Recently I had the priveldge of visiting The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk At the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum to name a few examples.
Fashion as a medium encompasses a lot: 2D process works, fashion photography and video, performance, garments etc.
I can’t imagine how curators go about organizing and conveying all of this information in these large fashion exhibitions.
Something I have come to dislike about fashion exhibitions is the theatrics that accompany them. It seems that fashion bridges the gap between the fine art world popular culture. Fashion exhibitions bring people to museums that might not frequently visit museums. My experience is that museums tend to cater to that. They bring a level of theatrics through sets, sound, and accessories that just bombard the viewer, and try to tell them what they should be experiencing. Instead of giving the viewer a chance to form their own opinion, and letting the great fashion works, stand up for themselves. (the Cooper Hewitt Did a great job of not bombarding the viewer with too much other stuff)
I wish that curators could give the space and breadth to the garments we are observing that you would give a painting, sculpture or installation. I can’t imagine building a set and or adding music to display a sculpture.
I also am consistently let down to observe fashion on mannequins. Clothing was meant to be worn, to have movement. I dream of an exhibition that hires live models or finds some other creative way to bring garments to life instead of sitting there motionless.
That being said, I think the Jean Paul Gaultier was closer to this dream than the others I mentioned. All the mannequins had faces projected on them and they were speaking as you walked by. The projection over a mannequin with a nose distorted the face a little and made it almost alien like. But it made the still models more active and interesting than any other fashion exhibition I’ve seen. There were still a lot of unnecessary theatrics that compete with what I was actually there to see. But as usual to see such exquisite examples of fashion up-close, I am willing to try and block out the distracting additives.
Still, Gaultier has an impressive lifetime of work on display, and it is worth investigating.