Jean Paul Gaultier : A World of Whimsy
You may be mildly frustrated at first, but you forgive him. It takes a long walk though the entire museum to get here. Then you come to realise the walk has a calming effect before you are catapulted into the Gaultier exhibit,.
You realise two things immediately.
1) This not an exhibit for the mild mannered : It is a step into the world of Jean Paul Gaultier. You are a voyeur, peeking into Gaultier’s theatrical and subversive world of velvet panelled boudoirs and men in corsets.
2) The mannequins talk to you. One of them winks at you and calls you baby.
Refer to #1, if you’re still wondering about the talking mannequins . It takes a while to sink in.
You can’t ignore the talking mannequins; they’re a sensory assault draped in classic Gaultier. They are the perfect introduction to the exhibit. They display both his unique ability to elevate street wear to Haute Couture and to transform Haute Couture from the formal to the out of this world.
Then, of course, there are the faces being projected onto the mannequins. Each spews out omething equally irrelevant and wacky. The talking faces only add to the excitement as the next part of the exhibit beckons you over. Make sure to pay special attention to the mannequin that has Jean Paul Gaultier’s face projected onto it; it is his show after all.
Centred around 6 unique themes, the exhibit is a elaborate to say the least. It would be impossible to do it all justice in such a short article. However, some elements, that I have chosen to write about, did stand out to me.
The highlight of the exhibit was the historical element. Each room is crammed with Gaultier. Often however, the most interesting part of the room is a discreet block of explanatory text underneath the mannequin. To be fair, Gaultier has had a remarkable life( I highly recommend at least a quick perusal of the Wikipedia page) . The first section of the exhibit is dedicated to Gaultier’s primary influences in his early life, which came from his maternal grandmother Marie, the television she owned, and movies. This influence of pop culture and strong female figures are reflected in Gaultier’s boudoir works. Perhaps the best example is the infamous ‘cone bra’ popularised by Madonna.
If you are still wondering; the clothes are unbelievable.Inspired by counterculture, my favourites themes included the ‘skin’ suits, the Metropolis, and without a doubt, the Punk. By the time you have made it out of the first couple rooms of the exhibit, you think nothing can surprise you. Then you walk into the next section, appropriately named ‘Skin Deep’. This consists of a room of mannequins clad in clothes that resemble muscle tissue. The metafiction is tangible.
The last part of the exhibit is particularly intriguing. Here, all of Gautier’s work in cinema and music is compiled (surprisingly) sans sound and dialogue.
The Fifth Element struck me as a pretty cool movie but that might only be because Gaultier did the costume design. In the back of the room, you can also see the trailer for the upcoming Pedro Almodóvar movie, The Skin I Live In. This is the product of an ongoing collaboration between Almodovar and Gaultier. Gaultier sure knows how to finish with a bang.
Since I am writing the article, I get to choose to devote an entire paragraph to my favourite part of the exhibit, the Punk section. I may be biased, but any exhibit which references David Bowie / Ziggy Stardust is A+ in my books. In this part of the show, Gaultier embodies the crazy energy that permeated 1970’s London punk scene in his clothing . In the middle of the room there is a huge, rotating runway which shows Haute Couture, re-imagined with a raw and bare look. These are, of course, the clothes inspired by Bowie and Vivian Westwood.
The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit reflected his uniqueness as a designer ( what else would you expect from a man who puts men in corsets)? It is unfortunate that Gaultier’s occupation of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts ended Sunday. However, I have a feeling his countercultural army of feather clad women and glitter loving men will be back to conquer a small section of Montreal soon.