For the past forty years, Jean Paul Gaultier has left his mark on international high fashion. Do his iconic cone-bra corsets ring any bell? In a spectacular show – a rather innovative and crazy, I could say, installation – the Kunsthalle in Munich is celebrating a double anniversary: “Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” is the 100th exhibition of its 30-year history.
Text: Victoria Al. Lytra
Throughout his career, Gaultier (born in 1952) stands for bold, critical and ironic avant-garde design. With his own inimitable, tongue-in-cheek humour, he throws down the gauntlet – challenging established aesthetic ideals, gender roles and classic fashion norms. Who doesn’t recall his infamous cone-bra corsets that Madonna wore during her 1990 Blonde Ambition World Tour? This fashion emblem and more than 140 of his creations, dating from the early 1970s up to now are presented in the “From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” exhibition. Following the resounding success of the world tour, Munich offers the last chance to be mesmerized by Gaultier’s magnificent world of fashion. So I took it!
Jean Paul Gaultier – painted photograph by Pierre et Gilles (2004), Photo: courtesy of Gallerie Daniel Templon, Paris
Entering the space Roche Bobois furnishing dressed by Jean Paul Gaultier welcomes the visitors, since the famous brand sponsors the exhibition. Their collaboration dates back to 2010, when the designer started to create exclusive fabric and furniture collections. Commenting on the partnership, Jean Paul Gaultier announced: “Dressing furniture for Roche Bobois has been an exciting exploration of creative ground for me. I have always loved creatively dressing models and furniture but at least with the latter they don’t complain when you accidentally jab them with a pin!”
Ben Hur Armchair prototype (1992) – Maison Jean Paul Gaultier
Using sophisticated technology in different thematic halls, a footage of catwalk, creatures speaking, presentations, videos and films reveal to the visitor the phenomenon of his diverse and fascinating oeuvre. Starting from the Salon, Gaultier’s grandmother’s beauty salon, where he was fascinated by the corset.
Corsets collection men SS 1997, women SS 1994
Barbes, Pret-a-porter collection AW 1984-85
Continuing in the Odyssey room, Gaultier himself appears in nautical stripes explaining his own personal “Odyssey” (oh,yes indeed!), during which he encounters with a range of characters inspire him to ever new creations.
Gaultier speaking in mink sweater from Russia Haute Couture Collection AW 1997-98 and pants from the House of Pleasure collection SS 1997, Lascar dress from Romantic India Collection SS 2000
Calypso Haute Couture Collection SS 2008
The designer has always been drawn to unconventional beauty and his muses prove it. He has created extravagant stage costumes for Conchita Wurst, Kylie Minogne, Amanda Lear, Davie Bowie and of course the “Queen of Pop” Madonna, whose status was aided by Gaultier’s outfits. Alongside pieces created for the films of Pedro Almodóvar are showcased among others.
Sketches for Madonna’s stage costumes (1989-90) by Thierry Perez
Costumes from Pedro Almodovar films
Passionate about difference, Urban Jungles section features Gaultier’s inspiration from the wildlife of the jungle for creations with fur, feathers, crocodile and snakeskin in a spectacular setting.
Parrot feather bolero and crepe jumpsuit – Haute Couture Salon Atmosphere Collection SS 1997
Cock feather dress with metal plaques and crystals from Swarovski AW 2010-11 (time to create 167 hours)
Tattoos Pret-a-porter Collection SS 1994
“Punk cancan” is the prêt-a-porter collection of the designer in the fall of 2011, mixing the two controversial worlds of Paris and London. The catwalk reflects these influences under the critical eye of the first row – Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, Franca Sozzani, Emmanuelle Alt, Suzy Menkes, Christiane Arp, Babeth Djian, Carine Roitfeld, Catherine Deneuve, Nana Mouskouri, Kim Kardashian respectively.
Queen and King, Rosbif in Space Collection AW 2014-2015
Gaultier’s close cooperation with renowned artists and photographers such as Miles Aldridge, David LaChapelle, Pierre et Gilles, Peter Lindbergh, Herb Ritts, Stéphane Sednaoui, Cindy Sherman, Mario Testino, Steve Klein and Andy Warhol are also shown in a wide range of artistic and documentary film material, videos and photographs.
Feathers will fly (Kate Moss) – photograph from Vogue UK (May 2013) by Mario Testino
What I experienced there was not a mere fashion retrospective but a poetic contemporary installation embracing various arts and reflecting his spirit in an opulent extravaganza. I am just wondering about his next step, speaking for once more to his reputation as enfant terrible of haute couture!