The main museums of Paris pay tribute to the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. His creations are recognized as works of art along with masterpieces of painting and sculpture. Until the end of spring, six of the best collections of the French capital are on display.

At the Yves Saint Laurent Museum

The formal occasion for such a museum festival is the 60th anniversary of Yves Saint Laurent. So, on January 29, 1962 the 26-year-old designer Yves Henri Dona Mathieu-Saint Laurent presented his first collection under his own name (though he reduced the name a little bit). And the experts immediately noticed in his works quotations from paintings, drawings and decorative arts of past epochs. The very first collection by Yves, made for Dior, openly alluded to the Russian sundresses, recreated according to sketches for the “Russian Seasons” by Diaghilev. Each new series of dresses and suits quoted Saint Laurent’s favorite impressionists and modernists more and more frankly.

The master’s sudden death in 2008, as well as the high-profile sale in 2009 of his art collection, assembled together with his friend and companion Pierre Bergé, exposed the main nerve of Yves Saint Laurent’s life and work: from his school in Algerian Oran to his triumphs on the catwalks of Paris, he had a sincere passion for art and worshiped artists. In his house, Roman statues stood next to ancient Chinese screens. Saint Laurent was a true Frenchman: he valued lightness, virtuosity and outrage.

All these qualities are conveyed by six exhibitions in six top museums in Paris. Each of these museums shows what exhibits Saint Laurent was inspired by. This is how the dialogue between art and fashion takes place in six series. The exhibitions run until May 15.

Museum of Modern Art in Paris

Unfortunately, this museum is not popular with tourists and the general public. And for good reason – there are large-scale works (some of them occupy an entire hall) by artists who followed the Impressionists. The huge picturesque gardens and parks of Pierre Bonnard, the embankments of Raoul Dufy… Only here you can fully feel the charm of Paris at the height of its artistic powers at the end of the XIX century. Against a backdrop of picturesque blossom, the organizers of the Saint Laurent retrospective have placed in the halls with the post-Pressionists such models dominated by color and a variety of shades of color. From 1960s tuxedos to the 2001 yacht collection, everything is imbued with sunshine and the freshness of foliage.


In the Royal Louvre, the Apollo Gallery is devoted to Saint Laurent’s masterpieces. Here – in the glitter of gold and mirrors – royal relics (crowns, scepters and other attributes of the supreme power from the 16th to the 19th century) are constantly on display. It is quite logical that the most luxurious and most expensive works of Yves Saint Laurent are in this room. In a separate showcase the “Versailles jacket” shimmers with natural crystals and gold embroidery. It is accompanied by other pieces of French haute couture.

Picasso Museum

In the twentieth century there seems not to have been a single phenomenon in art and culture where the influence of the great Pablo Picasso did not appear. The French couturier experienced two waves of this influence at once: at first he was fascinated by early Picasso, his “blue period” and sketches of decorations for ballets. Then came a time of fascination with Cubism. In 1988 Saint Laurent launched his “cubist” collection of jackets. His relationship with Picasso was not easy: the couturier did not like the artist’s cruel treatment of his models and lovers. Saint Laurent repeatedly stressed that his woman appreciates her individuality and is able to defend it.

Musée d’Orsay

Claude Monet’s lavish chiffon dresses by Saint Laurent are worthy of special attention. But here it’s even cooler: the museum has collected the costumes that the couturier designed for Marcel Proust’s ball in 1971. The Rothschild family hosted this ball at the Château de Ferrières for the writer’s 100th anniversary. Yves Saint Laurent has surpassed himself: his models are as if the heroes of the XIX century came to the club party in the XX century and got down to all the tricks.

Yves Saint Laurent Museum

At a time when masterpiece models have been removed to other museums, the personal treasure house of the Pierre Bergé Foundation – YSL has become a kind of alchemist’s laboratory. Here step by step they show how haute couture is created. From the first sketches on napkins and careless sketches in notebooks to the most complicated patterns and several variants of one model. Notably, for almost every dress a separate mannequin was created – it was important for Saint Laurent how the fabric would behave when you move and change the angle. Luxury in this workshop is combined with simplicity and even asceticism: till the end of his life great couturier used one table – it was just a sheet of plywood on four wooden bars.

Pompidou Center

The main exhibit around which the exposition at the Pompidou Center unfolds is the famous Mondrian dress created for the Fall/Winter 1965-1966 collection. It was inspired by the geometric abstractions of Piet Mondrian. Paintings by the Dutch artist are placed nearby, like models on a catwalk. Laurent’s creations are also embedded in the halls with Sonia Delaunay’s graphics. But a particularly striking juxtaposition was made with American pop art. It is noteworthy that the last show of Yves Saint Laurent took place in the Pompidou Center in 2002, after which the maestro left his fashion house.

Photo: Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris/© Yves Saint Laurent/Nicolas Mathéus/CLAUDINE COLIN COMMUNICATION; Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris/© Yves Saint Laurent/Hélène Mauri/CLAUDINE COLIN COMMUNICATION