Jean-Paul Gaultier: fashion in museums


Contemporary Art

More and more often, fashion is making itself at home in museums: Jean Paul Gaultier at the Barbican Centre in London is the latest in a long series of exhibitions devoted to great fashion designers. In recent years, exhibitions have become frequent, including on punk and hippy chic: Hussein Chalayan, Valentino, Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio Armani. In 2006, the Benetton Group celebrated its fortieth anniversary in one of the cathedrals of European culture: the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

This was an important recognition for fashion, which, over the past few years now, has finally come to be recognised as a fully dignified art form, much like as design has always been. This represents a fundamental change for unique creations, which are usually not easily accessible. They appear for a few moments on the catwalk, and then only at the photoshoots of major events, worn by celebrities.

In bringing fashion to museums the curator has a difficult challenge: his mission is to revive beloved brands in a new, wider perspective, with a longer life than in the ephemera of the sector periodicals. Prestigious collaborations, such as that of Germano Celant and Robert Wilson for the Armani retrospective, demonstrate the expressive possibilities that can be produced by fashion shows in museums, halfway between the history of art and theatre, halfway between high and pop culture.