So Far, So Goude

Graphic Enfant Terrible Jean-Paul Goude on Grace Jones, Warhol and Bricolage

Legendary fashion photographer and artist Jean-Paul Goude shares the images that canonized him as one of the most outrageous aesthetic pioneers of the 80s and 90s. Goudemalion, a retrospective of four decades of his sketches, films and gigantic installations, has just opened at Paris's Musée des Arts Décoratifs. From his earliest forays into illustration at Esquire, to iconic record covers for then-girlfriend Grace Jones, to orchestrating France’s theatrical bicentennial parade, to his sumptuous adverts for the likes of Chanel’s Egoiste, Goude has devoted the past 40 years to hijacking the etiquette of chic. A firm believer that true beauty is “wherever you’re not looking”, Goude has consistently defied expectation working with the likes of France’s first North African supermodel Farida Khelfa, Azzedine Alaïa and even Marc Jacobs in a gold tutu. Jean-Paul Gaultier once said of “the other JPG”: “He’s more than a plastic surgeon: everything is plastic and flexible to him—his world has no other raison d’être.” Goude talks to NOWNESS about dating Jones, sharing words of wisdom with Warhol and being a “straight faggot.”

What’s a muse to you?
A muse is someone who interests me, someone ‘museumable’. Are the two words from the same origin? To me they’re related.

Humor is a big element in your work. Why is that important to you?

It has always been important to make people smile, all my heroes make me smile: Woody Allen, Ernst Lubitsch… In humor I like to find an intelligent critique of society.

What message were you conveying through your work with Grace Jones?
I’ve always been drawn to so-called ‘atypical beauties’. But Grace was different; we were boyfriend-girlfriend. I have an ego like all simple-minded heterosexual men, and I had mates in fashion who kept saying, “Goude’s dating a trannie.” To prove them wrong I had to show Grace’s beauty was wherever they didn’t expect to find it. If you put a muscular woman in a mini-skirt, she’ll just look ridiculous. It wasn’t about masculinizing Grace, but using artifacts usually reserved for men, which in fact put her femininity forward.

Do you still work by hand?
For myself yes, I like the appearance of a cutout, its blasphemy and power. I always begin by drawing, and then if it needs to be filmed or shot, I do it. But never the other way round—photographers begin with the photo, I don’t. And if the photo is no good, I play with it when it’s done. Shooting is terrible. You take a photo, and then the photo goes away immediately, it’s a nightmare. It feels like being a plumber.

You met Warhol in the 70s. Was he very impressive?
No. But he was a pop star and I was 20. I was excited to meet him. And without him realizing, he helped me a lot. When he said he liked something, everyone liked it too. I told him about a model I had a crush on, Pat Cleveland— mixed race, funny, Olive Oyl-like. I was in the US working on a story for French Vogue with Helmut Newton—and caramel girls didn’t turn him on much. The Factory was across the road and I told Andy about working with Pat, making her walk up a runway with microphones in her dress. “Oh how fabulous,” he said. His opinion really mattered. Thank God, because with all the beer-drinking machos of Esquire, and me and my love of dresses, I don’t know what I’d have done. They would have just thought I was a screaming queen.

They didn’t appreciate your work?
No, they just didn’t understand me. I had created this notion of the 'straight faggot'. That’s what I am. And they had trouble grasping that, I suppose.

Goudemalion. Jean-Paul Goude une rétrospective runs from November 11 to March 18 2012, at Le Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

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