The Fashion World of John Paul Gaultier: from Sidewalk to Catwalk recently debuted at the New DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park. Friday night's party was my first chance to see it. Major art institutions like the DeYoung and the Palace of the Legion of Honor have caught flack in the past for over emphasizing expensive wardrobes -- the Yves St Laurent and Balenciaga shows come to mind -- rather than more challenging exhibitions. Fashion can be high art, no doubt, but the primary patrons of major local art institutions are also famously fashionable themselves (see Dede Wilsey) and the conflict of interest between the galleries and their own clothes closets is fair critical game. However, the JPG Exhibition seems a clothes horse of a different breed; a new and truly exciting kind of blockbuster.
I was caught off guard by how much FUN the night proved to be and how Gaultier's presentation electrified the crowd.
Upstairs in the main hall, a full-on homemade fashion extravaganza raged to club beats, flashing bulbs, and a stream of locals waiting their chance to walk the red carpet.
I've never seen the DeYoung as packed, and for good reason. It felt like a true happening.
Downstairs in the subterranean galleries, the JPG Exhibition dazzled. Mannequins seem to come to life and the ultra-high quality couture had jaws dropping as often as the soundtrack beats blaring in SurroundSound. Spilling far beyond the fashion world, Gaultier's craft takes film, music, sex, and street life into a fantasy world at once relentless, rarified and desirable. Madonna's cone bustiers, image, music and vibe are all over his work, reminding me how both of them are as familiar to me in my times as any underground touchstone I've ever mined.
Be sure to see the Exhibition through August 19th, more than once if you can as it is a sensory overload like premium MDMA on a great night out. Remember to keep hydrated and retreat frequently to the upstairs chill galleries for a regrounding in the classics.