Yves Saint-Laurent to Museums

Twenty years ago, Yves Saint-Laurent, the most artistic of French couturiers, presented his last show in Beaubourg. In his fashion house created in 1962, he has never ceased, throughout his collections, to maintain a dialogue with art: painting, sculpture, literature, theater or cinema have nourished his imagination and his creations. It now enters the museum, further recognition of its creation as a national heritage. In a new format, YVES SAINT LAURENT AUX MUSÉES is an anniversary exhibition that is taking place in six Parisian museums: the Centre Pompidou, the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, the Louvre Museum, the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée National Picasso-Paris and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris. It illustrates the continuity and deep unity of the links that the couturier weaves with art but also with French public collections. Supported by the Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, the exhibition YVES SAINT LAURENT AUX MUSÉES, created by games of rapprochement and references, a dialogue between certain models, among the most iconic of the couturier, but also beautiful discoveries less known to the public, and the permanent collections of various Parisian museums.

At the Centre Pompidou, at the heart of the Musée national d’art moderne, the tour approaches the work of Yves Saint Laurent as that of an artist deeply rooted in his time and as a witness to the evolution of artistic creation in the twentieth century. Absolute master of this period, Picasso holds a special place in the work of the couturier as evidenced by the games of quotations proposed at the Musée National Picasso-Paris. Sensitive to the correspondences between the arts, Yves Saint Laurent never ceases to juggle between rhythms and colors, lights and materials, like the dialogues set out at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, which alternate monumental rooms and more intimate sequences. At the Louvre Museum, it is the couturier’s fascination for light, for gold – the color of the sun – for the decorative arts but also and especially for the great pageantry that is honored in the gallery of Apollo. However, all these trajectories that respond to each other cannot be apprehended without questioning the role and place that Marcel Proust occupies in the imagination of the couturier. This Proustian passion, as well as the question of gender through male-female dress codes, are explored at the Musée d’Orsay.

At the Centre Pompidou, Mouna Mekouar, curator of these six exhibitions, and curators Christian Briend and Marie Sarrey, revealed Saint-Laurent’s interest in Africa. The coat in red raffia and wooden beads, reminiscent of Dogon ritual clothes, dialogue with André Breton’s cabinet of curiosities, the black dress with conical chest in organza embroidered with plastic beads coexists with the Unpleasant Object of the sculptor Alberto Giacometti. At the Picasso Museum, the couturier borrows from the cubist aesthetic of the great master, eternal games of construction and deconstruction. In 1979, Saint-Laurent dedicated a complete autumn-winter collection to the Spanish painter, like this dress that takes up the asymmetrical faces in the painter’s eye.

At the Louvre, in the Apollo Gallery, the art department of the world’s largest museum houses crown diamonds. Four embroidered jackets compete with the goldsmith’s shop, including the famous Rhinestone Heart, a brooch worn by one of his models during each show.

Marcel Proust’s work was very dear to Yves Saint-Laurent. The Musée d’Orsay has chosen the Salon de l’Horloge to exhibit the dresses worn in 1971 by Jane Birkin and Marie-Hélène de Rothschild for the ball organized by the latter in her castle of Ferrières to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Marcel Proust. Yves Saint Laurent created Belle Époque-inspired dresses for Nan Kempner, Hélène Rochas, Jane Birkin and the mistress of the place. They coexist here with different tuxedos, iconic pieces of the couturier, reinvented year after year, a garment that transferred the codes of male power to women.

“I am a failed artist,” yves Saint-Laurent said in a press interview in 2000, admitting to having drawn from the greatest artists of his time. Through his models, it is indeed a whole culture, a whole artistic universe that is expressed. Because in his creative power, Yves Saint Laurent reinvents, with rigor and fantasy, all the plastic heritage of the world. In this perspective, this vast project of exhibitions envisages the creation of Yves Saint Laurent, as crossed by different cultures and temporalities.

Echoing the masterpieces presented in the permanent collections of the partner museums, part of the archives of the fashion house – preciously gathered by Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent – are presented at the Yves Saint Laurent Museum Paris.

January 29 – May 15, 2022