ZE GENTLE-MALE: JEAN PAUL GAULTIER RETROSPECTIVE AT THE BARBICAN



 
“I must be honest and say I didn’t want to do an exhibition at first. I thought that exhibitions were for those who are dead. And I am very much alive.”

– Jean Paul Gaultier –


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Having grown up in France as a teenager in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jean Paul Gaultier was omnipresent in the media and soon become a household name. Then at the apex of his career with the iconic conical bra and corsets Madonna wore during her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour, sailor apparel (A-Gent of Style now regrets disposing of his collection of Breton T-shirts), bewitching adverts for Classique (A-Gent‘s sister has solely worn this perfume since its inception two decades ago now) and later Le Mâle (A-Gent spent a lot of his pocket money on its fantastical limited editions bottles) through to the phenomenon that was Eurotrash when he moved to London in 1997, the enfant terrible of fashion has been on A-Gent of Style‘s cultural radar even since and somewhat made a lasting impression on his life with his unbridled creativity, imagination, theatricality, originality and of course humour (his French accent in English is also rather incomparable).


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Forward to last Wednesday and The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier:
From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk
opened at the Barbican, the first major exhibition devoted to the celebrated French couturier in the UK. Dubbed fashion’s enfant terrible by the press from the time of his first catwalk shows in the 1970s, Jean Paul Gaultier is arguably one of the most important fashion designers of recent decades. This phenomenal world tour to eight cities and theatrical installation of around 165 cutting-edge couture and ready-to-wear garments – more than one million visitors in North America and Europe have already seen it – explores Gaultier’s fashion world, from his witty and boundary-pushing designs to his ceaseless interest in society, identity, a beauty borne of difference (“Perfection is relative and beauty is subjective”) and the timelessness of his creations (none of them stuck in a particular era or time capsule).

Jean Paul Gaultier said : “I am super excited that the show is coming to London for two reasons. The first reason is that I always want to go to London, because London, for me, is a special place. In England I’ve got so many memories and I’ve had so many experiences and the English were the first ones to come to my shows and appreciate my fashion. If there is one place other than Paris that I should like to live in, it is London. I’ve got so many connections with London and feel at home there, even sometimes more than Paris. I like the spirit, the humour and little adventures that were funny, like Eurotrash. The second thing is the Barbican. It’s an honour for me because it’s a wonderful gallery and a wonderful place with extraordinary architecture and I think that showing my work there will be beautiful.”

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Celebrating the designer’s daring inventiveness, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk traces the influences that have marked Gaultier’s creative development from the streets of Paris to the DIY aesthetic of punk or fantasies of science fiction. It includes eight thematic sections; The Odyssey of Jean Paul Gaultier, Punk Cancan, Muses, The Boudoir, Metropolis, Eurotrash, Skin Deep and Urban Jungle. The exhibition also features a wealth of photography by collaborators such as Miles Aldridge, David LaChapelle, Peter Lindbergh, Pierre et Gilles, Herb Ritts, Stéphane Sednaoui, Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol as well as footage of catwalk presentations, concerts, music videos, films and dance performances. Other highlights include the Spitting Image puppet of Jean Paul Gaultier, on show for the first time in a UK gallery and dramatic metre-high Mohawk head pieces especially created by renowned hair stylist Odile Gilbert .

Designed as an installation rather than a conventional fashion retrospective,
this theatrically staged exhibition in a city at the heart of Gaultier’s creativity promises (and delivers) to be “bigger and better than ever”. It presents pieces created between 1970 and now, many of which are on show in Britain for the first time. The influence of and passion for British street culture that played on Gaultier’s life and consequently his creations are both tangible here (the maestro of camp and vamp has been coming to the UK for decades). It features over 30 custom-made mannequins wearing remarkable wigs and headdresses by Odile Gilbert that come alive, thanks to video projection, with interactive faces, surprising visitors with their lifelike presence (some smile, wink, speak or even sing!). Pure genius.

