JEAN PAUL GAULTIER @ the de Young Museum SF

Back in June, I traveled to San Francisco for a dear friend’s wedding. While there, I met up with an artist friend my mine who told me about the Jean Paul Gaultier retrospective at the de Young Fine Arts Museum located inside Golden Gate Park.

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Naturally, my interest was piqued … I had gone to the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met last year and really enjoyed it … so I figured I would check this out too as visiting the Golden Gate Park was on my agenda anyway.

Boy, I was blown away.

The show was stunning. I think it is even better than the attendance record-breaking McQueen show. The retrospective incorporated multimedia elements like video, audio and the use of projected images.  As you walked through, the mannequins ‘spoke’ to you with pre-recorded audio tracks; their eyes and lips moving as their facial expressions beamed from small projectors mounted to the ceiling.

Needless to say, the clothing itself was spectacular.  There were Madonna’s conical bras from her Blonde Ambition Tour. There was Gaultier’s childhood teddy bear on which he fitted a conical bra as a boy which inspired the iconic pointy corsets he created as an adult and which Madonna made infamous.

For me, the piece de resistance was a beaded gown that resembled a leopard pelt … there were probably hundreds of thousands, if not a million, tiny little bugle beads hand embroidered to create the effects of the fur and rosettes.  Each rosette was different in size and shape and the colors of the beads accurately represented the many shades of golden brown, tan, and dark brown as on the live animal. This was jaw droppingly gorgeous.

I had not realized how much Gaultier’s vision had shaped my own aesthetic until now. Though I would not call myself a fashionista, seeing Gaultier’s work spanning three decades made me realize how much he has influenced me.

Though Gautier’s designs are not completely original (many of his ideas come from costumes of other cultures or costumes of eras past), his ability to reinterpret these existing forms and turn them into something contemporary and relate-able is his singular talent.

For this reason, I think Gaultier is probably one of the most important and influential designers of our time; his work has so penetrated pop culture that we now simply take his innovations for granted.

The exhibit ended Aug 19th, 2012.

(images via Siam Gem Palace, de Young Museum)

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