love is love x mmfa
The main reason I spent two weeks in Mauritius Island aka the furthest place I've travelled ever, was to celebrate the wedding of my dear friends f&pj. As a way of putting myself in wedding mode before the longest plane ride ever, I've visited the exhibition Love is Love at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition showcases Jean-Paul Gaultier's "most beautiful bridal creations" with the following headline: wedding bliss for all.
For those who don't know Jean-Paul Gaultier, in the past (80s and 90s) he has always made an effort to associate with the most controversial people, people who were considered outcasts because of their sexuality (mostly. He associated with other people for other reasons too but for the sake of this post, let's just focus on that). He is mostly known for his iconic conical bra and corset, wore by Madonna for her Blond Ambition tour. He also launched the career of Eve Salvail, from Matane, QC, whose shaved head and dragon tattoo gave her a sexually ambiguous look (for the time).
Gaultier is known as the enfant terrible of fashion because of his references to street and popular culture. In Love is Love, you can also tell he's been influenced by "cultures" in general, freely appropriating African and Indigenous cultures in his creations.
Obviously, there are many things I question with this exhibition:
- why only Jean-Paul Gaultier? There are many fashion designers who are known for their bridal creations (Vera Wang, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino (!!!) that could have been featured in an exhibition on creative wedding dresses.
- Is Jean-Paul Gaultier used because of a personal relationship with the museum director Nathalie Bondil? There already was a Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibit at the same museum (remember, 2011, The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier, from the Sidewalk to the Catwalk ? Even some models, clothes and technology are repeated in this current show)
- The MMFA keeps saying it is a humanist museum. I'm assuming the main goal of housing this exhibition through this new agenda, is to represent itself as open to groups marginalized for their sexuality? Isn't there a better exhibition to do that?
- As a humanist museum, why was it allowed to bring the culturally appropriated African and Indigenous dress in this show? Is this supposed to be some sort of celebration?
Even the actual wall text speaks on the impact of Dior in Haute Couture. But if I must critic this show and look at Jean-Paul Gaultier only, let me say this:
The museum has invited Kent Monkman to interact with the appropriated Indigenous wedding dress, which for me, was one of the best thing coming out of that show. Monkman is supposed to answer to this piece through a performance, which I am extremely excited to hear about / see the final result.
Some of the dresses were really, really really beautiful and it was very exciting to be able to see them from so close. Obviously I had massive #weddinginspo but as irrelevant as this could seem, seeing critical pieces in fashion history from so close literally gives me goosebumps, which is a plus for this show.
Another surprise for me was the complete absence of Julie Snyder's wedding dress from her last wedding with Pierre-Karl Péladeau: the exhibition is about love, the dress was creative, beautiful, and worn by one of the most important figure in entertaining in Quebec, and has been worn at one of the most "important" wedding of the province. Why wasn't it featured in an exhibition about love in the province of Quebec? Please enlighten me.
I must give credit where credit is due: Sandra Gagné, Head of exhibition production at the MMFA did a STELLAR job the exhibition design. Collaborating with Jurgen Bey in the creation of a huge wedding cake to display the dresses, allowing enough space to navigate around the dresses and being able to make a small space crowded with dresses and sound so breathable and calming deserve consideration. Chapeau Sandra Gagné, you really saved this show.
The exhibition is up until October 22nd. Go see it and let's have a chat!