A Daily Insight ‘Behind the Scenes’ into the Installation of ‘Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal’

Friday 3 July

For the next six or seven days, the Marketing Officer, Rachael and I will touch base with The Bowes Museum’s Exhibition team, Fashion & Textiles Curators and Textiles Conservators and our colleagues from the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent who will be installing the UK’s first retrospective of the French fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent on our first floor, ahead of the opening on 11th July.

Short Cocktail Dress fall winter 1965 Tribute to Piet Mondrian
Short Cocktail Dress fall winter 1965 Tribute to Piet Mondrian

For the last four weeks our Exhibitions team, George, Vin, Charlotte and Catherine have been de-installing Gerald Scarfe’s ‘Milksnatcher’ and Sarah Casey’s ‘ Common Grounds’ to make way for the staggering floor space which will be occupied by Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal. Since then, Doug and his team from North Exhibition Services Limited have returned to help with the mammoth task of the exhibition build. Unlike some of our exhibitions, this one includes huge structural additions inside the galleries, and having had a theatrical and imaginative exhibition design created by Nathalie Crinière, now is the time to deliver it.

Boxed YSL garments
Boxed YSL garments

The Yves Saint Laurent garments, hats, shoes and accessories safely crossed the Channel and arrived at the Museum on Tuesday evening. Following them came the Parisian installation team comprising: Valerie Mulattieri, Laurence Neveu, Pauline Vidal, Sandrine Tinturier and Leslie Veyrat.

YSL embroidery
YSL embroidery

Today has very much been a day of the teams getting to know each other and pairing up with matching skill sets and knowledge. Then the priority has been to unpack the textiles and condition check them to ensure they have arrived in the same condition as they left the Fondation in Paris.

Emily, our Icon Conservation Intern and Laurence, from the Fondation have been condition checking the hats.

Laurence and Emily condition checking the hats
Laurence and Emily condition checking the hats

Pauline has been working with Maria, another of our Interns and Hannah, Assistant Curator of Fashion & Textiles to oversee the unpacking of the photographs, sketches and magazines which have been loaned from the Fondation’s archive, along with accessories such as boxes of buttons and beautiful pieces of embroidery.

Pauline checking the archival material
Pauline checking the archival material

Valerie who is coordinating much of the activity of unpacking and condition checking with Sandrine, said that all was going to plan and that they were on schedule for an exciting installation ahead of the opening in a week’s time.

By Alison Nicholson, Digital Communications Officer

Saturday 4 July

Today sees Valerie, her team and the Museum’s installation team finish the conditioning check, following transit of the 50 garments, 100s of accessories, 14 prints, the many sketches and the 5 collection boards.

conditioning
Some of the items checked and ready for installation

The unpacking of the mannequins has begun, ready for the dressing and start of the installation tomorrow. This is a time consuming process as it is not just a case of popping a dress over a mannequin; a lot of time and patience is taken to make sure every visitor sees each item at its stunning best. There is a custom mannequin for each garment, allowing for stability whilst on view and showing the shape of the outfit in the best way possible.

Mannequins
Unpacked and placed in order to be dressed

The most treasured part of the Fondation’s collection is the 5 collection boards we are priviledged to have in this exhibition. Each board shows a sketch of a dress and swatches of the material used. Above the swatches is a number which is the position it went out on the catwalk (each catwalk would have around 80 – 160 outfits on show at one time). Underneath the number is an archive number of a manufacturing document which details how many hours of work went into each dress, what materials were used, where it was made and the price it cost. At the very bottom of each board is a name of the maker of the dress.

YSL Collection Board
One of Yves Saint Laurent’s treasured collection boards

We will show these boards in light boxes tomorrow with a garment from each board on show at the beginning of each case in the Textile & Dress Collection.

By Rachael Fletcher, Marketing Officer

 Sunday 5 July

Yesterday resulted in the shoes, hats, garments, photos and sketches all sailing through the conditioning checks and this morning’s work has commenced on the jewellery collection.

conditioning
Started on the reporting of the condition of the jewellery after transportation

The collection boards and sketches are also on display, allowing us to see the exciting installation starting to take shape.

Collection Board on display
One of the collection boards being shown off in a light box

Today sees half the team start on the Spectaculaire section of the exhibition: 9 mannequins will put be in situ on the fantastic staging, which has been specifically designed and dressed to make a huge impact on visitors. Valerie and her team need to concentrate all their efforts on this area today, as they want to make sure it is as close to being finished as possible, ready for the arrival of the lighting designer on Tuesday.

