‘Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal’. The first ever exhibition – in the UK – of the French designer Yves Saint Laurent’s life, and work, came to a close less than a week ago.
I decided it was an opportunity too good to miss, so before the exhibition closed its doors for good, I took myself over to the French Château-style museum in the North of England to have a look!This is just a small look through the magnificent display put on by The Bowes Museum in collaboration with Fondation Pierre Bergé – so follow me through…Entrance to the museum is free for Art Fund card holders – and still relatively inexpensive for general admission – so what are you waiting for?
The exhibition was scheduled to end mid October, but due to high demand was extended until early November. And so, tickets in hand, we entered the large space exhibition space on the first floor.The Bowes Museum pride themselves on their information booklets. They are printed up and freely available to inform in great detail about different elements of the exhibition.Yves Saint Laurent’s famed work was not squeezed into the textiles room, or into the contemporary white cube gallery space that sits opposite. Style is Eternal spread out to fill both spaces and the room in between!
Rather than move the existing french decor interior pieces that live on permanent display in the center room, large black gauze sheeting draped down from the ceiling to floor.These were printed with information about Yves Saint Laurent brand as well as beautifully lettered quotes from the designer himself.The first room had a wall filled with a huge variation of hat designs. These are a clear demonstration of how important the silhouette are to the central designs of everything produced by Yves Saint Laurent.
Notice that these are all produced in a cream neutral fabric. These are a form of ‘toiles’ which are best described as a three-dimensional drawing. They are a crafted design of the original sketch before committing to specific fabrics and adornments. So these hats on display are crafted purely to experiment and test the dynamics of silhouette – hence the beautiful curves and lines!Other displays included original paper doll cut-outs and designs that Yves Saint Laurent himself created! These were designed in mini collections to fit a doll he would make himself from photographs of famous women in magazines.The first room of the exhibition collaborated with the already existing space of The Bowes Museum Textile Room. Inside glass cabinets were situated historical costume dating back decades at a time. The end of each cabinet then housed an iconic design piece from Yves Saint Laurent that tied in a motif of the cabinet in some way.This is another example of how ‘fashion’ is a temporal creation, constantly looping back through time for inspiration and design techniques.Between the aisles were framed examples of Yves Saint Laurent collection mock-ups. Featuring notes, and fabric swatches for different garb ensembles.After reaching the end of the room, we sat and watched a two part documentary which featured an interview with Yves Saint Laurent himself. The rest covered the methods of the work rooms and the design processes behind creating a collection.The center of The Textiles Room was transformed into a display case of original ‘toiles’.Displayed together, the mannequins allow you to really appreciate the craft and detail put into this form of a ‘draft’ tailoring. The work is perfected over and over again with the neutral fabric to achieve the perfect lines and fall on the model. The jackets even feature mock buttons!After we felt we’d had our fill of the first room, we hurried over to the main exhibition space that held mannequin after mannequin adorned in finished ensembles from a huge number of collections! From Sumptuous Luxury…To Art Pop…To Magic and Mystery. The costumes from Yves Saint Laurent were curated and exhibited by style rather than chronological collection. This really allowed each section of the room to make an enormous impact!Follow on from the mannequin displays and you reach a shocking pink coloured corridor that looped around the back of the room.This featured framed photographs and sketches from other artists that used Yves Saint Laurent as this inspiration and focus.
And after seeing an exhibition like this – why wouldn’t you?So in depth, so carefully curated, such a unique experience! I felt very lucky to wander around the first British exhibition of the famed designers work and life!