For the first time in its 55-year history, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade (MoCAB) presents haught couture - an exhibition of wedding dresses by French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, which is organized on the initiative of Viktor Kiš, the Acting Director of MoCAB, despite the opposition of the entire curatorial team, as well as strong criticism from the wider professional public.
The visiting exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal Love is Love: Wedding Bliss for All a la Jean Paul Gaultier was opened virtually, with recorded messages from Gaultier and the curator of the project Thierry-Maxime Loriot, while a live broadcast was available on the museum's YouTube channel. The initially planned gala opening ceremony in the physical space was postponed for a week due to cases of Corona virus infections in the MoCAB. The ceremony was then transferred to virtual space, and visitors are invited to visit the exhibition in small groups and at scheduled times until February 14, 2021. Tickets are available at a price of 600 Dinars, which makes them the most expensive museum exhibition tickets in Belgrade. With the same ticket, though, the audience can visit a part of the exhibition of acquisitions of MoCAB, which was left without exhibits on the fifth floor, in order to make space for Gaultier's wedding dresses.
The curatorial team of MoCAB opposed the guest appearance of Gaultier's exhibition, considering that the exhibits themselves - wedding dresses, are not appropriate for the program policy of the Museum. The curators were especially indignant because the original concept of the exhibition "Reflections of our time - Acquisitions of MoCAB 1993-2019" was violated due to Gaultier's exhibition.
Also, they expressed strong protest because of the very idea of hosting a traveling exhibition as expensive. "At a time when museums are facing the problems of closures or reduced numbers of visitors due to the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic - the idea of investing in an extremely expensive traveling 'blockbuster' exhibition, expected to bring profit with a large turn-out, is a reflection of an extremely unprofessional, incompetent and socially irresponsible management of the institution ", the curators stated.
The Serbian section of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA Serbia) characterized Gaultier's exhibition as an "act of highhandedness " by the Acting Director, who "once again showed disrespect for the professional team of employees, for works of art that are part of the collection of MoCAB and at the same time an integral part of the current exhibition, for their authors, as well as for rules and procedures in managing cultural institutions of national importance".
The head management of MoCAB, however, believes that Gaultier's exhibition is a reflection of following world trends and a way to gain a new audience. MoCAB also highlights Gaultier's "cruel re-examination of gender, ethnic and religious conventions" and his "commitment to the fight for human rights and the promotion of cultural diversity".
"Following the latest museum trends, MoCAB opens its doors to new audiences and haught couture," as it was said at the opening, mentioning record breaking visits to individual fashion exhibitions in museums such as the New York Metropolitan or the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Gaultier's Belgrade exhibition features 38 haute couture wedding garments created in the period 1990-2020, Love is Love: Wedding Bliss for All a la Jean Paul Gaultier is the grand finale of the record breaking retrospective exhibition: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, that, shown at 12 cities around the world since 2011, attracted over two million visitors.
Exclusively in MoCAB eight wedding dresses that were not part of the exhibition before are now displayed, and they are substitutes for dresses that have been sold or for some other reason cannot be displayed.
The exhibition was organized thanks to Gaultier's longtime associate Jelka Music, who is originally from Serbia.
According to MoCAB, the exhibition costs 55,000 Euros with additional promotion costs, and was realized with the "generous support" of numerous partners and sponsors: the Government of Serbia, the EU Delegation to Serbia, the Canadian Embassy in Serbia, the French Institute in Serbia, the National Theater in Belgrade, and the company Galenika as the main sponsor.
The Acting Director of MoCAB recently provoked loud reactions from the professional public due to his idea of building a cafe on the museum ground floor, which he gave up after the protest of the curators and an intervention from the Ministry of Culture and Information and the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Belgrade.
*Photo: Bojana Janjić