18-Oct, 02:23

04:45, September 27 130 0

2017-09-27 04:45:03
In Paris, a New Museum to Celebrate Yves Saint Laurent

On Thursday a new jewel of a museum is to be celebrated in an elegant 19th-century mansion here. The great and the good of the city are expected to attend: political heavyweights, actresses such as Catherine Deneuve and Charlotte Gainsbourg, designers like Alber Elbaz and Anthony Vaccarello, creative director at Yves Saint Laurent.

But the man whose dream it was will not be there.

Pierre Bergé, a former chief executive of Yves Saint Laurent, died Sept. 8 at the age of 86. This fall his last monumental projects are finally coming to fruition: the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris, which opens to the public next week in the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation building, and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakesh, in Morocco, scheduled to open Oct. 19.

Both are a tribute to Yves Saint Laurent, the man whose designs changed the way women dress, and to the cities and cultures that inspired him. And both were more than a decade in the making.

The museums — which will have rotating exhibitions of Mr. Saint Laurent’s couture, including such memorable pieces as the 1965 Mondrian dresses, Cossack-style brocade coats from the 1976 Ballets Russes collection, and the 1988 van Gogh “Sunflowers” jacket — embody “the yin and the yang” of Mr. Saint Laurent’s life, the celebrated landscape architect Madison Cox said. He is Mr. Bergé’s widower as well as head of the foundation that runs the institutions.

“No one was more quintessentially Parisian than Yves,” Mr. Cox said. “But he would go to Marrakesh whenever he could.”

The plan for the pair of institutions was born in Paris after Mr. Bergé and Mr. Saint Laurent sold the Rive Gauche ready-to-wear brand to Gucci Group (now Kering) in 1999. In the billion-dollar deal, Mr. Bergé and Mr. Saint Laurent retained control of the haute couture division and the company’s headquarters at 5 Avenue Marceau, which they had been leasing since 1974.

Following Mr. Saint Laurent’s retirement in 2002, they bought the building and transformed it into the foundation headquarters, with about 2,200 square feet of galleries on the ground level for temporary exhibits. Mr. Saint Laurent and Mr. Bergé maintained their longtime offices on the second floor, while a climate-controlled storage space on the third and fourth floors held Mr. Saint Laurent’s vast archives, which Mr. Bergé began conserving in 1964.

They opened the galleries to the public in 2004, offering three or four exhibitions each year, from ruminations on Mr. Saint Laurent’s designs to celebrations of the art and literature he loved, like the work of David Hockney and Marcel Proust.

After Mr. Saint Laurent died in 2008 at 71, Mr. Bergé oversaw the foundation on his own and realized the shows that revolved around Mr. Saint Laurent’s clothes were by far the most popular.

Two years ago, Mr. Cox said, “an idea started to germinate to transform the temporary spaces into a semipermanent exhibition on Saint Laurent. There is great interest in Saint Laurent’s work today, by both those who grew up with him, and the younger generation who know the brand but not his designs.

“Pierre understood that we needed to create a context where Saint Laurent’s work could be viewed,” he said.

Mr. Bergé asked an old friend, the interior designer Jacques Grange, who had decorated the couture house in the 1980s as well as several of Mr. Saint Laurent and Mr. Bergé’s homes, to rework the Avenue Marceau floor plan once again. This time, he was to include Mr. Saint Laurent’s studio, which had remained untouched, in the public space.

Mr. Grange recalled that Mr. Bergé said: “Only you can do this museum. You are the decorator of Yves Saint Laurent. There is no question, and that’s it.”

Mr. Grange’s original opulent décor in the foyer and adjoining round antechamber included a moss-green moiré printed carpet, plush emerald velvet curtains, crystal-laden lighting and ample amounts of gold leaf. “Yves called me back then, and said, ‘You know what I want, Jacques: mirrors and chandeliers,’ ” like in “Beauty and the Beast,” Jean Cocteau’s 1946 Surrealist film version of the 18th-century fairy tale, Mr. Grange said.

He has refreshed the décor in those areas, and now the salon will be the initial point for the museum tour, hung with large-format black-and-white photographs of Mr. Saint Laurent by Richard Avedon, Patrick Demarchelier and Jeanloup Sieff, and displaying a short video on Mr. Saint Laurent’s career.

In the former grand reception room, where clients such as Ms. Deneuve and the socialite Nan Kempner would take tea while selecting their made-to-measure wardrobes, Mr. Bergé had Mr. Grange partner with the renowned exhibition-set designer Nathalie Crinière to create new galleries.

Mr. Bergé came upon Ms. Crinière’s work when she designed the 2003 Cocteau exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Since then she has orchestrated several Saint Laurent shows — at the foundation, at the Petit Palais in Paris in 2010 and, most recently, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Va. — as well as the blockbuster Dior retrospective now on view at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

Where Mr. Grange’s décor is rich and baroque, Ms. Crinière’s is stark and modern, with matte black staging to set off the vibrant colors, pure lines and complex textures of Mr. Saint Laurent’s creations.

The main ground-floor gallery will feature exhibitions on specific collections, beginning with Mr. Saint Laurent’s 1962 debut.

Upstairs, another gallery will focus on themes. The first is Mr. Saint Laurent’s design dialogue with art: kaleidoscopic ensembles inspired by van Gogh, Matisse, Mondrian and Picasso will encircle Picasso’s 1914 Cubist tableau, “Instruments de Musique Sur un Guéridon,” which used to hang in the living room of Mr. Saint Laurent’s Rue de Babylone home in Paris.

Tours will conclude with a walk through Mr. Saint Laurent’s studio, the quiet sanctum where he conducted fittings with his team. His desk, a piece of plywood wrapped with muslin and set on sawhorses, is still strewn with his precious bibelots and talismans, including the walking stick of his mentor, Christian Dior.

As the Paris museum was taking form, a property came up for sale in Marrakesh that Mr. Cox said was “about 50 yards away” from the Jardin Majorelle, a 12-acre botanical feast for the senses purchased by Mr. Saint Laurent and Mr. Bergé in 1980 and managed by Mr. Cox. Mr. Bergé bought the parcel and hired the Paris-based firm Studio KO to design the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakesh.

It will be a “quite modest” affair, Mr. Cox said (all things being relative), with an exhibition space dedicated Mr. Saint Laurent’s designs — especially those “concentrating on African themes,” he said — and a hall for smaller temporary shows. Its research center will house 6,000 books, most coming from Mr. Saint Laurent’s and Mr. Bergé’s personal libraries, and the Pierre Bergé Auditorium will be used for symposiums on botany, the Berber tribe and contemporary fashion themes; screenings of films relating to Mr. Saint Laurent’s career; and live broadcasts from the Opéra Bastille, the Paris theater Mr. Bergé ushered to completion in the late 1980s.

“People say it’s tragic that Pierre isn’t here to see the museums finished,” Mr. Cox said. “But he was involved in all decisions from Day 1. He wasn’t there when the final carpet was being laid on the stairwell, or the curtains were hung at the front door of 5 Avenue Marceau. But he knew exactly how they were going to be. And they are exactly as he wanted.”