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Yves Saint Laurent, Black velvet sheath dress, “Paris rose” satin bow, “Paris” haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1983. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris. Photo by Gilles Tapie

DENVER.-  A dazzling overview of Yves Saint Laurent’s entire creative output is coming to the United States. The Denver Art Museum (DAM) and Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent present Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective, a complete overview of the designer’s 40 years of creativity on view March 25, 2012, through July 8, 2012. The DAM is the only U.S. venue for the exhibition. Combining photographs, drawings, films and other multimedia elements with a selection of 200 haute couture outfits, the exhibition creates an immersive environment for visitors to see firsthand the development of Saint Laurent’s style and the historical foundations of his work. Organized thematically, the multifaceted presentation melds design and art to explore the full arc of his career, from his first days at Dior in 1958 through the splendor of his final runway collection in 2002. Curated by Florence Müller and overseen by Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent premiered in Paris in 2010 at the Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, and will be on view in the Anschutz and Martin and McCormick galleries in DAM’s Hamilton Building.

We’re thrilled to bring the stunning style and design of Saint Laurent to the United States,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “His designs revolutionized the fashion world just as the masters he drew inspiration from revolutionized the art world. This exhibition showcases the exquisite designs of an artist.” During his 40 years of designing, Saint Laurent (1936–2008) transformed the female wardrobe by borrowing the tuxedo, the trouser suit, shorts and the safari jacket from men's clothing, transferring these symbols of power from one gender to the other. He empowered women with this new form of clothing, turning traditional menswear into haute couture. He represented women’s evolving role in society ahead of any other designer, setting the hit styles of the day. 

This exhibition demonstrates the impact of Saint Laurent’s work on the history of fashion and the present-day relevance of his style,” said exhibition curator Florence Müller. “His creations achieved an ingenious Symbiotic relationship between setting style and recognizing popular trends that made them not only wardrobe necessities, but also reflected women’s changing role in society.”

Drawing inspiration from the World War II era (Scandal Collection, 1971), his imaginary travels (Africa, China, India, Japan, Morocco, Spain and Russia) and his dialogue with art (Van Gogh, Matisse, Mondrian, Picasso and Tom Wesselmann, among others), Saint Laurent was forever turning fashion into celebration. He said, "My primary concern has always been respect for my craft, which is not exactly an art, but which depends on an artist for its existence."

The development of the Saint Laurent style and the fundamentals of his oeuvre are presented in a visually rich and dramatic way that walks visitors through his life and designs.

Birth of a Revolutionary Couturier 

The exhibition starts with a display of Saint Laurent’s designs for Dior, including the 1958 “Trapeze” collection. With this collection, Saint Laurent anticipated the freedom movement of the 1960s. 

A Gender Revolution 

In this section, visitors can see how Saint Laurent created a gender revolution by allowing women to express themselves freely, melding the flair of a man’s suit with the seductiveness of woman’s clothing. 

Yves Saint Laurent and Women 

Another area displays the clothing of the historic women who wore and supported Saint Laurent, including Betty Catroux, Catherine Deneuve, Loulou de la Falaise, Françoise Giroud, Princess Grace of Monaco, Nan Kempner, Paloma Picasso, Diana Vreeland and H.R.H. Duchess of Windsor. 

Creating a Furor

Celebrating the revolutionary style Saint Laurent gave couture, a section is dedicated to his 1971 Scandal ColleCtion which transported people back to the 1940s and a time of war and occupation. The press denounced but the customers adored this collection.

The Enchantment of the Exotic

In this area, the imaginary world of Saint Laurent is explored—especially a focus on his whimsical travels to China, India and Russia to create his collections using exotic materials, furs and feathers.

Dialogue with Artists and Writers 

The art world takes center stage in a section that draws direct lines between the designer and the artists he admired. In 1965, Saint Laurent launched a collection inspired by Piet Mondrian, the early 20th century painter known for his distinctive style of lines and bold color combinations on flat surfaces. Mondrian’s work clearly inspired Saint Laurent in the first of many of the designer’s intersections with the art world. 

The Last Ball

The magic of night and fashion is the focus of The Last Ball section, a succession of exquisite evening dresses from the glory days of haute couture.

Le Smoking

In this section, visitors are given a close look at 40 years of Saint Laurent creations through a wall of more than 30 tuxedos. The first ever “Le Smoking” (the French term for tuxedo) from 1966 faces a variety of other tuxedos, each representative of a fundamental work by Saint Laurent.

The Colors of Yves Saint Laurent

In this section, guests will move through the collision of colors Saint Laurent famously used in his designs with vibrant examples from his collections and hundreds of fabric samples.

