heARTbeat: Jean Paul Gaultier Exhibition at San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum

ColumnFrom the Sidewalk to the Catwalk: Step into his world, and he might just sweep you off your feet.

In the scheme of things, couturier Jean Paul Gaultier may not, on the surface anyway, appear to be a “conscious” artist. An afternoon at San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum might change your mind.

Describing his exhibition as a “new adventure” by way of mixing collections to show the ideas that are important to him, Gaultier has succeeded in making a case for his combination of wit, cultural inclusion and sex appeal as artistic expression.

It goes without saying that his attention to detail and superb craftsmanship live up to the name of couture. But another pattern emerged from viewing the exhibit: Gaultier lifts us into another realm with his passion.

He says:

“I like character, special character that is different.  I try to show that, to communicate with the people.”

Indeed the exhibition uses clever tech to show mannequins speaking about the clothes they are wearing. The effect is astounding, not in its technical prowess, but rather in an almost analog feeling like the early animatronics used in the original exhibits at Disneyland. The lighting, audio, video and clothing combines to take us into Gaultier’s mind, gently, humorously and willingly.

It doesn’t hurt that the curators and designer let us close enough to touch the clothes (which of course is not permitted). Getting right up on that level of detail is a rarity. And therein lies the transformational quality of the experience. It is as though by being with his designs, one enters Gaultier’s wildly creative and inviting mind. In doing so we are left with an overwhelming desire, one that transcends fashion, design and art: he makes us smile.

And on that level of consciousness, we are grateful.

From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DeYoung Museum in San Franciscor uns through August 19, 2012.

Photo credit: Dominique Pacheco

Eco, trends, art, creativity and how they tumble through social media to shape culture fascinate EcoSalon columnist Dominique Pacheco. Her trends blog, mixingreality, speaks to these topics daily, and here at EcoSalon, she takes a weekly look at the intersection of eco and art. We call it heARTbeat.

Dominique Pacheco

Dominique Pacheco is the author of EcoSalon's weekly heARTbeat column.