New exhibition reveals legendary designer’s artistic process and influence
Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style
Oct 11, 2016 - Jan 16, 2017
SEATTLE, WA – Seattle Art Museum (SAM) presents Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style, showcasing highlights from the legendary designer’s 44-year career. Drawn from the collection of the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, the exhibition opens on Oct 11, 2016 and features new acquisitions by the Foundation that have never been shown publicly before.
On view at SAM through January 17, 2017, Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style will travel to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts from May 7 – August 26, 2017.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent on this exhibition that will reveal the man behind the artist and how he embodied the vibrant times in which he lived.” says Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO. “There is no other fashion designer of his time who had the far-ranging impact that he did.”
“Yves Saint Laurent was the first living couturier to be given a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1983, curated by Diana Vreeland. More than 30 years later, this exhibition presented at the Seattle Art Museum is further evidence of the continuing influence of his work on today’s fashion,” said Mr. Pierre Bergé, President of the Fondation Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent.
THE MAN AND HIS WORK
With a selection of 100 haute couture garments, SAINT LAURENT rive gauche clothing and accessories, photographs, drawings, films and other multimedia elements from the Foundation’s vast archive, the exhibition creates a visually rich environment for visitors to witness the development of Saint Laurent’s style and recurring themes throughout the designer’s career. The multifaceted exhibition is curated by independent Parisian curator and fashion expert Florence Müller in collaboration with Chiyo Ishikawa, SAM’s Deputy Director of Art and Curator of European Painting & Sculpture.
“The changes he progressively introduced into the traditional representation of the feminine and masculine bodies and the codes of seduction stands at the origin of the profound changes of contemporary ways of dress," says Müller.
Visitors will observe Saint Laurent’s immersive working process from his first sketch and fabric selection to the various stages of production and fitting before the final garment was realized. Beginning in 1953 with the Paper Doll Couture House that he created when he was a teenager, the exhibition is a journey from his first days at Dior in 1958, through his groundbreaking designs in the 1960s and ‘70s and the splendor of his final runway collection in 2002.
THE FOUNDATIONS OF STYLE
During his almost 50 years as a designer, Saint Laurent represented women’s evolving role in society more effectively than any other designer of his time. He introduced the tuxedo, trouser suit, shorts, and safari jacket from men's clothing, transferring these symbols of power from one gender to the other. The expert tailoring that made these newly androgynous garments work so effortlessly on women’s bodies was balanced by a continuation of haute couture dressmaking using chiffons and silks that were designed for movement.
Saint Laurent said, “All my dresses originate with a gesture . . . . Once the gesture in question has been found, then one can choose the color, the final shape, the fabrics, but not before.” Saint Laurent’s impact broadened beyond the exclusive world of haute couture in 1966 when he started the ready-to-wear line SAINT LAURENT rive gauche, translating his ideas into fashion that was more affordable for modern young women and sold in trend-setting boutiques around the world. Saint Laurent and his designs were associated with the leading celebrities of the time, including Catherine Deneuve, Bianca Jagger, and Paloma Picasso.
“Saint Laurent was the dominant couture designer of his time because of his combination of brilliant talent and alertness to the world around him,” says Chiyo Ishikawa, SAM’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture. “From the start of his career he was inspired by trends in other fields including visual arts, film, and music; this, along with an awareness of street style, kept his fashion current and ahead of other designers.”
AN INTENSLY LIVED LIFE
Born in Oran, Algeria, in 1936, Saint Laurent studied at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris. The director of Paris Vogue introduced him to Christian Dior, who brought him on as his assistant. Two years later, in 1957, when Dior died, the 21-year-old Saint Laurent was named artistic director of the House of Dior. That association lasted until 1960, when Yves Saint Laurent was fired from Dior and decided to launch his own couture house in association with Pierre Bergé, who would become his lifelong partner in business and life. In the 1960s and ‘70s Saint Laurent was the foremost innovator in women’s fashion, bringing menswear into women’s designs; ensuring comfort and freedom of movement by popularizing pants suits; including pockets even in evening wear; cutting garments more loosely than in the past to skim rather than constrain the body.
Saint Laurent’s sense of ease and movement coexisted with an opulent theatrical impulse that challenged the skills of his atelier. Their artistry is prominent in collections based on the Ballets Russes, 20th-century artists including Picasso, Mondrian, and Braque and collections inspired by China and Morocco. His collections from the 1980s and 1990s revisited and refined earlier triumphs. "I am no longer concerned with sensation and innovation, but with the perfection of my style," Saint Laurent announced in 1982.
As he became more successful Saint Laurent became a personality and celebrity. In 2002 he announced his retirement, three years after having sold his company to the Kering group. That same year, the Centre Pompidou in Paris presented more than 40 years of Yves Saint Laurent creations with over 300 looks including his last Spring-Summer 2002 collection. Since then, only ready-to-wear collections have been produced. In 2012, the name of the brand became SAINT LAURENT Paris. Saint Laurent died of brain cancer in 2008.
ABOUT SEATTLE ART MUSEUM
As the leading visual art institution in the Pacific Northwest, SAM draws on its global collections, powerful exhibitions, and dynamic programs to provide unique educational resources benefiting the Seattle region, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond. SAM was founded in 1933 with a focus on Asian art. By the late 1980s the museum had outgrown its original home, and in 1991 a new 155,000-square-foot downtown building, designed by Robert Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates, opened to the public. The 1933 building was renovated and reopened as the Asian Art Museum. SAM’s desire to further serve its community was realized in 2007 with the opening of two stunning new facilities: the nine-acre Olympic Sculpture Park (designed by Weiss/Manfredi Architects)—a “museum without walls,” free and open to all—and the Allied Works Architecture designed 118,000-square-foot expansion of its main, downtown location, including 232,000 square feet of additional space built for future expansion.
From a strong foundation of Asian art to noteworthy collections of African and Oceanic art, Northwest Coast Native American art, European and American art, and modern and contemporary art, the strength of SAM’s collection of more than 25,000 objects lies in its diversity of media, cultures and time periods.
ABOUT FONDATION PIERRE BERGÉ – YVES SAINT LAURENT
The Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, which opened in 2002, is the culmination of forty years of creativity. It retraces the world of fashion created by Yves Saint Laurent, fashion that reveals the inner workings of society. Using masculine codes, Saint Laurent brought women a sense of security and daring while preserving their femininity. His clothes embody 20th century history. They have accompanied the emancipation of women in every domain, whether personal, social or political. Today, the Foundation transforms these memories into projects, pursuing an adventure begun long ago.
The mission of the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, a state-recognized foundation since December 5, 2002, is to:
Conserve 5,000 garments, 15,000 haute couture accessories
and 50,000 sketches and other items that testify to Saint Laurent’s genius;
Organize exhibitions: fashion, painting, photography and
drawing among others;
Support artistic, cultural and educational projects.
In 2010, the Fondation inherited the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech, originally restoredby Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé in 1980. In the heart of the Jardin, which receives more than 700,000 visitors each year, the Berber Museum opened in 2011. It exhibits Berber culture through a panorama of over 600 items.