Is fashion art? Can haute couture designs be placed on the same level as a prolific painting or sculpture? The Dallas Museum of Art currently explores this topic with The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. The art of fashion has never been the subject of an art exhibition in a Dallas museum. This is also the first retrospective showcasing the designs of world-renowned French couturier Jean Paul Gaultier, and it’s the first international retrospective for a fashion designer.
“I wanted to create an exhibition on Jean Paul Gaultier more than any couturier because of his great humanity.” ---Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
A total of 120 ensembles and their accessories are displayed within the DMA’s Chilton II Gallery. These high fashions are from the designer’s 1976-2010 couture and ready to wear collections. Gaultier’s stage costumes are also featured including the costumes from Madonna’s 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour. The couturier’s original sketches and video footage from runway shows and television interviews accompany the fashions. Additionally, museum visitors can expect to view photographs of Gaultier and various celebrities taken by Herb Ritts, Richard Avedon, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol.
“Beyond the technical virtuosity, an unbridled imagination and ground-breaking artistic collaborations, Gaultier offers an open-minded vision of society, a crazy, sensitive and sassy world in which everyone can assert his or her own identity through a unique ‘fusion couture’.” ---Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
A look inside the world of Jean Paul Gaultier reveals an ocean underworld with mermaid inspired fashions worn by mannequins that come to life in speech and song. Within his world is a woman’s boudoir filled with corsets and corset-shaped fragrance bottles. Go deeper into this designer’s world and discover the fashion of an x-rated red-light district, the streets of London, film, and modern/contemporary dance. This is Gaultier’s world–the world of haute couture.
A technical, labor intensive, fine craft that is shown exclusively in Paris defines haute couture. Gaultier’s haute couture designs are sketched and the finest fabrics and unusual materials are selected including silk crepe, satin chiffon, gold lame , horse hair, and ostrich feathers. Every aspect of his design is done by hand resulting in it taking 60-100 hours to complete one haute couture gown. However, before the one-of-a-kind fashions go through this process, Gaultier finds inspiration from various sources such as the human body, African and Native-American cultures, women’s femininity and strength, and unusual Parisiennes.
“As a child my attention was always drawn by those women who didn’t look like everyone else.” ---Jean Paul Gaultier
Jean Paul Gaultier was born in 1952 in Arcueil, France–a suburb of Paris. As a child he spent lots of time visiting his maternal grandmother. During their visits, she introduced him to fashion by allowing him to watch French television programs that talked about fashion. The young Gaultier also observed the fashions in film and fashion magazines. As a teenager he taught himself fashion design and began sketching two collections a year. In 1970 at the age of 18, Gaultier sent his designs to various Paris-based designers. It was Pierre Cardin who gave him his first position as an apprentice couturier. As an apprentice he discovered the traditions of haute couture and the skills required to do that type of work. Gaultier also worked with designers Jacques Esterel and Jean Patou from 1971-1973. The mid-70s were pivotal years for Gaultier. His first North American collections were designed during 1974-1975, and in 1976 he established a women’s ready to wear line and held his first runway show. A men’s ready to wear line followed in 1983. The same year Gaultier designed the first corset dress, and he began what would be a 10-year collaboration for costume design with choreographer Règine Chopinot. The designer also created costumes in 1990 for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour and for the film, The Fifth Element in 1996. Jean Paul Gaultier was recognized for his work by the Council of Fashion Designers with the 2000 International Award. In 2003 the Frenchman opened his own couture house where he shows two collections a year. Celebrities such as Nicole Kidman and Sara Jessica Parker have worn his gowns on the red carpet. Gaultier continues working with his ready to wear collections. Between 2004 and 2010, the designer created four ready to wear collections annually and two ready to wear collections for Hermès.
“Jean Paul Gaultier’s couture fashions are bold and unapologetic, and intuitively reflect the cultural moods of a global society. His designs inspire, influence, and bring the very essence of imagination to life, “ —Bonnie Pitman, former Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk closes today at the Dallas Museum of Art. The U.S. exhibition tour will conclude at the Fine Arts Museums, De Young in San Francisco March 24, 2012-August 19, 2012. For more information visit www.DallasMuseumofArt.org.
by Jeralan Minnick
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