Friday, August 19, 2011

A Tale of Two Exhibits

During my travels, I was lucky enough to end up near two major fashion exhibits. The first was the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibit at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal and the second was the Alexander McQueen exhibit at The Met in New York. Both were incredible representations of the fashion designers' art and my hat off to the curators of the exhibits. Each created a world and incredible back drop to take in the artist's work. But the feel of each was very different and I think a lot of that had to do with the museums themselves.

Titled, La planète mode de Jean Paul Gaultier: De la rue aux étoiles, the Gaultier exhibit covered an entire floor of the museum and was a journey through the many moods of the designer, from punk to S&M to gender-bending to tribal but always reinforcing the designers love of his home (France) and the influence of his grandmother and her feminist outlook on life. Besides the great backdrops and layouts, the thing that I loved about this exhibit was the museum's openness. I was able to take video as well as pictures. The staff was very friendly and everything was posted in both French and English. In addition to the fashions, the curator added the unique touch of having faces projected onto the mannequins which occasionally spoke directly to the audience, including Jean-Paul Gaultier himself welcoming you to the exhibit.

Savage Beauty,
was also a feast for the eyes. The exhibit took up approximately 6 rooms and each was set up to really enhance the pieces. Everything from gilded wainscoting to mirrored floors, walls and ceilings helped show off each pieces to it's fullest extent and captured the spirit of each of the collections in terms of how they may have been displayed on the runway. Given McQueen's penchant for the eerie and avant-garde capturing that in a museum exhibit was a feat in and of itself. Where it differed from the Gaultier exhibit was the museum's polcy against photography. One of the great things about a fashion exhibit is the ability to finally see some of these couture pieces up close. I think disallowing people to photograph is a bit disheartening because you really want to examine and document these things closely. Also, this exhibit was a bear just to get into. In the 3 months it was open the show had approximately half a million visitors (and it felt like they were all there the same day as me). The line for the exhibit wound itself around the balcony, and through 5 other galleries before reaching the entrance. Once inside, you were shoulder to shoulder with every other museum goer. Though people tried their hardest to be accommodating it was still rather unbearable. This picture was snapped (surreptitiously) while shuffling through a gallery. Where Savage Beauty beat out the Gaultier exhibit was in the price of it's catalogue. The Savage Beauty catalogue was $45 with tax while the Gaultier catalogue was 99$CAD with tax (you can guess which one I purchased).

I would love to have seen the McQueen exhibit in a more hospitable museum. And the Gaultier exhibit had me until the boutique that's when my wallet protested. But overall both shows were amazing and I'll talk about each one in depth.

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