Gotta go to Gaultier: Only 2 more weeks at the de Young
Whether or not you’re a regular art museum attendee, and whether or not you’re a fashionista, if you’re in San Francisco over the next two weeks make sure not to miss the enormous—and enormously entertaining—exhibition “John Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk,” which will end its run at the de Young museum on Sunday, August 19.
Fashion exhibits have become something of a cash cow for fine arts museums in recent years: the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met in New York and last year’s Balenciaga show here at the de Young have drawn enormous crowds, including many infrequent gallery-goers. Given the popularity of Project Runway, red carpet coverage, and other clothing-focused television programming, it’s easy to see how these museum shows have proven to be a mass-market lure. With any luck, new visitors to the museums have wandered astray of these travelling blockbusters and discovered some of the institutions’ own collections as well. It’s debatable.
It’s also debatable whether these exhibitions are having much influence on the opinion of more frequent museum-goers: Are more connoisseurs of painting and sculpture coming to feel that fashion is a “fine art”? Does the old-money old guard secretly sniff that couture belongs at the galas, not in the galleries? Quite possible.
But the tension between high art and pop culture is one of the things that makes the Gaultier show so exciting—and so much fun to talk about after a visit. And the exhibit itself: Wow! It’s one of the most theatrically presented museum exhibitions you’ve ever seen, with a conveyor belt “runway show,” talking mannequins, and stunning lighting design. There are 140 costumes on display—from punked out tartan plaids to Catholic saint pastiches to Madonna’s conical bras—along with sketches, video, and other archival ephemera.
But perhaps the most eclectic collection on offer is the crowd the show is attracting: An energizing mix of old and young, tourists and locals, those who find Gaultier’s designs inspirational and those who find them ridiculous. It is a paradise of people-watching and eavesdropping.
Check out John Paul Gaultier’s foray into dance music (Video after the jump)