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The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk

DATES October 25, 2013 through February 23, 2014
  • August 1, 2013 It's official! Only East Coast venue of this exhibition of innovative work by the celebrated French fashion designer. New creations presented for the first time.

    For the last four decades, Jean Paul Gaultier has shaped the look of contemporary fashion with his avant-garde creations and cutting-edge designs. The Brooklyn Museum will be the only East Coast venue for The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, the first international exhibition of this celebrated French couturier’s work. This spectacular overview of Gaultier’s extensive oeuvre will include exclusive material not exhibited in previous venues of the tour, such as pieces from his recent haute couture and ready-to-wear collections and stage costumes worn by Beyoncé.

    The French couturier says of the Brooklyn presentation: “I am proud and honored that this exhibition will be presented here, where the true spirit of New York lives on. I was always fascinated by New York, its energy, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, that special view of the sky between the tall buildings.... On one of my first trips I decided to walk all the way uptown from the Village until Harlem. It took me the whole day, and I will never forget the pleasure of discovering this great city. But most of all it is a melting pot, a place where you can go around the world in one day, where all the races and creeds live together. I am proud and honored that my exhibition will be presented in Brooklyn, where the true spirit of New York lives on.” For Gaultier, the street has been the source of his inspiration as well as his ultimate goal, for, like all great couturiers, his greatest desire is for his creations to be worn, lived in, and seen by all the world.

    Gaultier’s reputation for witty and daring designs and a ceaseless interest in society, identity, and beauty born of difference has earned him a place in fashion history. The Brooklyn presentation will include Gaultier costumes never before seen in New York, such as items graciously lent by Madonna, like her iconic corsets from the Blond Ambition world tour (1990), as well as costumes from the Confessions tour (2006) and the MDNA tour (2012). Costumes created for Kylie Minogue, Pedro Almodóvar’s Kika (1994) and Bad Education (2004), and Luc Besson’s Fifth Element will also be part of the exhibition.

    This theatrically-staged show, more of a contemporary installation than a chronological retrospective, will feature 130 haute couture and prêt-à-porter ensembles accompanied by audiovisual materials, sketches, early designs, and photographs, all of which testify to Gaultier’s daring, cutting-edge style and the genius and breathtaking craftsmanship of his creations. Gaultier’s rich collaborations with renowned contemporary artists and photographers such as Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon, David LaChapelle, Pierre & Gilles, Herb Ritts, Cindy Sherman, Peter Lindbergh, Stéphane Sednaoui, and Mario Testino, among others, is a major focus of attention.

    This critically acclaimed touring show, initiated and produced by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts under the direction of Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator, and Thierry-Maxime Loriot, curator of the exhibition, in collaboration with Maison Jean Paul Gaultier Paris, has already been seen by close to one million visitors in North America and Europe.

    “While paying tribute to the creative genius of Jean Paul Gaultier, this exhibition raises the bar in terms of fashion presentation as art in a museum as well as celebrates today’s cultural and ethnic diversity,” says Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman. “Jean Paul Gaultier’s mastery of the complex technical demands of haute couture is matched only by his rich and unrivalled artistic collaborations. His unconventional designs, frequently spiked with his sense of whimsy and quixotic humor, reflect the richness of our cultures.”

    Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, initiated the project with the goal of creating an exhibition celebrating Gaultier for his great humanity and his open-minded vision of a society where everyone can be proud and distinctive because of their own identity, as well as for the technical virtuosity or imagination of his creations.

    Gaultier considers the exhibition a creative theatrical spectacle in its own right. Many of the mannequins used to display his designs revolve to reveal all angles of an ensemble. Some circulate on a continuously moving catwalk, and many wear remarkable wigs and headdresses created by renowned hairstylist Odile Gilbert and her Atelier 68 team. Throughout the galleries, thirty-two of the mannequins come alive with interactive faces created by technologically ingenious high-definition audiovisual projections. A dozen celebrities, including Gaultier himself, model Ève Salvail, and bass player Melissa Auf der Maur, have lent their faces and voices to this project. The production and staging of this dynamic audiovisual element is the work of Denis Marleau and Stéphanie Jasmin of UBU/Compagnie de création of Montreal. Jolicoeur International of Quebec realized all the custom-made mannequins with different skin tones and positions representing the diversity of Gaultier’s universe.

    Distinctly different from traditional couture, Gaultier’s avant-garde designs demonstrate a deep understanding of the issues and preoccupations of today’s multicultural society. For inspiration, Gaultier has turned to a variety of cultures and countercultures.

    The show is organized into seven thematic sections:

    THE ODYSSEY introduces us to the couturier’s universe and his trademark themes. Sailors, mermaids, and religious iconography set the tone. Gaultier’s very first design (1971), never before exhibited, is on display. It features stage costumes worn by Beyoncé, as well as dresses created for Catherine Deneuve and Marion Cotillard to wear to the Oscars.

    THE BOUDOIR reveals the designer’s fascination with lingerie and corsetry through the years, from his childhood teddybear “Nana” wearing the first cone bra, created in the early 1960s, to his many designs for his men’s and women’s couture and ready-to-wear lines as well as for Hermès, where he was creative director from 2003 to 2010. This section features Gaultier’s trailblazing conical bras and corsets made for Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition world tour and 2012 MDNA tour.

    MUSES shows how the couturier created a new ideal of beauty, beyond the established codes of fashion and society, celebrating difference by erasing all boundaries of body size, skin color, age, religion, and sexuality.

