Source: Montréal Museum of Fine Arts
In order to celebrate Montréal’s fifth anniversary as a UNESCO city of design, the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts is presenting an exhibition on legendary French couturier Jean Paul Gaultier, starting this upcoming June 17. “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” will retrace his fashion journey and showcase his incredible work as well as the great humanitarian spirit that he is. Museum director and chief curator Nathalie Bondil reflects on this grand retrospective.
“Is it a fashion show? Yes, but much more than that. It is a display of an artist’s imagination (even though Gaultier avoids the word “artist”) that transcends the technical virtuosity of haute couture to convey a simple message of tolerance. This contemporary installation is not a retrospective, for Jean Paul Gaultier’s studio is still very active, creating fashion with no bestbefore date. This ambitious, complex and radical project, which will travel to Dallas, San Francisco, Madrid and Rotterdam, was developed and produced by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It was in Montreal that the accompanying exhibition catalogue – the first reference book on Gaultier to be published and distributed internationally in several different languages – was written, published and printed. It was also in Montreal, thanks to the talents of Denis Marleau and Stéphanie Jasmin of UBU / Compagnie de création, that the enchanted narration that highlights Gaultier’s daring creativity was created.
Why a fine arts museum? I will answer this questionwith another: who has ever had the opportunity to see haute couture first-hand? The public often has adistorted vision of haute couture, which is conveyedby a plethora of media images. The live visual experience is something completely different: the craft is revealed. Who can ever truly appreciate a masterpieceof painting or sculpture by looking at a reproduction(even through the hi-res technology of Google Art)?No, nothing can replace the sensory experience.This is what will save museums – the physical apprehension by the senses of an original work of art, leaving a unique, moving, indelible emotional imprint like any other aspect of life. For all those who have never been invited to attend a live runway show with the “VVIP” of haute couture and who cannot examinethe creations outside the frenetic dazzle of those shows, this exhibition provides an opportunity to enjoy a close-up look at the fabrics and skills in real life. If this were the sole reason for the exhibition, it would suffice, for museums’ very raison d’être is to make available what is normally unavailable.
Why the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts? It is a question that we must address, as it is one we are often asked. The answer is quite simply because we love Jean Paul Gaultier and we believe in the importanceof his work, which transcends Paris, and we want to share it with the world. We want to convey the couturier’s profound, inclusive message beyond the tight-knit circles of fashion. This project surpasses narrow fields of specialization. When a visionaryimagination broadens our horizons, bearing values that are larger than life, the medium fades into the background. Do we go to see an exhibition of painting or of Poussin? Of sculpture or Rodin? Content trumps form. We believe this is the case with Jean Paul Gaultier. Disciplinary boundaries vanish under the force of his creativity, revealing an art that embraces universal values.
It was here at the Museum that the first Yves Saint Laurent retrospective was presented. This fall, we will inaugurate the reinstallation of the Liliane and David M. Stewart Pavilion of Decorative Arts and Design featuring one of the most significant collections in North America and one of the most comprehensive – early decorative arts, crafts, industrial prototypes and design from the twentieth centuryand today. Fashion, the Design Lab and new acquisitions strengthen this dynamic focus of the Museum’s permanent collection, thus serving to develop a strategic approach for the future. Design has alwaysappealed to the younger generation. It serves as a springboard from which the history of society, of styles and techniques can be examined, thus creating links to the fine arts for its evolution – from the Old Masters to contemporary art. Montreal is truly a city of design, past, present and future.”
- Nathalie Bondil, Director and chief curator