Posted on May 24th, 2011 by .

Since The Costume Institute’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty opened at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, popular culture has rediscovered the relationship between fashion design and art. In a stroke of serendipity, this summer the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts pays tribute to another iconic haute couture designer of our time, this one alive and well: The incomparable Jean Paul Gaultier.

In the 1980s, he sent men in skirts down the runway. In the ’90s, he put Madonna on stage in the infamous cone bra for her Blond Ambition Tour. Sources say the avant-garde French designer, whose daring coups over the years earned him the nickname “enfant terrible”, is excited about attending the June 17 premiere of his career retrospective in Montreal, which marks the 35th anniversary of the couturier’s own label.

Like the late McQueen, Gaultier stands out not only because of his technique but because of his art, identity and influence upon the world. “I wanted to create an exhibition on Jean Paul Gaultier more than any other couturier because of his great humanity,” said Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Musem of Fine Arts.

Certainly, Jean Paul Gaultier’s avant-garde creations have always toyed with public perception of the human condition and social issues like gender roles and identity. His work has served as art and social commentary. For example, he’s known for using models who break the industry stereotype (think gender-bending, age, tattoos and piercings). Ultimately, though, his designs are also beautiful and ultimately wearable — and always with a sense of humour. Just like his vision of the world.

Organized in collaboration with the Maison Jean Paul Gaultier, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ exhibit is called The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. Organized in six sections that thematically correspond to Gaultier’s creative development, the highly-anticipated show features some 120 ensembles Gaultier created between 1976 and 2010 (from both couture and pret-a-porter). Also on the menu are fashion photography and contemporary art by legends like Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, David LaChapelle, Mario Testino and Steven Klein, to name but a few. Many of these prints are on loan and have never before been seen by the public.

True to the couturier’s cutting-edge and playful aesthetic, a highlight of the exhibit will be thirty mannequins, their faces brought to life by audiovisual projection (created by local theatre company UBU)- Melissa Auf der Maur and Suzie Leblanc are among a handful of Montreal celebrities who lent their faces and voices to the mannequins.

Gaultier is well-known for his artistic collaborations with pop stars, filmmakers and leaders of contemporary dance. He’s worked with not only Madonna, but also Kylie Minogue, Pedro Almodovar, Peter Greenaway, Luc Besson, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and many more. The exhibit also includes sketches, stage costumes, multimedia film and video excerpts from the couturier’s work with concerts, videos, dance and television.

(Oh, and by the way, the cone bra is reportedly back, as part of Gaultier’s new 23-piece collection for La Perla lingerie.)

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, June 17-October 2, 2011

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1380 Sherbrooke West, (514) 285-2000


Guest Blogger Simona Rabinovitch is a Montreal native who lives Brooklyn, New York. She covers arts, culture, travel and entertainment-type stuff for the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, ELLE Canada, Lonely Planet, Zink, DazedDigital and more.

Photo Credit: ©Mathieu Baumer, ©William Mazzoleni


  1. Villas France

    / Nov 29th

    It was an amazing exhibition, thank you Montreal!

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