Jean Paul Gaultier @ Barbican


I have personally always found the Barbican to be obnoxiously large and too out of the way for me to ever consider visiting on a regular basis. However, I cannot doubt that their exhibitions, concerts and performances are nearly always outstanding. This years earlier Pop Art Design show only encouraged me to make the effort to return for the current Jean Paul Gaultier display.

The first thing that immediately struck me were the exhibition’s mannequins. We are used to seeing faceless and expressionless figures. Gaultier’s dummies seem to make up for decades of lifeless mannequins with moving faces which have been reflected onto the figures. They blink, wink and talk in not only english, but also in french. They are truly striking, and despite becoming somewhat irritating by the time you finish going through the exhibition, you cannot deny that they are extremely innovative.

Gaultier has a career that has spanned over three decades, a retrospective making up the contents of the show with over 140 outfits as well as sketches, videos and photographs. The exhibition is spread across two floors in eight sections: odyssey, punk, muses, boudoir, metropolis, euro trash, skin deep and urban jungle. Within this is a moving catwalk and clips from his famed euro-trash series. The show was first exhibited in Montreal in 2011 with London being its eighth (!) city – this fact alone explaining why you should not miss it!

Included in amongst the exhibit are some of the designer’s most famous garments. These include the infamous Madonna conical-bra basque and men’s skirts. We can also see teddy bear’s in bras and suits embellished with cushions and feathers. Also on show are wedding dresses inspired by native americans as well as street wear influenced by hasidic jews – nobody would ever dare to call Gaultier boring. The show is risqué, but playful.

Pull out your breton stripes and don your beret, get down to the Barbican before the show ends!

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier is on display at Barbican until 25 August

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and also writes for After Nyne, Ibraaz and Reorient.

One thought on “Jean Paul Gaultier @ Barbican

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