Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Gaultier et al - 3 Paris Exhibitions reviewed

There’s a spectacular fashion spectacle on at the moment in the heart of Paris, it’s there until the 3rd of August 2015.

The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Grand Palais is both stylish and innovative, as one might expect from an exhibition this designer has a hand in. It mixes media involving photography and music as well as textiles.

It’s not your average exhibition, unlike the neighbouring American Icons. That exhibition which is on in another part of the same venue until 22nd June 2015 describes itself as “60 emblematic works from the SFMOMA and the Fisher collection (one of the world’s largest private modern and contemporary art collections, now curated by the museum).” To be fair it’s not bad containing some works by both Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein which I hadn’t come across in their retrospectives at the Tate Modern but it is distinctly underwhelming compared to the Gaultier exhibition which is an experience designed to draw the visitor into an experience.


There are photos and artifacts which reference Gaultier’s early life and influences but this is minimal because the focus is on his haute couture.


The sailor suit stripes are part of the designers own trademark look and are shown in a variety of ways, most strikingly by a manikin in a  jumper and neckerchief. This was no standard manikin though, as with several others it was an android programmed to speak to you as it displayed Gaultier’s face.


There was a Dr. Who feel to these manikins which, on occasion, were ready to make eye contact with you which Karl found unsettling.


As I said the clothes were the central focus of this exhibition and you were reminded of this as you moved into a room with a revolving catwalk. On one side sat a range of guests he’d dressed including Nana Mouskouri and  Conchita Wurst. On the other stood a range of London Punks alongside Bowie and Boy George. This was pure beautiful art.


Wedding dresses, corsets and Madonna cones mixed with bondage style wear and more as you worked your way through an array of beautiful and challenging style.


The architecture of the building housing the exhibition was also used to maximum affect as you made your way up a sweeping stone staircase which was lit and had pumping music to a space where you could watch a film illustrating the sheer diversity of the models Gaultier used.


My one criticism was that on the whole the manikins did not reflect the diversity and inclusion the designer is famous for.


Would I recommend a trip to this exhibition? Certainly, indeed whilst we discovered this quite by accident whilst wandering through the city towards the Champs Elysees and Arc de Triumph I would say that for the true love of fashion and spectacle it may worth a trip to the French capital. This was one of the best curated exhibitions and certainly one of the most innovative I’ve encountered. Also in France you get the benefit of being able to take photos of these exhibitions if you wish, although this wasn’t the case for the David Bowie Is exhibition on at the Philharmonie De Paris  until the 31st May 2015.


The Bowie exhibition was what had initially prompted our trip, having missed it at the V & A but having been memorized it via event cinema. It was a good exhibition with a number of original song lyrics and videos of Bowie’s classics as well as costumes and other memorabilia but after the Gaultier exhibition it had neither the impact or wow factor it may otherwise have done. Indeed whilst technologically advanced in many ways it seemed dated compared to the manikins at the Grand Palais. The venue for the Bowie exhibition in an outlying part of Paris was interesting, yet it required a specific visit. Unlike the Gaultier this was never going to be one of those wonders you unexpectedly come across.