This month for Free First Thursday I spent the evening at the SAM with my sister and our mother. One of my favorite elements of First Thursday at the SAM is that they offer a half off discount on their special exhibitions on top of free admission to the galleries. So we were able to see the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit for only $12!
I was especially struck by the careful consideration paid to atmosphere for each of the distinct exhibition spaces. The use of color, sound, video, and texture created an emotional and psychological effect on the visitor. One gallery transitioned us to a nearly all white space. Pairing this luminescence with music which tended toward the operatic gave the space a vaguely religious feeling. Several garments were displayed high up on a wall with a long counter strewn with more display cases. This added to the devotional motif by placing the audience in the position of the supplicant standing before the altar, beneath the gaze of some vaguely saint like statues.
Another favorite of mine was in a way the opposite of the first, all black. Alternating wall panels of black sheet plastic gave a pleasing matte/glossy effect. In the center was a glittering mass of jewelry and ornaments. Atop the table was a single mannequin draped with lush fur and black velvet. This space was left silent, allowing the audible gasps of entering visitors to be heard. The black glossy wall panels mirrored back a dim reflection of the space, giving a decadent and indulgent aura to the gallery. Luxury at its purest form.
Other spaces used brightly colored walls to highlight the use of color and metals in Yves Saint Laurent's work. It was a dizzying rainbow of beauty and it shifted the focus from garment as clothing to garment as art. This exhibition gives just enough historical interpretation to feel thorough, while leaving space for the pieces to stand on their own. A+
Needless to say, it was incredible! The garments are stunning, the supporting materials are insightful, and the gallery design was terrific! I highly recommend everyone go see this exhibit before it closes in January.