After seeing countless photographs from the exhibition on Facebook and Instagram I feel I must be the only person in Melbourne who hasn’t attended the The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, showing at the National Gallery of Victoria. Clearly not, as when I arrive at the 10am opening time last Saturday morning there is a small crowd waiting to enter.
The exhibition opened on 17 October 2014 and has had around 150,000 visitors walk through the doors since then. Despite the large numbers attending each day the exhibition does not feel overcrowded; a credit to the curator and gallery.
The exhibition guides visitors through seven themed rooms and a visual feast of more than 140 costumes, photographs, drawings, film clips and videos. Technology is used to deliver a breathtaking and sometimes intriguing interactive experience. Holograms bring faceless mannequins to life; they smile, talk, sing, whistle, beckon and then are faceless again. Mannequins rotating around a catwalk give visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take front row seats at a Gaultier fashion show. Theatre blurs with reality as participants hold cameras and iPhones aloft, paparazzi style, taking shots of the parading models.
Each room uncovers Gautlier’s many influences and obsessions. In the ‘The Boudoir’ we learn that as a child he made conical shaped ‘falsies’ for his teddy bear and studied his grandmother’s corsets. The dimly lit ‘Skin Deep’ showcases Gaultier’s more revealing designs and provides some insights into his fascination with androgyny and sexual identity. ‘Muses’ highlights his preference for Australian models, actresses and performers such as Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Andreja Pejic and Gemma Ward, many of whom feature throughout the exhibition. In ‘Metropolis’ I’m surprised to learn that Gaultier designed the costumes for some of my favourite films by the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar.
With only a few weeks left until it closes on 8 February, the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition is a must-see for anyone with even a shred of interest in fashion and design.