Spectaculaire stage
The staging for the first of the garment installation

If all goes to plan, the other half of the team is proposing to begin work in the Textiles & Dress gallery – displaying embroidery, buttons and four further mannequins.

Tomorrow I hope to be able to show you some major changes to the rooms as the displays start to come together.

By Rachael Fletcher, Marketing Officer

Monday 6 July

Walking through the galleries today to see Valerie you feel a definite buzz about the place, the teams are working their hardest to pull everything together in time – the adrenaline is flowing and it definitely shows. There are models on show and spaces are starting to take shape – it’s getting really exciting now!

Image1
The Pop Art theme taking shape

Today will see the Textile & Dress Gallery installation completed; this includes the models in the end of each of the 5 cases, the hats and collection boards on display and the Glass Cube – a study area normally, which is being transformed to give an insight into the processes behind Yves Saint Laurent’s work. There are prototypes of some of his designs, sketches and casts made for his clients on display. One of which is Zizi Jeanmaire, French ballet dancer and close friend of Yves Saint Laurent.

Image2
Third from the right is Zizi Jeanmaire’s cast

There are also three stunning embroidery jackets, boxes of buttons and four models being put on show here.

Image3
Embroidered Jackets

Other parts of the exhibition coming together nicely are the Spectaculaire and Masculaine & Femanine themes and the start of the Haute Couture section which requires lots of padding between the garment and the mannequin to avoid any creases.

Image4
Spectaculaire Theme

By Rachael Fletcher, Marketing Officer

Tuesday 7 July

Having not been in the galleries since Friday, what struck me as I entered them was how much progress the installation teams had made over the weekend. Many of the mannequins were dressed and in position and a huge black carpet had been laid in what was the English Interiors Gallery as you enter from the first floor landing, creating a dramatic ambience and luxurious feel.

In the Fashion & Textiles gallery, Valerie and her team were placing the last two of five mannequins into the end of the five peninsular glass cases which display items from our collection in chronological order. Cleverly, each of the five cases display one of the five themes of the exhibition: Spectaculaire, Art, Transparence, Masculin – Féminin and Haute Couture, with an Yves Saint Laurent piece at the end of each case linking to items in our own collection. It was incredible to see the little black dress with the revealing lace back, worn by Marina Schiano from the Haute couture collection – Autumn Winter 1970, for the first time in ‘real life’! For the last six months, a photograph of it taken by the late Jeanloup Sieff has been our signature image for all of the marketing and PR we have undertaken. This dress was being positioned into the case portraying the Transparence theme, along with items of historical lace belonging to Empress Eugénie from our own collection.

Short evening dress, Autumn-Winter 1970, haute couture
Short evening dress, Autumn-Winter 1970, haute couture

The other piece being carefully positioned into the display case nearest the entrance to the Fashion & Textile Gallery was ‘Broken Mirror’ evening ensemble, Autumn-Winter 1978, haute couture collection. This black silk velvet jacket with shattered bits of silver plastic, mirror and golden rhinestones on the back is a real statement outfit.

Haute couture 'broken mirror' being installed
Haute couture ‘broken mirror’ being installed
'Broken Mirror' Evening Ensemble
‘Broken Mirror’ Evening Ensemble

The cases on the left hand side of the F&T gallery were almost complete with the team waiting for the final delivery of metal rods on which to display the hat toiles, patterns and shapes Yves Saint Laurent used to create his wonderful headpieces.

Hats installation
Hats installation
Hats & their creation
Hats & their creation

Pauline from the Fondation was busy checking all of the films of Yves in his atelier (workshop) and other videos were playing correctly on the newly installed screens and that the photos, sketches and magazines from the archives were correctly labelled and displayed absolutely in keeping with the precision with which we had come to expect from our Parisian colleagues.

Yves' sketches from the archive
Yves’ sketches from the archive

The film accompanied by Ravel’s Boléro which will greet visitors as they enter the exhibition on the big screen is that of Yves Saint Laurent’s final show in 2002 when he had decided to end his career as a designer. As it’s also the last glimpse for visitors on their way out, having circumnavigated the three galleries, it will create a sense of poignancy and a fitting tribute to the legacy of one of the 20th century’s greatest fashion designers.

By Alison Nicholson, Digital Communications & Fundraising Officer

Images by Andy Barnham

Wednesday 8 July

Finishing touches to the galleries are being made this morning, ahead of the arrival of Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent’s partner in business and life, and his management team from the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent in Paris.

Finishing touches
Finishing touches

In the main gallery, jewellery and accessories are being added to the mannequins, fixed in place to last the duration of the exhibition. Leslie is carefully installing the huge pink ostrich feather fan, to accompany the ‘Homage to Zizi’, from the Spring-Summer 1990 haute couture collection. She assures me that it’s heavier than it looks so it needs to be securely fixed to the mannequin.

