Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
After drawing nearly one and a half million visitors throughout the world since its first opening in Montreal in 2011 the first exhibition devoted to the inimitable French couturier Jean Paul Gaultier is now open in Paris at the “Grand Palais” museum.
Affectionately called “l’enfant terrible”, the unruly child, of fashion by the media J.P. Gaultier certainly had an out of the ordinary career. During the press conference that was held in Paris for the opening he told us how he found his vocation as a child when watching “Falbalas” on TV. This 1945 movie by Jean Becker is about a young fashion designer and his work of creation and J.P. Gaultier instantly fell in love with the world of fashion, its glamour and elegance. He also told us how Nana, his beloved teddy bear became his first model and got a whole wardrobe. Lucky little thing!
Without attending to a fashion school he learned to draw by himself and tried his luck by showing his drawings to famous designers. His talent was soon detected and he was only 18 when he got hired by Pierre Cardin in 1970, then by Jacques Esterel and Jean Patou. He presented his first fashion show at 24 when he created his own fashion house in 1976. Why wait?
J.P. Gaultier is totally involved in the making of the exhibition that he rather considers as a new creation, a new collection than a retrospective. He provided 175 haute couture and ready-to-wear outfits in addition to numerous objects and archival documents: sketches, stage costumes, footage from films, fashion show and concerts, video clips, dance performances, fashion photos… Most of them are shown to the public for the first time and the tenth leg of the exhibition has been enriched with installations especially designed for Paris. These include three dozens real size dummies which blank faces are animated by projections of faces. Several personalities including J.P. Gaultier himself, have agreed to lend their faces and sometimes their voices to this unique project. You can also take part in the exhibition and get “Gaultiered”: an immersion installation takes your picture and includes it into a big video projection making you feel like a model on a big poster. So each visitor can take a photo and get a very personnal souvenir from the exhibition.
To J.P. Gaultier inspiration is everywhere: his unbridled imagination allows him to pick up the mood of the time to create sexy, humorous, eclectic, impertinent, multicultural or countercultural outfits. But most of all they are beautiful and beautifully made: the exhibition is the opportunity to get close to the clothes and see the way they are sewn, embroidered, inlaid with pearls, crystals, laces, feathers… The exhibition also enhances the expertise of the skilled people working for haute couture.
His worldwide fame exploded when he created stage costumes for Madonna in 1990. Her corsets with pointed breast are still in our memories 25 years later. Sexy but never vulgar these creations have sometimes been considered as anti-feminist but J.P. Gaultier rather see them as an appearance release. Madonna is not the only artist he worked with and the exhibition is the opportunity to discover or rediscover his work with Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element), Pedro Almodovar (The Skin I Live In), Maurice Bejart, Régine Chopinot, Depeche Mode, Mylene Farmer, Kylie Minogue, Nirvana, Tina Turner, Lady Gaga… In addition to the dresses and costumes, videos and photos show us parts of these fruitful collaborations and get a glimpse of the tremendous work ability of this genre-breaking artist.
In a constant reinventing process Jean Paul Gaultier has always succeeded to be where he was not expected and this retrospective allows us to rediscover 40 years of bursting creation. Open until August 3rd, 2015 in the “Grand Palais” museum in Paris this exposition is a must-see for all fashionistas or fashion schools’ students.
To know more: www.grandpalais.fr
Text © Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny