3 April 2015
Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent, known as Yves Saint Laurent, loved À la recherche du temps perdu. In fact his fascination with Proust was so great that, in 1983, he and his partner in life and business Pierre Bergé bought Château Gabriel, the castle in which Marcel met Gaston Gallimard, his future publisher. On the door of Yves’ bedroom, a gilded plaque bears the name of Charles Swann in italics. Yves’s special and wistful relationship with timeless places is evoked in the monumental and fairytale castle that houses the exhibition Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal, seat of the Bowes Museum. The harmonious contrast of this building in the French manner immersed in the picturesque English countryside already hints at one of the peculiarities of YSL’s work, his effort to create an immortal style entangled in the vagaries of taste. An effort that must have been conscious, if one of his greatest desires was to model a masterpiece out of the evanescent material of fashion. In 1965 he tried to steal a little flame of eternity from art, with the Mondrian collection. But there was no need to steal, for the gesture was at once artistic and philosophical, with one of Mondrian’s canvases used as a decorative motif instead of a can of Campbell’s Soup. The blue, red, white and yellow dresses, in the shape of a trapezoid, wandered around the streets of Paris like mobile museums. Supreme irony for a model that Harper’s Bazaar had described as “the dress of tomorrow,” and that would shortly be circulating in thousands of second-rate copies. Yves Saint Laurent hated the bourgeoisie. He would have liked to be reborn as a beatnik and wanted to dress everyone, tired as he was of “designing for poker-faced millionaires.” And so Saint Laurent Rive Gauche was born, the first ready-to-wear boutique on the bohemian bank of the Seine. Thanks to him, the street became as exotic as Africa, the sea and the frontline: the safari tunic, the reefer jacket, the trench coat, the tuxedo for women. “The most important thing is to last,” he had confessed to Christian Lacroix in 1971, on the night of the Proust Ball organized by the Rothschilds. He could not. His clothes fortunately have succeeded and it will be possible to admire some of them—50 to be exact—in the glass rooms of the Bowes Museum.
Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal
The Bowes Museum
In collaborazione con la Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent
Barnard Castle, Durham
11 luglio – 25 ottobre 2015