Friday, November 11, 2011
Review: Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier at the Dallas Museum of Art
This exhibit allows you to enter the world of Gaultier’s whimsical mind, and what a treat it is.
Talking mannequins and coned-bra-corsets are just a few hallmarks of one of the year’s most buzzed-about art and fashion happenings in the city: the opening of The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk at The Dallas Museum of Art.
This week, international press, art connoisseurs, and just about anyone who’s, well, “anyone” — from celebrity burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese to Dallas socialites like Dee Dee Rose and Cindy Rachovsky, and even local retail gurus like Forty Five Ten’s Brian Bolke — welcomed internationally famed couturier Jean Paul Gaultier this week to christen his experimental and high-tech exhibition in Dallas. Organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the installation features a maze of displays highlighting approximately 130 haute couture and prêt a porter ("ready to wear") ensembles from the Parisian designer’s career thus far.
Having just left Canada, Dallas is one of only two stops for this groundbreaking fashion-as-art exhibition in the United States. The procurement of the exhibition no doubt proves the cultural chops of a city once dismissed for too-big-hair and gaudy displays of wealth. After Dallas, Gaultier packs up to hit San Francisco, Madrid, Rotterdam, and finishes out in Stockholm.
Before an official preview of the exhibition, Nathalie Bondil, director and chief curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, gave a few words of warning about what to expect, pointing out that this is not simply a retrospective of a career but rather a forward-thinking contemporary art exhibit.
“This exhibition is very much alive,” said Bondil. “Visitors get a rare chance to see haute couture up close and personal and to celebrate the social vision of a couturier in the same way we celebrate that of a filmmaker or sculptor or any other kind of artist.”
Upon entering the exhibition, visitors are greeted by “The Odyssey of Jean Paul Gaultier,” a room that eases one into the world of Gaultier with mannequins outfitted as mermaids, sailors, and virgins. Designed by JoliCoeur International, each mannequin is suited not only in couture but also with animated faces brought to life by video projection on sculpted faces representing people of artistic inspiration to Gaultier.
From there, one is guided into the boudouir and then into a room of S&M aesthetic labeled “Skin Deep.” These rooms begin an intense play with the theme of androgyny and highlight Gaultier's famed experiments with the objectification of men through hermaphroditic costumes and styles.
“I don’t see why women should be the only ones considered beautiful,” said Gaultier in a Q&A before the exhibition preview. “I believe men can cry as women can fight.”
Three rooms remain: “Punk Cancan,” “Metropolis,” and “Urban Jungle.” All three lead into the outrageous world of haute couture. For those not familiar with the genre, these ensembles may call to mind the stereotypes exemplified in the movie Zoolander.
To those die-hard fashion fanatics, these rooms are a mecca of seam-work, vision, and beauty. Parisian film icons like Catherine Denueve are projected on screens wearing various looks on film. The mannequins are decked out in every material imaginable and in every silhouette, from phallic Eiffel Tower dresses of Parisian lace and intricate beadwork to futuristic jumpsuits made of lycra and neoprene.
It’s easy to forget that many of theses pieces have walked on human bodies prior to holding new life in the halls of a museum. When asked if he saw his work as art, Gaultier responded “no.”
“Art is art and based on one person’s vision,” said Gaultier. “My job in fashion is to be inspired by the desires and needs of the people which sometimes can come across artistically.”
To enter the exhibition is to enter the world of Gaultier’s whimsical mind. And what an artistic and trippy treat it is.
Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is on view at the DMA from November 13, 2011 through February 12, 2012.
Jean Paul Gaultier at the Dallas Museum of Art
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