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 aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

One thought on “Jean Paul Gaultier @ Barbican

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