My Personal Experience of The Yves Saint Laurent Photography Exhibit @Galeri Petronas, KLCC
23 June 2016

My Personal Experience of The Yves Saint Laurent Photography Exhibit @Galeri Petronas, KLCC

I know I probably haven’t mentioned this quite as often, but I’ve been a long-time fan of Yves Saint Laurent, particularly the man himself (but I guess you already figured this out after reading this blogpost that I wrote last week, about my championing of the Yves cause). And, after reading books about Mr Saint Laurent, particularly “A Beautiful Fall” by Alicia Drake, and the recent 2015 film about the life of the designer and his creative genius, I appreciate him even more, never mind Hedi Slimane’s rebranding of the Maison. Because of this, you can probably imagine how excited I was when I heard about the Yves Saint Laurent photography exhibition at Galeri Petronas in KLCC, held in conjunction with Le French Festival and organised in partnership with Alliance Française and the French Embassy in Malaysia.

Entitled Yves Saint Laurent: Naissance d’une légende (translation: Birth of a Legend), the exhibit features photography by photojournalist Pierre Boulat, whose close working relationship with Saint Laurent enabled him to tell us a story by capturing the designer at home in Paris and his creative process; from sketching his designs on paper, to dress and model fittings, backstage at fashion shows, and even putting his the final touches on his designs. The exhibit also showcases many of Boulat’s never-seen-before photos of the designer. Because of this, it was something I was desperately looking forward to, as I was expecting to see Saint Laurent’s entire career encapsulated in Boulat’s images – a photographic biography of the designer, if you will. Well, and also because we hardly ever get to experience any fashion exhibits or retrospectives here in Malaysia. So, let’s just say that I had some expectations which I expected to be fulfilled, because I was certain  that the French Embassy would definitely ensure the designer’s life would be respected, with some serious homage being paid to him.

Sadly, however, there wasn’t much publicity about this event. I have been wanting to go since last week, which was when I actually I found out, waaayy after the exhibit had kicked off, but I was tied up with my PhD deadlines, and so this had to be put momentarily on hold.  Over the weekend after Father’s Day lunch, I decided to head on over to Pavilion, because I had something to pick up there. I actually thought I’d visit the exhibit during a weekday when it is less likely to be crowded, but I thought hey, since I’m already at Pavilion, I should just walk to KLCC and check it out today. And off I traipsed over to KLCC, with a sprained ankle nonetheless, because that’s how much I was looking forward to it. Besides, I’d already waited a week.

After hobbling for almost the entire walk, I finally arrived at Galeri Petronas. I stood in line and did the whole registry thing on the iPad, and in I went. With no signages indicating that there was even an YSL exhibition within the gallery, I walked in, and realised, that there were local artists’ work on display. So I thought maybe I had the wrong location so I went out to the reception area again, to ask if the exhibit was indeed held in that location. And I was told that it’s further inside. In I went, further and further in, until approximately the halfway mark, there was the YSL exhibit, tucked away in a corner, isolated from the other “main” artworks in the gallery. I entered that area, and all the expectations I had, quickly went south. On several walls, were equally sized framed photos of the designer at work, showing his creative process. But that was it, really. There was no one there to provide a “guided tour” of sorts, to take us through the different periods of Yves’s life. Neither were there any vinyls -the little cards at galleries displaying information about the artist’s work, a short artist bio, and the year it was created – alongside the photos for context. It’s totally fine if there was no “guide” to take us through the exhibition, but there could have at least been vinyls beside the photos to tell us which year/season and/or collection the particular design captured on film was from. I mean that would’ve been quite a basic thing you’d have at a gallery showing. Besides, all the artworks   displayed there at the gallery had one, but this had none. And now, you’ll see what I mean.

The one and only “signage” about the exhibit, located at the dedicated exhibition area within the gallery itself



Add caption



The only date we are given throughout the exhibit, which is this one in the photo, dated 5 December 1961, look number 77



His most famous quote, just before exiting the gallery, faaaarrr away from the exhibit area itself, No idea why this wasn’t placed with the exhibit.


I mean, regardless whether high fashion or fast fashion, unless one subscribes to the nudist subculture, everyone is invested in fashion in some way or other, because whether we like it or not, we all need to clothe ourselves. Sure, we all experience fashion in different ways and to different degrees, but events like this should be something through which uninitiated fashion followers can learn more about fashion, and important designers like Saint Laurent. Sadly, though, even for someone like myself, who lives and breathes fashion, and who also happens to be studying it for my PhD, there was little to “take away” from the exhibition, really, so what more, for someone who doesn’t really know about fashion, yet is interested to learn more about it? Besides the lack of publicity and promotion, the exhibit was basically, just… photos… on a several white columns. All completely in black and white, of equal size, and framed in exactly the same way, with white borders, and a black frame. There weren’t even any pointers on how we should walk through the exhibition, where we should start, and the path we should take, so that we could get a real chronological feel of the designer’s life. Sadly, it was a rather disappointing experience, and I’m not even comparing them to the larger exhibits like the recent Hermès “Leather Forever” and Louis Vuitton’s “Series 3” , or   the smaller DVF “Journey of a Dress” and Miss Dior Fragrance Savoir-Faire ones in Singapore. I’m fully aware that this is supposed to be a small and more “intimate” exhibit, but it was lacklustre, to say the least. I guess us Malaysians really have to start to learn from our neighbours across the Causeway about how fashion exhibits should be executed, be it smaller- or even larger-scale ones.

If you want to check out the exhibit, it’ll be at Galeri Petronas, KLCC till June 25th. For those of you who went, I’d love to hear about your experience!

All images by Bag Addicts Anonymous