The Guo Pei exhibition was wonderfully overwhelming. It’s a startling celebration of the vivid imagination; it’s a spectacular dive into sensual over-indulgence and it’s a masterful tribute to the artistic collaboration between the visionary and her executors.
My experience was enhanced through the company of Jane, the costumer, and Ashlee, who’s part of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s curatorial team.
I once thought fashion was the epitome of ludicrousness: I thought fashion designers were fabulists who pandered to the rich and ridiculous. I loathed every class of beings who aspired to it: Church leaders, heads of state, entertainers.
But as art, haute couture became my favourite form of sculpture/performance art. It capitalizes on the most versatile and most beautiful media I’ve ever seen.
What makes Guo Pei particularly spectacular to our Western eyes is that her imagery and design sense comes from a culture with a profound and rich tradition with colour, craft and design. Her work references extraordinarily inventive stories that are rich with fanciful shapes, curves and colours.
I could hear people asking their friends, “Who would wear [or buy] this?” They were thinking of the wrong end of the story of each dress. The question to ask is: “Who made this?”
Yes, it’s Guo Pei’s show but it’s studio art. Each piece screams of thousands of hours of handiwork by skilled assistants: seamstresses, bead weavers, feather masters, folders and furriers. This is one rich artist at work but the impact of expense is matched by her extraordinary and versatile vision.
Perhaps my greatest joy in seeing this show is seeing a woman at work. It’s always irked me that men have traditionally ruled the art world including the fashion empires. Fashion is a woman’s world and it felt right and spectacularly good to see a woman so gloriously in control.
Go away Karl Lagerfeld. Bye bye John Galliano. Goodnight JP Gaultier. Look at the real thing Donatella. Sorry Stella. Guo Pei is the master.
This is unschooled opinion of a man who simply loves art. I love to love it and I love to hate it; that’s what it’s for. I embrace all the emotions it inspires.