20th Century Design

Major Yves Saint Laurent Exhibition Opens in Paris

By Sotheby's

As the first temporary thematic exhibition since the opening of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris in October 2017, Yves Saint Laurent: Dreams of the Orient will bring together approximately fifty high fashion designs inspired by India, China and Japan. These pieces from the collection of the Museum will be displayed in dialogue with Asian artworks borrowed from the Musée national des arts asiatiques - Guimet and private collectors.

Yves Saint Laurent in his apartment with a 16th century gold and red lacquered wooden Buddha of the Ming Dynasty, 5 rue de Babylone, Paris, 1977.
“All I need for my imagine to blend into a place, or a landscape is a picture book […] I don’t feel any need to go there. I have already dreamt about it so much ...”
Yves Saint Laurent

Evening ensembles, Autumn/Winter 1994 Haute Couture collection. © Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris / Sophie Carre.

Inspired by his “imaginary travels”, Yves Saint Laurent delivered, throughout his collections, a dreamed vision of faraway countries. He was heavily influenced by knowledge drawn from his lectures, and closely researching and studying works of art and craftsmanship from the regions that fascinated him. The designer dived deep into the local traditions, explored the folklore, and began to develop his unique depictions of traditional clothing. Among his “exoticisms”, Asia is a recurring theme throughout his work.

L-r: Short evening suit, Spring/Summer 1982 Haute Couture collection; Long evening dress, Autumn/Winter 1969 Haute Couture collection. © Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris / Sophie Carre.

Yves Saint Laurent offered both a literal and imaginary vision of Asia. Throughout his career, he looked at Indian, Chinese and Japanese traditional clothing, to bring to life high fashion creations. Since his first collections, he has reinterpreted the sumptuous cloaks from Indian sovereigns, and then, Imperial China inspired the Autumn-Winter 1977 Collection, for which he presented a theatrical interpretation of traditional fabrics and techniques.

Yves Saint Laurent, Research sketch for the launch of Opium, circa 1977-1978. © Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris/Jean-François Chavanne.

This same year, the designer drew attention to his Asian influences through a new fragrance. The “sulphurous” Opium sparked controversy when it was first launched, which contributed to its worldly success. Fascinated by Japan, and especially the drama of Kabuki theatre, Saint Laurent later revisited the kimono in many of his designs, a selection of which can be seen on display in this illuminating exhibition.

“Asia has long exerted a fascination on European artists. In his collections, Yves Saint Laurent delivers a personal vision of it, built on a thorough knowledge of its story, its culture and its art”

Every year, the exhibition program of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris is punctuated by a temporary thematic exhibition from October to January, which is then followed by a retrospective program from February to September.

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