Jean Paul Gaultier Brings The Boudoir To The Brooklyn Museum


PSFK explores the wild world of the famous designer in a new show that traces the entire expanse of his career.

Dory Carr-Harris, PSFK
  • 28 november 2013

First on Scene brings our readers an exclusive look at distinctive cultural events, supported by the Smirnoff Mixhibit app available for iOS and Android. This week, PSFK is on the scene at the opening of the Brooklyn Museum’s Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit. Check out our Mixhibit of the event, and share your Mixhibit using #PSFKonScene for a chance to win a PSFK Party Pack.

“Fashion must correspond to the aspirations of the moment and reflect current events.” — Jean Paul Gaultier

Originally staged in Montreal, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier is now dazzling crowds at the Brooklyn Museum with a retrospective that spans the style icon’s groundbreaking career. On view until February 23, 2014, the fantastical world of the extraordinary Frenchman was clearly the main draw as PSFK joined the throngs of well-dressed patrons for Target First Saturdays — where admission to the museum’s permanent collection is free and entrance to featured exhibitions is half price. Despite the breadth of visual inspiration on display, visitors weren’t just there for the art, as the museum also hosted curator talks, panel discussions and several musical acts, culminating in a late night with dance party for everyone who was still awake.

Describing the atmosphere in the museum and throughout the exhibition itself is near impossible, so we enlisted the help of Smirnoff’s new app Mixhibit, a collaborative storytelling tool that allows you to remix your and your friends’ social feeds to create an original video of photos and tweets from the day with a custom soundtrack. Check out ours below.

As we entered the building the first dreamy strains of the female hipster-electro trio, Au Revoir Simone began to play — they were one of several bands to grace the stage that evening.

The sights and sounds in the main rotunda, however, paled in comparison to the festival of color and texture adorning the mannequins and gallery walls as part of the featured exhibition on the fifth floor.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier is an epic, multimedia installation that covers seven diverse themes from Hollywood and the streets of Paris to punk rock and the boudoir, and features nearly 140 pieces from various collections and collaborations, including couture pieces and ready-to-wear. One thing is clear as you walk from room to room: JPG was no ordinary man.

Lisa Small, Curator of Exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, believes that Gaultier is a particularly inspiring figure in the realm of fashion because:

He has been an iconoclastic designer from the beginning of his career, setting trends rather than following them. He’s challenged established societal and aesthetic conventions, disrupted gendered fashion by designing skirts for men, creating garments that freely mix elements and materials from women’s and men’s fashions.

Gaultier’s influences span pop culture but also look back through history, yet it became clear as we walked through the exhibition that he was constantly reacting to prevailing societal trends and providing his unique response to them through his provocative designs. Gaultier’s pieces are loud, raucous and definitely have a lot to say. It is therefore quite fitting that his arresting ensembles are displayed on mannequins that actually speak! Custom models were created with interactive facial features that are displayed using high-definition projections, giving these plastic figures the semblance of being alive. The mannequins talk to passersby, sing, whistle, recite poetry and create an altogether frenetic, other-worldly atmosphere. Viewers are transported to the larger-than-life fantasy realm that Gaultier attempted to create with his outlandish outfits.

But while these clothes may seem like costumes from the future or far past, Gaultier plays on classic fashion tropes in order to remain both relevant and impactful. Lisa Small comments:

His deep knowledge and understanding of the codes of haute couture and timeless Parisian chic, and his ability to create impeccably made and wearable garments, are precisely what allow him to so successfully turn those codes on their head, to take “ready-mades” like the Breton stripe, the trench coat, the corset, and even the tin can, and create consistently imaginative iterations of them, making them his own.

Highlights from the exhibition include the giant punk rock room featuring all of Gaultier’s anglophile, mohawked creations, whose walls are covered from floor to ceiling with massive graffiti murals, while an automated runway rotated models around a central track. Amsterdam’s Red Light District was recreated in all its voyeuristic splendor to showcase Gaultier’s BDSM-inspired collection with mannequins placed in faux windows built into the facade of a giant two-story building. The exhibit also includes an homage to Madonna’s iconic cone bra and a whole room dedicated to Gaultier’s interpretations of global fashion featuring outfits covering everything from the cold climes of Russia and African-inspired dresses to swashbucklers, rabbis and Native Americans.

When asked to tell us her favorite part of the exhibition, Small exclaims:

It’s very hard to choose just one thing in a show this rich! A definite fashion highlight for me is the gown that features what appears to be a full leopard skin, but upon closer examination you see that the leopard skin is really a trompe l’oeil effect created out of thousands of tiny, hand-sewn beads.

The description of the above dress is not unlike the overall effect of the exhibit, on its surface it may appear as a simple homage to a designer, but on closer inspection the clothes, images, and films paint a detailed and carefully crafted picture filled with excitement, openness and celebration that curator Lisa Small attributes to the attitude of the great man himself:

Gaultier’s innovative and extraordinarily fabricated work, with its global influences, strong connection to popular culture and social issues, is a perfect fit for Brooklyn. His vision of society and fashion–very open-minded, everybody is welcome, whatever your age, body size, gender, skin color.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier runs from October 25, 2013–February 23, 2014 at the Brooklyn Museum

Check out the gallery below for more pieces from the exhibition, and stay tuned next week when PSFK is on the scene at New York Taste.

First On Scene gives readers an exclusive look at New York’s most vibrant cultural events, presented by the new Mixhibit app from Smirnoff. Follow #PSFKonScene to catch all of the event highlights live, and share your own Mixhibits with us on Twitter for a chance to win an exclusive PSFK Party Pack.

The Mixhibit app from Smirnoff is a groundbreaking new tool that blends users’ best moments captured on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter into a one-of-a-kind video. In a digital age where good times rarely happen without a phone in hand, the Mixhibit app provides a seamless way for people to “show and tell”, as users of legal drinking age select photos and status updates, and a soundtrack from the app’s library of over 10,000 songs, to create their video. The Mixhibit app is the newest way that Smirnoff is bringing people together to responsibly celebrate good times with friends. Check out the hype film to see how it works, join the #Mixhibit conversation on Twitter, and download the Mixhibit app now from the App Store or Google Play store.


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