The art of Yves Saint Laurent: design house marks 60th anniversary | Yves Saint Laurent

Simultaneous exhibitions to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Yves Saint Laurent’s first collection will be held from six major Paris museums in an unprecedented tribute from the art world to the late French designer.

Events in museums, including the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, will reveal how the celebrated couturier drew inspiration from some of the greatest artists of the 20th century including Picasso, Matisse and Mondrian.

A fall / winter 1981 ensemble inspired by Henri Matisse's La Blouse Roumaine (1940).
A complete from YSL’s autumn / winter 1981 collection inspired by Henri Matisse’s La Blouse Roumaine (1940). Photography: Nicolas Mathéus / Bequest of H. Matisse / Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, Paris

Mouna Mekouar, who curated the multi-center event that will showcase the designer’s work in the context of each establishment’s permanent collections, said the participation of some of France’s largest and most renowned museums was unprecedented.

“I thought it would be impossible to get so many museums to accept our idea, but they were all very interested and enthusiastic from the start. This is the first time they have all worked together on a project, ”Mekouar said.

“Saint Laurent was very inspired by art and this shows the connections and dialogue between his work and the museum’s exhibits. We didn’t want to put the clothes in one room, we wanted them there among the permanent collections.

YSL jacket from the spring / summer 1971 collection inspired by Made in Japan-La Grande Odalisque (1964) by Martial Raysse.
YSL jacket from the spring / summer 1971 collection inspired by Made in Japan-La Grande Odalisque (1964) by Martial Raysse. Photography: YVES SAINT LAURENT AT THE MUSEUMS

“In this way visitors will be able to rediscover those collections and at the same time pay homage to Yves Saint Laurent. It is like a cultural archipelago ».

Saint Laurent, who died in 2008 at the age of 71, was only 26 when he founded his haute couture house with businessman Pierre Bergé in December 1961. He had moved to Paris nine years earlier, where his models quickly gained attention and he met Christian Dior, then a colossus in the fashion world.

Yves Saint-Laurent with models after his first haute couture show in Paris in January 1962.
Yves Saint-Laurent with models after his first haute couture show in Paris in January 1962. Photography: AFP

On 29 January 1962 Yves Saint Laurent presented his first haute couture show.

“I believe that the work of a couturier is very similar to that of an artist. Indeed, I have constantly found inspiration in the work of contemporary painters: Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, ”Saint Laurent later said.

“Always influenced by painting, I owe my July 1966 collection to American painters such as Wesselman, Roy Lichtenstein. All my clothes were illuminated by landscapes, moons and sunlight, “she added.

A YSL jacket from the 1979 fall / winter collection inspired by Pablo Picasso's Portrait of Nusch Éluard (1937).
A YSL jacket from the 1979 fall / winter collection inspired by Pablo Picasso’s Portrait of Nusch Éluard (1937). Photography: Picasso Estate – Copyright management / YVES SAINT LAURENT AT THE MUSEUMS

“How could I resist the pop art which was the expression of my youth”.

The six museums that participate in Yves Saint Laurent Aux Musées, which runs from January 29 to May 15, are the Center Pompidou, the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, the Musée du Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée Picasso and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent.

Each will present different aspects of Saint Laurent’s work. At the Louvre there will be some of his most exceptional pieces, including jackets embroidered with gold and crystals. At the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, Saint Laurent’s designs will echo the colors of artists Pierre Bonnard and Raoul Dufy. The Musée d’Orsay will showcase some of the evening gowns it created for the Proust Ball on the occasion of the writer’s 100th birthday whose guests dressed as Saint Laurent included Baron Guy de Rothschild and Jane Birkin.

Yves Saint Laurent, photographed by Jeanloup Sieff in 1971.
Yves Saint Laurent, photographed by Jeanloup Sieff in 1971. Photograph: Jeanloup Sieff Estate / Center Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist.

A total of 50 Saint Laurent creations and around 300 models will be exhibited as part of the exhibition. At the Yves Saint Laurent museum, visitors will be guided through the creative process from the sketch to the finished garment.

Mekouar spoke of the “dialogue” that Saint Laurent created between “art and literature” and stated that the designer expressed “an entire artistic universe” through his creations.

“It was not just a collection, but the entire work of his life that was linked to art. It is about looking at Saint Laurent from the point of view of art. Both Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé were great art collectors and this had a great influence on fashion designs, ”Mekouar said.

Headdress sketches made for the high society Bal des Têtes, 1956.
Headdress sketches made for the high society Bal des Têtes, 1956. Photography: Jean-François Chavanne / MUSEUM D’ORSAY / YVES SAINT LAURENT AT THE MUSEUMS

“I think he would never have said he was an artist, but today with the links between art and fashion I think we can see Saint Laurent as a creative artist.”

Madison Cox, an American garden designer who married Bergé shortly before his death in 2017, and who is president of the Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, said the exhibition was an extraordinary showcase “of one of the greatest innovators of French fashion “.

“For Yves Saint Laurent, the fine arts have been an inexhaustible source of inspiration, embracing all cultures throughout history. This constant dialogue was a key element of the designer’s boundless ingenuity and creativity, ”Cox wrote.

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