 

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Last Tuesday before the opening to the general public, A-Gent of Style was privileged to spend the entire day and evening for the media preview courtesy of both Catherine Ince, curator at the Barbican (whom A-Gent interviewed last December at the Sleep event for the Pop Art exhibition she co-curated) and Roche Bobois (see his feature on their Jean Cocteau collection here) delving for hours into Gaultier’s fascinating and unique world. The packed programme was a delectable series of events spread across the day which comprised a morning talk between the curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Jean Paul Gaultier himself (which you can view partly on Youtube here), an official photocall, the opening of the exhibition, a refreshment break mid-afternoon with limited edition éclairs by French bakery Paul customised with edible French Breton stripes, a fascinating fragrance symposium with genius French nose Francis Kurkdjian who created Le Male aftershave, Harper’s Bazaar’s Jo Glynn-Smith in her incredibly glamourous Prince of Wales suit, the curator and Jean Paul Gaultier himself who surprised the audience by gracing us with his presence in the last twenty minutes, a pause at the Bar Gaultier specially created for the show offering fashion-inspired cocktails (A-Gent of Style sampled a Oh la la, for the sake of research only, of course) and surrounded by sponsor Roche Bobois furniture from the inventive and playful new Gaultier collection, and finally a private view in the evening with a speech from the tireless Gaultier.



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A-Gent of Style was in awe of the couturier all day and felt very privileged to not only be part of this exciting event and to discover the incredible wealth of the couturier’s career now spanning three decades but also to meet a delightful, generous, charming, warm, naughty, witty, hilarious, humble, down-to-earth, self-deprecating man with an enviable and relentless positive energy.

So come and enter now with A-Gent of StyleFrom ze Sidewalk to ze Catwalk’,mes petits filous”:


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– All photos by A-Gent of Style





THE WONDERS OF ART FROM THE ISLAMIC AND INDIAN WORLDS AT CHRISTIE’S





Christie’s‘ An abundance of riches from the Islamic and Indian worlds will focus on three sales this week celebrating Islamic Art Week. Yesterday’s sale,
Oriental Rugs & Carpets, featured property from exceptional private collections from around the world, including rare 16th C weavings from Egypt, Damascus and Ottoman Turkey. Arts & Textiles of the Islamic & Indian Worlds this Friday will also offer a diverse array of works from across the spectrum of the category.

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But it is on the third and remaining sale that A-Gent of Style has decided to focus his attention today. Tomorrow’s auction, Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, 10 April at 11 a.m and 2.30pm, will cover works of art from across the Islamic world, notably Turkey, Iran and India. A-Gent of Style must come clean straight away and admit that he is a total ignoramus as far as islamic and Indian arts are concerned and you will not find in this feature any form of scholarly or specialist erudition. Christie’s specialists will do a much better job than I could ever do.

The reason for today’s feature was simply for A-Gent of Style to show you his selection of objects from the catalogue which either struck, charmed, surprised or attracted him for no other reason than their  visual impact and for representing a great source of inspiration for interior design projects.

Happy viewing or happy bidding!



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Encompassing folios, illustrations, paintings, pottery, rugs, panels, jewellery, ceramics and artillery, here are the objets that A-Gent of Style found compelling for either their aesthetic richness, calligraphic excellence, jewel-like quality, wealth, sophistication, beautiful colour combination, dazzling illumination, quality of execution, peaceful depiction, iconographic or figurative prowess, or purely their spectacular decoration.

If you want to know more information about any piece or its estimate, you can view Christie’s full catalogue here. Exhibitions of the sales are also on show at King Street and Christie’s South Kensington branch.



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– All images by Christie’s –



 

“DESIGN BRASILIERO, MODERNO E CONTEMPORANEO”



 
If A-Gent of Style could be granted one super power, it would be to be at different places at the same time. It would be futile indeed to try to keep up and keep abreast with the plethora of design-led events occurring in London at any given time let alone attend them all.


