Friday, June 24, 2011

Jean Paul Gaultier Exhibition at Beaux-Arts de Montreal: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk

Last Friday (6-17) I was fortunate enough to be in Montreal for the opening day of Jean Paul Gaultier's exhibit, From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Beaux-Arts Montreal.  I had wisely purchased tickets in advance because the line that morning stretched out the door and down the block.  In addition to the Gaultier exhibit, the Museum was finishing up their exhibition of China's Terracotta Army, and it's priceless artifacts - which I will talk about in another post.

The show was well promoted.  Many of the department store windows in the city of Montreal had displays which tied into the exhibition at the Museum.

I have always been intrigued with Gaultier's designs.  To the general, non fashion public, he is probably best known for designing "over the top", unconventional costumes and garments for Madonna and also such film favorites as Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element".  His life and career has been much more then that however - and his labor intensive, stunning designs were absolutely amazing to see up close and in person.  As an artist, I definitely gained a whole other insight into Gaultier's artistic sensibilities.   When I left left the exhibition my ideas and creativity were definitely challenged, stimulated and exalted to a new mental level.

The Montreal exhibition is the first international exhibition for the designer.  When the show leaves it's current location, it will travel to Dallas, San Francisco, and then on to Madrid and the Netherlands. I highly recommend seeing it not only from a fashion and design standpoint but from an artistic one as well.

We were probably about 10th through the door the morning the exhibit opened.  In fact the ticket person stopped me and asked if I was a VIP! Ha...I wish.  I must have have had that serious, intent look or something!

The Museum allowed photography, so I literally ran around the exhibition snapping photos to my heart's content, chatting with the Museum Guards and enjoying rooms virtually free of other people. Seeing every piece up close and in detail was amazing.  The space filled up quickly though, and soon it was wall to wall viewers.

When you first walk into the exhibition you will find yourself by a row of animated mannequins (and one animated Gaultier) that sing, talk and explain various parts of the show (all in French).  This was really a unique site to behold!  Actual moving faces are somehow projected on the the mannequin faces.  I really had to do a double take because at first I thought the mannequins were live models.  There are 30 of these animated mannequins scattered throughout the show.

In another room there was an oval shaped revolving runway. The mannequins came out from behind a curtain and rotated through the room, simulation a runway show. 

The detail work on the garments was just jaw-dropping.  On every card it listed the number of hours it took to construct each piece, I didn't see anything under 150 hours. In fact a lot of the pieces the seamstress had spent 300 to 400 hours.  It really is amazing that in this day and age detailed work of this traditional nature still exists.  This is one of the things that sets couture apart from other fashion.  It's art.

When we finally left the exhibit I felt that I had viewed a complete, cohesive, timeless body of work from an artist.  There were approximately 130 garments in the show spanning from 1970 to 2011.  It was a very satisfying feeling.  This is very different then how I felt after leaving the Alexander McQueen, "Savage Beauty" exhibition in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I absolutely loved that show, as I wrote in a previous article, but really felt the body of work had been abruptly cut short.  It just stopped and we never got to see McQueen expand his vision.  Gaultier, on the other hand... Oh it makes me smile just to think of the possibilities to come!

~ diane fergurson

1 comment:

Eastwitching said...


You certainly did have a treat! Gosh - what an anazing collection of fantastic and unique art - really - I am blown away and no doubt actually being there in person so close to these wonderful creations must have stirred you! This is a great post for those who will never see this work. Thank you !!


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