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Jean Paul Gaultier – From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk @ Kunsthalle Munich

30. November 2015

The current Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at Kunsthalle Munich is a must-see for all fashion lovers. It features not only a vast selection of dresses – some of them exhibited for the first time – but also uses creative and innovative approaches to catch the visitor’s attention. Furthermore, the exhibition shows that Gaultier is much more than just a fashion designer – you will be introduced to one of the most talented and visionary contemporary artists who turns people into living art objects.

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Gaultier was strongly influenced by his grandmother whom he considered ‘one of the most stylish women of all times’. Very early on, he started to occupy himself with two major topics: first, the sea, sailors and mermaids and second, corsets. Later on, these two topics have always been reflected in his designs. Another key feature of Gaultier is his use of transparent fabrics, especially tulle.

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In the first room, the visitor is taken to Gaultier’s youth, being introduced to his grandmother and his childhood teddy bear with the characteristic breast cups which later became famous thanks to Madonna.

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Moving on to the next room, Jean Paul Gaultier himself welcomes his guests and you can see how his childhood ideas evolved into elaborated gowns using complex methods, such as embroidery, stitching or offbeat material.

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The dolls come to life with an interesting approach of projecting moving and talking faces onto them.

Gaultier has always chosen to collaborate with personalities who are not mainstream beauties. He is always looking for something special and glamorous: Kylie Minogue, David Bowie, Amy Winehouse, Kate Moss to name only a few.

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Probably the most important friendship of his is the one with Madonna. It was her who made his corset world famous. In addition, she exemplifies Gaultier’s influence of sexual topics on his works.

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Conchita is probably the icon who also shows Gaultier’s attitude towards gender: he dedicates himself to merging male and female and is not only convinced that women can dress more manly, but also that men can dress like women if they want to.

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I particularly liked the dresses showing his passion for animals and foreign cultures – Gaultier’s designs overcome geographical, cultural and religious boarders with his artworks.

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What seems to be fur from afar is actually a time-consuming fabric made of small beads.

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Throughout the exhibition, the visitor will realize the elaborated and time-consuming techniques Gaultier uses for his living artworks. The gown above is a mix of different types of embroidery and knitting.

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The exhibition closes by letting the visitor participate as a front-row guest at Gaultier’s fashion show and his bridal couture.

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For me, it was really interesting to read that Queen Victoria indirectly established the tradition of getting married in a white dress – before, women used to wear their best dress, no matter which colour.

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Like the wedding gown with native American elements shown above, Gaultier’s gowns are not only a mix of cultures and fabrics but also clearly not intended to be wedding gowns in the traditional sense: they should be something special and are often collected as art pieces. Furthermore, he also designs dresses for male brides.

If you happen to be in Munich, stop by and visit this amazing exhibition. It is open until February 14th, 2016.

(All the pictures have been taken by The Pink Lookbook at the Kunsthalle Munich. The information used in this article is based on the guided tour and the texts of the exhibition; courtesy of Kunsthalle Munich.)

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