    PUNK CANCAN demonstrates the contrasting styles and themes Gaultier has blended throughout his career, from Parisian classicism and elegance to London punk, which he discovered and embraced from its inception. Parisian icons and symbols, such as the beret, the trench coat, and the Eiffel Tower, are transformed under the influence of the imagery of Pigalle’s Paris. London’s tattooed punks, wearing latex, leather, lace, and fishnet, take on new meaning as symbols of elegant, convention-defying power. This section features the chiffon-camouflage dress that required 312 hours to make worn by New York style icon Sarah Jessica Parker at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards.

    illustrates how Gaultier creates clothing that becomes a second skin, sometimes through trompe l’oeil effects that give the illusion of nudity, a flayed human body, a skeleton, or tattoos.

    METROPOLIS showcases Gaultier’s collaborations with filmmakers; choreographers such as Marice Béjart, Angelin Preljocaj, and Régine Chopinot; and pop icons such as Tina Turner, Nirvana, Cameo, Lady Gaga, and Kylie Minogue. Borrowing from the emerging sounds of new wave and house music in the 1970s, Gaultier explored the fields of high technology and science fiction. Since his first pieces of electronic jewelry and the High-Tech collection of 1979, he has stayed ahead of the fashion pack, integrating contempory fashion fabrics not meant for the catwalk, including vinyl, Lycra, and neoprene. This section presents for the first time pieces from one of the designer’s summer collections inspired by pop musicians such as Grace Jones, Boy George, Sade, Madonna, and David Bowie.

    URBAN JUNGLE is where cultures from around the world come together to form a new aesthetic integrated in haute couture. Gaultier mixes and matches multiethnic influences—Bedouin, orthodox Jewish, Chinese, flamenco, Russian, Bollywood, and Nordic—in what he refers to as the urban jungle.

    The exhibition is accompanied by the first major monograph on the French designer, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Catwalk to the Sidewalk, published by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts under the direction of Thierry-Maxime Loriot. This award-winning, 424-page catalogue contains more than 550 illustrations and photographs; an introductory essay by Suzy Menkes, Fashion Editor of The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune; fifty exclusive interviews conducted by Loriot with celebrities and collaborators of the couturier (Helen Mirren, Nicole Kidman, Madonna, Catherine Deneuve, Martin Margiela, Dita Von Teese, and Marion Cotillard among others); and two interviews with Gaultier himself.

    The exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in collaboration with Maison Jean Paul Gaultier. The originating curator of the exhibition is MMFA’s Thierry-Maxime Loriot.

    The Brooklyn Museum presentation is organized by Lisa Small, Curator of Exhibitions, Brooklyn Museum.

    Jean Paul Gaultier Biography

    Jean Paul Gaultier was born in a Paris suburb in 1952. He started his career with Pierre Cardin in 1970 on his eighteenth birthday. After working at Esterelle, Patou, and again at Cardin, Gaultier decided to start his own fashion house and staged his first show in Paris in 1976. Critical and commercial success followed quickly, and by the early eighties he was one of the most talked-about young designers. From the beginning of his career, Jean Paul Gaultier wanted to show that beauty has many facets and that we can find it where we least expect it, such as in the lowly tin can, which he first used as a bracelet and later as packaging for his hugely successful perfume. He launched his menswear line in 1984 with the “Male Object” collection and in 1997 realized his dream of starting an haute couture collection, “Gaultier Paris.” He was also the designer for Hermès women’s wear from 2004 to 2011.

    Throughout his career Gaultier has worked in dance, music, and the cinema. His costumes for Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour have left an indelible imprint on the popular culture. His first collaboration in the cinema was with Peter Greenaway for The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover in 1989. He also designed costumes for The City of Lost Children by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Fifth Element by Luc Besson, and for Kika, Bad Education, and The Skin I Live In by Pedro Almodóvar.

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  • October 1, 2013 To mark the opening at the Brooklyn Museum on October 25 of the The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, a short video has just been released about the exhibition, which will be on view through February 23, 2014. Featuring Jean Paul Gaultier speaking about the Brooklyn presentation and top model and Gaultier muse Karlie Kloss wearing his iconic designs, it was directed by Stéphane Sednaoui, the noted French photographer, director, and producer. (

    The Brooklyn Museum is the only East Coast venue for this critically acclaimed international exhibition of the work of the celebrated French couturier, who has shaped the look of contemporary fashion for the last four decades with his avant-garde designs. Already seen by more than 900,000 visitors in North America and Europe, the theatrically staged show offers a dazzling display of Gaultier’s most daring creations. Included in the Brooklyn presentation is important material not exhibited in previous stops on the tour.

    Tickets, which include general admission to the Museum in addition to entrance to the Gaultier exhibition, are available at and at the Visitor Center in the Museum’s lobby. The cost is $15 for adults, $10 for students with valid ID and adults 62 and over, and $10 for corporate Members. The exhibition is free for Members and children under 12. Members will also have access to the Members Preview and Reception on Thursday, October 24, enjoy private viewing hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday in November, receive free tickets for family and friends depending on Membership level, and be able to purchase discounted ticketed for additional guests.

    The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in collaboration with Maison Jean Paul Gaultier, Paris. The exhibition is curated by Thierry-Maxime Loriot of the MMFA. The Brooklyn presentation is coordinated by Lisa Small, Curator of Exhibitions, Brooklyn Museum.

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