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It wasn't such a stretch for Denver to land the largest exhibition of the late French couturier Yves Saint Laurent's work ever to be shown in the United States, arts officials said at a preview Thursday.

"Why Denver? Why not Denver? People here love art," said Pierre Bergé, Saint Laurent's lifelong partner and chairman of the Paris-based foundation that organized the exhibition opening Sunday at the Denver Art Museum. Denver is the only U.S. stop for the show, which features such iconic YSL looks as the pantsuit, safari outfits and tuxedos for women.

Yves Saint Laurent collage.
Yves Saint Laurent collage. (Photo-illustration by Jeff Neumann, The Denver Post; photos: Getty Images file, Associated Press file, Denver Museum of Art)

Museum director Christoph Heinrich said he's often asked recently "Is fashion art?" Not necessarily, he says, but in Saint Laurent's case it is true because "it takes a great artist to come up with great fashion."

Bergé, who oversaw the creation of the exhibition for its debut in Paris in 2010 and last year's show in Madrid, noted the Denver museum's modern architecture helps emphasize how timeless the designer's creations were. "He didn't live it the past or the future. He was interested in the present," Bergé said.

He hesitated to name his favorite looks among the many in the show, but said that the "le smoking" or tuxedo styles, as well as the color-blocked dress from 1965 inspired by Piet Mondrian's work were among his top picks.


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Curator Florence Müller said putting the show together was "like an adventure" because she and other organizers had to narrow down the 5,000 outfits in Saint Laurent's archive to the 200 that are presented thematically in the retrospective. Müller, who was wearing a slim, knee-length YSL couture outfit at the preview, led some 60 members of the media on a tour of the exhibit, which requires a timed ticket for admission.

(A note to those who will visit over the next few months: be sure to take advantage of the audio guide, which is included in the admission price, because the lighting is dim in several of the galleries and it can be hard to read the printed guide.)

Jayne Buck, vice president of Visit Denver, the convention and visitor's bureau, said local businesses are hoping to see an influx of fashion lovers for the show. A dozen hotels have put together put together packages that include lodging ticket, restaurant, shopping and spa specials.

Catherine Zeitoun inspects an outfit at the Denver Art Museum, which is preparing for the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit opening March 25th.
Catherine Zeitoun inspects an outfit at the Denver Art Museum, which is preparing for the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit opening March 25th. (Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post)

"YVES SAINT LAURENT: THE RETROSPECTIVE" runs Sunday-July 8 at the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building, 100 W. 14th Avenue Parkway. Dated and timed tickets and more information at YSLdenver.com

Suzanne S. Brown: 303-954-1697 or sbrown@denverpost.com


A model strikes a masculine look wearing a pinstriped trouser suit by Yves Saint Laurent
A model strikes a masculine look wearing a pinstriped trouser suit by Yves Saint Laurent (Photo by Reg Lancaster, Getty Image file)