Interview with Jean Paul Gaultier
From June 17 to October 2, 2011, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts will present The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, the first major exhibition devoted to the celebrated French couturier who launched his first prêt-à-porter collection in 1976 and founded his own couture house in 1997. "I wanted to create an exhibition on Jean Paul Gaultier more than any other couturier because of his great humanity," explained Nathalie Bondil, the Museum's Director and Chief Curator. "Beyond the technical virtuosity resulting from exceptional expertise in the various skills involved in haute couture, an unbridled imagination and ground-breaking artistic collaborations, he offers an open-minded vision of society, a crazy, sensitive, funny, sassy world in which everyone can assert his or her own identity, a world without discrimination, a unique 'fusion couture.' Beneath Jean Paul Gaultier's wit and irreverence lie a true generosity of spirit and a very powerful message for society."

Thierry-Maxime Loriot, the curator of the exhibition, met with Jean Paul Gaultier to discuss his connections, both personal and professional, with Quebec that led him to agree to review his thirty-five years in fashion in an exhibition developed and organized by the Museum.


You've never allowed a museum to do an exhibition of your entire career, yet you've agreed to do one with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Why?

Jean Paul Gaultier. I was both surprised and flattered when Nathalie Bondil suggested the exhibition. I thought it might be a bit early for a retrospective, as I'm not that old yet! But I see it as a compliment. I was familiar with some of the exhibitions produced by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, but it was only when I met the team, two years ago, that I decided to launch myself into this new project. I liked the idea of a thematic rather than a chronological presentation — it's more fun, less limiting, more like my world. A chronological staging gives the impression an end has been reached, which isn't the case, as my fashion house is certainly very active.

Exhibition layout
Interview with J. P. Gaultier
Animated mannequins
Organizers and artisans
International tour
Jean Paul Gaultier
Jean-Baptiste Mondino
© Jean-Baptiste Mondino
What will the general public and anyone not too familiar with your work discover in this exhibition?

J. P. G. My life is my work, so you'll find out everything about me! It's a great adventure, because my designs will be displayed in a totally new way. In a way, it will be the biggest show I've ever done — but also my biggest collection in a way, because it will be divided into six themes that often recur in my work. Of course it won't be a fashion show, it will be an installation. That's how we worked on it with the Museum team. It's a new way of presenting my creations and giving people access to haute couture, which, unfortunately, is never shown to the general public. You'll see the main "obsessions" of my collections over the last thirty-five years — more than that, forty, because you'll see my very first dress, which I made at Cardin, before I launched my own ready-to-wear label. The themes are corsets, sexuality, the feminine-masculine and the masculine-feminine, as well as fusions that bring together all of the world's cultures. It's so exciting to be able to present this project all over the world: my creations will become my passport, so I can visit every city that hosts the show!

Did you have any connections with Quebec before working with the MMFA team?

J. P. G. I've always been attracted by Quebec culture, music and film — oh, and the food, of course! When I visited Quebec for the first time, in the 1980s, I fell in love with the place and the people. Montreal is kind of like coming home, because it's a bit like Paris, but it also has that look of a big North American city like New York. I've worked with a number of Quebec models, especially Ève Salvail, for several of my shows and the first advertisement for my perfume Classique, also Francisco Randez for my ads for the perfume Le Male, plus a number of other models like Marc Parent and Yasmeen Ghauri in the 1980s, but also Emmanuel Rosado and Judith Bédard.

An Exhibition initiated and produced by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in collaboration with the Maison Jean Paul Gaultier.

In the middle: Jean Paul Gaultier © Photo Francisco Garcia 2011. From left to right: Barbès collection, women's prêt-à-porter fall/winter 1984–1985. Jean Paul Gaultier archives.
The Raw and the Refined collection, men's prêt-à-porter spring/summer 1994. © Patrice Stable/Jean Paul Gaultier. Virgins (or Madonnas) collection,"Apparitions" gown, haute couture
spring/summer 2007. © Patrice Stable/Jean Paul Gaultier. Romantic India collection, "Lascar" gown, haute couture spring/summer 2000. © Patrice Stable/Jean Paul Gaultier
Image on the left: Les Actrices [Movie Stars] collection, Étoiles et toiles dress, Haute couture fall/winter 2009-2010. © P. Stable/Jean Paul Gaultier.
© 2011 The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. All rights reserved. Important notice: copyright and reproduction rights.

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