Doisneau…).

The multimedia show celebrates the daring and inventiveness of Gaultier’s avant-garde fashion and explores his eclectic, impertinent sources of inspiration, in a thematic approach dividing his imaginary world into eight sections, ranging from Paris streets to science-fiction: Introduction, with special collaboration from the Dutch designer Jurgen Bey and his workshop Makkink & Bey (Rotterdam); L’Odyssée; Punk Cancan, with the special collaboration of Miss Deneuve; Les Muses, with an immersion installation designed for the Grand Palais by Studio Moment Factory (Montreal) in which each visitor is “Gaultiered”; Le Salon; À fleur de peau; Metropolis and Jungle urbaine, with a video installation especially designed for the Paris leg by the French artists Lucie & Simon.

The exhibition has also benefited from the talent of many well-known artists and experts. The exhibition design by the Paris architects Projectiles and adapted by Sandra Gagné of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, sets to advantage the couturier’s costumes and photos and videos illustrating Gaultier’s fruitful partnerships. The avantgarde Montréal theatre company UBU, directed by Denis Marleau and Stéphanie Jasmin, has used projection techniques to animate three dozens of faces of models from Jolicoeur International: they are a poetic and amusing presence throughout the exhibition. Several personalities including Jean-Paul Gaultier himself, the models Ève Salvail and Francisco Randez, singer and filmmaker Melissa Auf der Maur (Smashing Pumpkins and Hole), and soprano Suzie Leblanc have agreed to lend their faces and sometimes their voices to this unique project, the tenth leg of the touring show with a special edition for Paris.


An exhibition initiated, produced and circulated by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (director and chief curator: Nathalie Bondil).
Curator: Thierry-Maxime Loriot.
Exhibition design: Agence Projectiles, Paris; adaptation in Paris: Sandra Gagné, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; project management: Jodar Architecture studio hairstyles and wigs: Odile Gilbert, L’Atelier (68), Paris with the exceptional collaboration of Jurgen Bey (Makkink & Bey), Moment Factory and Lucie & Simon.
Models: Jolicoeur International.

Stephanie van den Hende