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By happenstance, A-Gent of Style went to the Embassy of Brazil two days ago to pick up a friend and whilst waiting for him in the lobby, he noticed in the room next door a furniture exhibition that he is delighted he came across.

Brazilian Design: Modern & Contemporary Furniture is the largest and most important exhibition ever offering a comprehensive overview of Brazilian modernist and contemporary design in the United Kingdom. In association with The Embassy of Brazil and Vanishing Points, it presents over 45 pieces on display and focuses on two distinctive periods of Brazilian design, comprising a time span of over 80 years and ultimately warranting the status of Brazil as one of the leading producers of furniture and object design in the world.


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Whilst A-Gent of Style recognises and appreciates the beauty in some iconic pieces that he has seen either in auction sales, design fairs or major museums from around the world, he must admit he was not completely conversant with modern Brazilian furniture until he saw this exhibition, which was not only an eye-opener but also a great way to familiarise himself with important designers or/and their creations.

A-Gent of Style particularly likes the Moderne, minimal and unfussy look of some pieces, like Tenreiro’s chaise longue or Motta’s Pierre Jeanneret-esque ‘Asturias’ armchair, and also the restraint elegance reminiscent of post-war Scandinavian furniture such as Tenreiro’s ‘Three Feet’ chair, Rodrigues’ Oscar chair, Zalszupin’s table, Mendes da Rocha’s Paulistana armchair or even Bo Bardi’s Bowl chair that is resonant with Jean Royère‘s Egg chair and also de Zanine’s contemporary Moeda chair most probably inspired by Mathieu Matégot’s perforated iconic pieces.


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Highlights include the Three Feet Chair and the Five-Woods Table by Joaquim Tenreiro; the Fish Bench, a unique piece designed by the Campana Brothers for their first ever exhibition in Brazil and Sideboard by José Zanine Caldas, considered by many as the first sustainable Brazilian designer. Other pieces on display are the Oscar Chair (Sergio Rodrigues), the Rio Chaise (Oscar Niemeyer), the Africa Chair (Rodrigo Almeida), the Moeda Chair (Zanini de Zanine), the Braz Chair (Carlos Motta), the Água Table (Domingo Tótora), the Bowl Chair (Lina Bo Bardi), a cupboard by Móveis Cimo and lighting pieces by Maneco Quindaré.


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Modernism, often referred to as the ‘Golden Years’ in Brazilian design started in the 1930s and 1940s following in the footsteps of the architectural movement that emerged in Brazil at that time, paradoxically influenced by the Bauhaus school, but which, at the same time, freed itself from traditional European aesthetics creating a language of its own. It was based on the use of concrete and glass materials.

The Contemporary Period thrived in the late 1980s along with all of the other creative movements that remained virtually stagnant for over 20 years during the military dictatorship. This period is notable for its diversity and irreverence in tandem with socioeconomic and environmental sustainability, as corroborated by the works of the designers such as the Campana Brothers, Carlos Motta,
Maneco Quinderé, Domingos Tótora, Zanini de Zanine, Rodrigo Almeida and Gustavo Bittencourt.

It is precisely through its diversity, irreverence, creativity and sustainability that the Brazilian design has achieved unequivocal recognition abroad, both through the accolade of international awards and circulation of key pieces at the selective and highly competitive international market. Solo exhibitions of contemporary exponents of Brazilian design can be seen at major museums around the world with many objects in important private collections as well.


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If you have a spare moment until 9 May to go to Trafalgar Square,
A-Gent of Style highly recommends you paid a visit to the Embassy of Brazil to see this brilliant exhibition in the beautifully dark-oak panelled,  Grade II listed
Sala Brasil, which is open Monday – Friday, 11am-5pm.

Sala Brasil Gallery, Embassy of Brazil, 14-16 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5BL. Free admission.


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– Photos by A-Gent of Style



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