Pink ostrich feather fan created for French dancer Zizi Jeanmaire
Pink ostrich feather fan created for French dancer Zizi Jeanmaire

The lighting engineer is busy creating the light and shadows required to produce drama and atmosphere, whilst maintaining the low light levels to conserve the precious garments, and allow best viewing of the numerous archival films being shown around the galleries.

In the Glass Cube, Sandrine is adding the final touches to the display of the embroidered shawl from the Spring-Summer 1964 haute couture collection. She tells me it’s the oldest piece of embroidery in the collection at the Fondation, and the red and green tartan pattern, made of seed and tubular beads is extremely fragile.

Embroidered shawl 1964
Embroidered shawl 1964

She also shows me the striking short evening dress from the Spring-Summer 1983 haute couture collection known as ‘La Sardine’ as it’s covered in silver and black sequins, which shimmer like fish scales in the light.

Short evening dress known as 'La Sardine'
Short evening dress known as ‘La Sardine’

At the end of the day, the Exhibition teams breathe a sigh of relief as it’s finished on time, and then wait slightly nervously for the arrival of Pierre Bergé. He arrives with his entourage to be greeted by Museum Director, Adrian Jenkins, Peter Mothersill, Trustee and members of the Museum’s Senior Management and Curatorial Team.

Pierre Bergé & his team see the exhibition for the first time
Pierre Bergé & his team see the exhibition for the first time

 

Monsieur Bergé watching footage of the 'Zépherine' dress modelled by Dior’s in-house model, Victoire Doutreleau, in a charity fashion show staged at Blenheim Palace
Monsieur Bergé watching footage of the ‘Zépherine’ dress modelled by Dior’s in-house model, Victoire Doutreleau, in a charity fashion show staged at Blenheim Palace

The ‘Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal’ exhibition received ‘the seal of approval’ from Monsieur Bergé, and to round the evening off, he and his party were treated to a special playing of the Museum’s 240 year old Silver Swan automaton.

The Silver Swan delights Pierre Bergé
The Silver Swan delights Pierre Bergé

 

The Silver Swan
The Silver Swan

By Alison Nicholson, Digital Communications & Fundraising Officer

Thursday 9 July

Today sees the world’s press descend on the Museum as a Press Conference is called to interview Pierre Bergé, from the Fondation, Adrian Jenkins, Museum Director and Joanna Hashagen, Fashion & Textiles Curator about the first UK retrospective of Yves Saint Laurent’s work.

YSL Exhibition Press Conference
YSL Exhibition Press Conference

 

Pierre, Adrian & Joanna take questions from the journalists
Pierre, Adrian & Joanna take questions from the journalists

Exhibition catalogues are handed out to journalists, photographs are taken, private views are given and press releases are written and submitted to news desks, to appear in tomorrow’s papers, magazines and online publications.

For days, Café Bowes Head Chef and Chefs at Rockliffe Hall have been preparing the ‘Grand Buffet’ for this evening’s VIP Preview. All that’s left to do, after all the hard work and preparation (two years from conception to fruition) is wait for the guests to arrive on the red carpet and for Pierre Bergé and Adrian Jenkins to declare the exhibition open for guests and visitors to the Museum.

Here are just a handful of memorable moments from the Preview… there are too many to show here but you can view them all on our Facebook page

Preview 1 – Thursday 9 July

Preview ‘Take 2’ – Friday 10 July

 

The Chefs
The Chefs

 

The arrival of Pierre Bergé
The arrival of Pierre Bergé

 

Guests on the red carpet
Guests on the red carpet

 

The opening speeches
The opening speeches

 

The Grand Buffet
The Grand Buffet

 

The 'fashionistas'
The ‘fashionistas’

 

Adrian & Pierre deep in conversation
Adrian & Pierre deep in conversation

 

Viewing the YSL exhibition
Viewing the YSL exhibition

 

Partying into the night with Hot Chip
Partying into the night with Hot Chip

After 2 years of preparation including discussions with the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, fundraising, planning, marketing, textile conservation, designing and installing the exhibition, we really hope you love it as much as we do, and come and see it in the North of England from now until 25 October 2015.

By Alison Nicholson, Digital Communications & Fundraising Officer

Alison greeting guests at the YSL Preview
Alison greeting guests at the YSL Preview

and Rachael Fletcher, Marketing Officer

Rachael signing in guests at the YSL Preview 'Take 2'!
Rachael signing in guests at the YSL Preview ‘Take 2’
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