Fashion is not the same as fine art — as inventive, hard, and awe-inspiring as it can be. Martin Margiela might have ceremoniously retired from the runway in 2009, saying that he “required a broader spectrum with entire creative expression freedom, and found [his] roots as a young child in art school, appreciating pure creativity without restrictions,” but the enigmatic Belgian fashion designer has kept busy — reflecting on his foray into sculpture, collage, painting, and filmmaking.
Throughout his fashion career, despite creating wig jackets, porcelain waistcoats, and paper vests, and generally pushing the medium’s boundaries, Margiela was adamant about not referring to his creations as anything other than clothing. With his first art exhibition at Lafayette Anticipations in Paris, the former designer is continuing to stoke discussion over what really constitutes art.
The exhibition, which opened on October 20 and runs through January 2, has pieces made of human hair, dust and blank spaces. It’s the outcome of two years of workshops and secret viewings held in a private apartment for a select group of Europe’s art connoisseurs. The general public, on the other hand, is forced to enter through the back emergency exit at Lafayette Anticipations in order to see the show.
While inside, the show has been staged in such a complex fashion that visitors feel as if they are being hauled around a labyrinth of Margiela’s psychodramas, compounding all of the fixations that he once exorcised on the catwalk — time, aging, deterioration, and the commonplace.
The gallery’s description of this was that it was a metaphor for this new chapter of the designer’s life, while paying homage to his legacy as a fashion designer. As intriguing as that sounds, here are 3 even more intriguing highlights from Margiela’s debut solo show.
The show was about time
An anthropomorphic bus stop, as well as massive tarpaulin sheets with trompe l’oeil prints of buildings (like those that cover monuments under construction and that adorned the walls of his former headquarters) depict times of transience. This theme of time and the passage of it were prevalent in most of the work.
The artist will never be present
Martin Margiela has never given an in-person interview or revealed his identity, and he has no plans to do so now. It was, in fact, the first thing Lamarche-Vadel stated when the exhibition was opened to the press: “Martin Margiela is not here.” Since the start of his namesake label in 1989, he’s stayed out of the spotlight, with only one or two photographs of the man behind the mask available online.
The show will be touring the United States
There’s no need to worry if you’re not in Paris, the show may be coming to a city near you shortly. Margiela will send his exhibition on a worldwide tour, which will most likely begin in China, given that he has formal representation with Zeno X Gallery in Antwerp. The RMN-Grand Palais and the Louvre have both commissioned original works, with an exhibition at EENWERK Gallery in Amsterdam planned for later this year.
For more art related news, check out the artwork Balenciaga commissioned for its latest Crocs collaboration.
Photo of Red Nails, Martin Margiela, courtesy of Lafayette Anticipations/Pierre Antoine