The exhibition without a name: Martin Margiela

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It was 2009 when the invisible fashion designer decided to retire from the fashion world, and now, after 12 years, Martin Margiela is back with his first art exhibition in Paris at the Lafayette Anticipations venue.

“Without title” 1995, by Martin Margiela. Picture by Pierre Antoine. Courtesy of Pierre Antoine; the artist; Zeno X Gallery and Lafayette Anticipations.

Martin Margiela and his fashion career

In the fashion industry, the Belgian designer is considered a legend, he is the icon of the 1990s and 2000s who created innovative clothes through a sustainable attitude by reusing and modifying existing garments. The philosophical approach behind his work is the deconstruction, that is giving new interpretations and perspectives to objects and garments, overcoming stereotypes and borders of gender.

When Maison Martin Margiela was at the height of his success in 2009, the designer stepped back due to the increasing pressure and the overwhelming feeling carried by social media that were “destroying the thrill of wait and cancelling effects of surprise”, as he stated in a letter.
Margiela based his fashion identity on mystery and reclusiveness, he avoided the public eye most of the time, therefore only few photos of him are available online. The idea of “giving more if protected” applies both to his previous work in the fashion world and to the recent art exhibition, absence and disappearance are two of the main themes of the show, there are moments of daily life and moments where there is nothing to see, there are “ghosts” emphasizing the idea of a changing exhibition, unfinished and in movement.

“Deodorant” 2021, by Martin Margiela. Picture by Pierre Antoine. Courtesy of Pierre Antoine; the artist; Zeno X Gallery and Lafayette Anticipations

Lafayette Anticipations

The Paris exhibition is designed as a total artwork where visitors get in through the emergency exit of the building and then immerse themselves in a labyrinth of blinds and curtains, where the labyrinth is “the meaning of life”, as the curator Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel said.  
The journey within Margiela’s art, is made of 40 unreleased artworks that represent discreet things such as nails, hair, and deodorant with the ability of shaping the experiences of the world.

“Vanitas” 2019, by Martin Margiela. Picture by Pierre Antoine. Courtesy of Pierre Antoine; the artist; Zeno X Gallery and Lafayette Anticipations

Vanitas is named after the 17th century Dutch painting’s genre that depicted objects symbolic of death and the transience and vanity of earthly achievements, and the artwork by Margiela makes people reflect on the acceptance of the traces of age through 5 spheres covered by real colour-changing hair, from blonde to grey.

“Bus Stop” 2020, by Martin Margiela. Picture by Pierre Antoine. Courtesy of Pierre Antoine; the artist; Zeno X Gallery and Lafayette Anticipations


Time, and our perception of it, is another important theme in the artistic research of the artist, in Bus Stop he invites the public to reconsider the role of urban furniture by covering the shelter with synthetic fur to make it feel warmer and cozy, and using a glass vitrine to make it more precious.

“Film Dust” 2017-2021, by Martin Margiela. Picture by Pierre Antoine. Courtesy of Pierre Antoine; the artist; Zeno X Gallery and Lafayette Anticipations

Film Dust is the series of paintings in which the artist focuses on the smallest bits of dust that stick to the Super-8 film and we normally don’t see. He developed an oil paint dilution technique to create a grainy texture on a bright cinema screen.

“Monument” 2021, by Martin Margiela. Picture by Pierre Antoine. Courtesy of Pierre Antoine; the artist; Zeno X Gallery and Lafayette Anticipations

In the middle of the labyrinth, we can see Monument, here is where the visitors reach a higher state of consciousness: they can experience the artwork only by laying on a 80s sofa, in total relax, surrounded by sounds and shadows. Here a giant cloth appears, similar to the one used during renovations of historical monuments, like a hidden metamorphosis.
Margiela strongly believes in rebirth and his renaissance through new mediums is only the beginning, we will certainly see more!

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