It might come as a surprise to some that the first exhibition devoted to an appraisal of the career of Jean Paul Gaultier should take place in Dallas, but Dallas is a stylish town (the headquarters of Neiman Marcus) and one of only two U.S. venues for The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk.
The show, which just opened at the Dallas Museum of Art (through February 12; dma.org), presents 35 years of chic from the enfant terrible of Paris couture in an innovative—sometimes startling—display that includes 30 mannequins with animated faces and voices, including Gaultier himself, provided by audio-visual projection. Fashion comes alive!
Thierry-Maxime Loriot of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts organized the show, which opened in Montreal in June and which became the second most visited exhibition during the past five years. The Maison Jean Paul Gaultier in Paris provided exclusive access to its archives. Sketches, stage costumes, excerpts from films, runway shows, concerts, videos, dance performances and even television programs give dimension to Jean Paul Gaultier's bold imagination and creative vision. And the clothes? The exhibition features 130 ensembles from 35 years, bringing together couture and prêt-à-porter pieces – women’s and men’s – many of which have never been exhibited. An American flag coat created for Kylie Minogue's KylieX2008 tour and a cowboy and cowgirl look are on display for the first time at the Dallas Museum of Art.
Gaultier, whose quintessential marinière striped garments have effectively become his signature motif, has run the gamut with collections inspired by classical Paris fashion, as well as the themes of multiculturalism and globalization. From Hasidic Jews (Chic Rabbis) to ultra-feminine tulle gowns with a rock 'n roll edge in 2011 (Punk Cancan), Gaultier stands out for his irreverent, sartorial risk-taking. You can't miss, even if you wanted to, icons from his Boudoir and Skin Deep campaigns, including that infamous conical bra for Madonna's Blond Ambition tour in 1990. Last impression: a larger-than-life wedding dress from the designer’s Hommage à l'Afrique (Tribute to Africa) collection, and a pair of unbearably cool embroidered fishnet stockings, with soaring Eiffel Towers creeping up the calves.
The show also documents the ongoing evolution of fashion photography, including never-before-seen prints from contemporary photographers and artists, Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon, Cindy Sherman, Erwin Wurm, David LaChapelle, Mario Testino, and Steven Meisel.
A stunning monograph of Gaultier's life and work, edited by Loriot, and published by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Abrams, serves as an exhibition catalog with more than 550 illustrations and photographs, 50 interviews with Gaultier's famous friends, colleagues, mentors, muses, and clients—Catherine Deneuve, Pedro Almodóvar, Tom Ford, Pierre Cardin, Marion Cottilard, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy—plus and insightful essay by the International Herald Tribune fashion critic Suzy Menkes. Vive la mode!
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier can be seen at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, March 24-August 19, 2012.
Mario R. Mercado is the Arts Editor at Travel + Leisure.
Marguerite A. Suozzi is an Assistant Research Editor at Travel + Leisure.