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Yves Saint Laurent, Short evening ensemble, haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1990. Black ribbed jersey tunic; black embossed leather skirt. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger.
 
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Yves Saint Laurent for Dior, Short evening dress, “Trapeze” haute couture collection, Spring-Summer 1958, Valse (Waltz) design. White silver-sequined tulle. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger. 

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Yves Saint Laurent, Jumpsuit, haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1969. Bordeaux wool jersey. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger. 

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Yves Saint Laurent, Long evening dress, haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1990. Black sequined lace, pink satin ribbon bows. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger.

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Yves Saint Laurent, Belle de Jour dress, haute couture collection, Spring-Summer 1967. Barathea, black-and-white silk satin collar and cuffs. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger

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Yves Saint Laurent, Short evening coat, haute couture collection, Spring-Summer 1971. Green fox fur. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger.

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Yves Saint Laurent, Torero ensemble, haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1979. Pink lamé bolero and knickerbockers; bright pink satin and taffeta blouse. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger. 

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Yves Saint Laurent, Long evening ensemble, haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1976. Emerald and sable velvet bolero; peacock blue-and-gold chiffon; Prussian blue Ottoman skirt. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger. 

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Yves Saint Laurent, Long evening dress, Rive Gauche collection, Fall-Winter 1991. Draped gold lamé. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo  A. Guirkinger.

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Yves Saint Laurent, Long evening dress, "Bambara" haute couture collection, Spring-Summer 1967. Black Rhodoïd and wooden bead embroidery. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger.

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Yves Saint Laurent, Long evening dress, tribute to Tom Wesselmann, haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1966. Navy blue wool jersey, encrusted “silhouette” motif. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger. 

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Yves Saint Laurent, Short cocktail dress, tribute to Tom Wesselmann, haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1966. Purple-and-black wool jersey, encrusted “face” motif. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger.

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Yves Saint Laurent, Short evening ensemble, tribute to Vincent Van Gogh, haute couture collection, Spring-Summer 1988. Jacket embroidered with sequins and pearls; green crepe blouse; purple crepe skirt. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger

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Yves Saint Laurent, Long evening dress, inspired by Henri Matisse, haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1980. Black velvet and moiré faille, multicolored satin appliqué leaves. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger

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Yves Saint Laurent, Wedding dress, tribute to Georges Braque, haute couture collection, Spring-Summer 1988. White tulle, white cotton pique appliqué “doves.” © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger. 

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Yves Saint Laurent, Long evening ensemble, tribute to Georges Braque, haute couture collection, Spring-Summer 1988. Embroidered white gazar Cubist cape; white crepe dress. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger. 

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Yves Saint Laurent, Short evening dress, tribute to Pablo Picasso, haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1979. Black velvet and orange moiré, multicolored appliqué patchwork. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger. 

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Yves Saint Laurent, Short cocktail dress, tribute to Piet Mondrian, haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1965. Ecru wool jersey, encrusted with black, red, yellow and blue. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger. 

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Yves Saint Laurent, Long evening ensemble, haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1984. Domino coat in shades of blue faille and black velvet; black and pearly satin embroidered guipure lace dress. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger

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Yves Saint Laurent, Long evening dress, “Paris” haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1983. Black velvet sheath dress, “Paris rose” satin bow. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger

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Yves Saint Laurent, Long evening ensemble, haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1983. Domino coat in yellow faille de chine; velvet sheath dress with black lace. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger

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Yves Saint Laurent, Tuxedo with pants, haute couture collection, Fall-Winter 1966. Black barathea and satin silk, white organdy blouse. © Foundation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger

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Yves Saint Laurent, Tuxedo with short skirt, haute couture collection, Spring-Summer 1982. Black-and-white barathea spencer and skirt. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger

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Yves Saint Laurent, Long evening dress, haute couture collection, Spring-Summer 2002. Yellow draped chiffon; blue gazer cape lined with green silk. © Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Photo A. Guirkinger

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Spanish-inspired clothing, part of the Imaginary Journeys collection are displayed during a preview of "Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective" at the Denver Art Museum in Denver, Colo. The show, featuring a selection of 200 haute couture garments, opened Sunday, March 25 and will run through July 8. AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

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African-inspired clothing, part of the Imaginary Journeys collection are displayed during a preview of "Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective" at the Denver Art Museum in Denver, Colo. The show, featuring a selection of 200 haute couture garments, opened March 25 and will run through July 8. AP Photo/Ed Andrieski