Jean Paul Gaultier at the DMA

Really, in Dallas.

The one they called the enfant terrible of fashion in the 1970's, the guy who gave Madonna the cone bra, one of the most renowned and important fashion designers of the 21st century is having his first exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art.  The show, which is the first the DMA has held dealing with the art of fashion, began on November 13th and will run until the 12th of February, when it will then pack up and head to the de Young Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The show, ‘The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’, celebrates 35 years of Gaultier's designs and displays photographs, sketches, video clips of works from movies and performances highlighting the French designer's collaborations with filmmakers and musicians (The Fifth Element, Lady Gaga, Madonna . . .) and over 140 pieces made throughout his long career.   

For years Gaultier has used his designs to combat and converse with gender and transgender issues, questioning and challenging what is acceptable for men and women to wear outside the safety of their home through androgynous, line-crossing, rule bending styles.

The exhibit features six themed rooms: The Odyssey of Jean Paul Gaultier, Boudoir, Skin Deep, Punk Cancan, Urban Jungle, and Metropolis.  In the first room the viewer is greeted by a mannequin of Jean Paul Gaultier wearing a blue and white striped long-sleeved shirt, standing next to a choir of singing models.

The show utilized holographic projections and voice over technology, which allowed Gaultier himself to introduce the exhibition.  The digitally projected face moves; the eyes scan the room and blink, the eyebrows rise and fall in step with the monologue, and the speech exiting the moving and smiling mouth is the actual voice of the designer.   The mannequins alongside him sing a heavenly ballad and wear lifelike faces animated from projectors hanging from the ceiling.  This aspect of the show is whimsical and fun, adding an extra dimension as the audience walks through the six rooms and meet new vocal and very realistic mannequins; a continual chatter fills the exhibition as the still, Gaultier-clad forms narrate, blow kisses and give a glimpse of the designer's impressive oeuvre.

This is a fantastically unique show.  Gaultier says he doesn't consider his designs to be art, that clothes are meant to be worn, but his global exhibition is making waves.  It is a must see.  There is a mechanized runway where mannequin models "walk" an oval platform, there is an alligator suit, corsets everywhere, photographs by David LaChapelle, clothing from Madonna's 1990 "Blond Ambition" tour, original sketches and drawings.

Really, see this show. M.P.Callender