Though the fashion month started on a high note with an ethereal show of Jan-Jan Van Assche at Pitti Uomo, I arrived in Paris following a fairly dismal Milan season (more on that in the next podcast episode). Looking back on it, Paris was a mixed bag, neither a particularly strong or particularly weak season, one where expectations fell along the lines of the expected.
This past summer I went to an Hérmes store on rue St-Honoré in Paris, with the idea of buying a cardholder. The one I wanted was sold out, so I decided to browse the store, which was already full of shoppers at ten in the morning. I was almost on the way out when a thin black leather cuff with a matte black leather buckle caught my eye. Attracted by its subtle elegance, I bought it on the spot. By the time I was done with my tax refund process, the sales associate who was helping me magically appeared at my side, with the cuff gift-wrapped and swaddled inside the iconic orange shopping bag. This was one of my most pleasant shopping experiences of the past several years, and an increasingly rare one.
We live in a sterile age. Nothing reminds one of this fact like the work of the German artist Joseph Beuys. It is anything but sterile – dirt, earth, organic matter were at its center. Beuys wallowed in the dirt – it was his connection to the planet we were busy ruining, as he liked to remind us.
A new book, or rather four books in a box, called Four Books in a Box, published by Steidl, and out today, reminds us of this message. Prosaically called, the compendium is anything but prosaic. As an object it is also earthy. There is not a hint of gloss in its sturdy case, fabric covers, and mostly black and white pages. As the hand passes over the pages, one feels its presence, its thingness, its physical presence in the physical universe.
Adjaye was known in London quite early on in his career – his anthracite, brutalist-tinged creations that highlighted their materiality and geometry had a distinct voice. But it took him longer to find his rightful place in the canon of contemporary architecture. His work has been documented in Thames & Hudson books “Works: 1995 – 2007” and “Works: 2007 – 2015.” The latter one is being released today, though we absolutely recommend getting the pair.
The new 300-page book with over 500 illustrations highlights about 50 of Adjaye’s projects – a prodigious output. Whereas the first volume covers mostly Adjaye’s London work and is more intimate in scope – naturally so, since early projects tend to be on a smaller scale – the second one is a sweeping overview of Adjaye’s creations, many of them done in the United States. The most famous of these to date is the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. The museum opened in 2016 and will undoubtedly be a worthy beginning of the next volume. For now though there is plenty to dissect in the current tome. The projects contained therein are a mix of commercial and public, small and large, quotidian and lofty.
If you find yourself in Paris in the next couple of weeks, make sure to stop by Galerie Camera Obscura to see the current exhibit of Italian photographer Paolo Roversi. This intimate show is a rare treat from an artist whose work is maddeningly hard to find in real life. He exhibits rarely, and he produces books even more rarely. The best access to his work in print is a smattering of fashion magazines, such as Another or Vogue Italia.
Fashion is tricky – if you truly care about it and demand excellence form it, your relationship inevitably turns into a mild form of sadomasochism. I suppose any relationship worth having takes on a similar form sooner or later. Life is imperfect and the pursuit of happiness is futile. You learn this as you get…
On the recent evening during the men’s show of the Belgian designer Dries Van Noten, a crowd bustled outside the show venue, the small Musee Bourdelle, tucked away in a side street near Montparnasse train station in Paris. Outside, the desperate hangers-on were held back by the implacable PR watchdogs, while inside the buyers and the press were trying to squeeze into the tiny Great Hall, where the most prominent statues of Antoine Bourdelle, who was one of the most prolific student’s of Rodin, stood.
The new William Klein exhibit at the International Center of Photography in New York is called simply, “YES.” Why the affirmative title is unclear, except that, yes, you should go see the exhibit of one of the main figures of contemporary photography.
This was my first visit to the ICP’s new location, which moved down to the Lower East Side just before the pandemic hit pause on all in-person viewing and relegated us to the faux world of virtual exhibits (a ridiculous proposition if you have really thought about what it means to look at art). The two-floor space accommodated 300 of Klein’s works organized by chapter into a fairly straightforward, mostly chronological arrangement. This seems like a lot, but given Klein’s prodigious output it actually leaves you wanting more, as each chapter feels like an appetizer and not an entree.
The paramount question, perhaps the only question that can be put to any work of art, or any exhibit of works of art, is whether it succeeds or fails. It is hard to answer that question with regards to the new exhibit by the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, titled In America: An Anthology of Fashion. The reason for this ambivalence lies in defining what fashion is, and since there is no more agreed upon definition, the answer is largely left to the viewer, and thus you will get a review of this particular viewer guided by his particular definitions.
Fashion has a tendency to suffer from collective amnesia. Trendy but questionable concepts tend to die a quiet death in order to free the industry from embarrassment of unfulfilled promises. One of these silent casualties is “experiential shopping.” The term came in vogue earlier in the last decade when the fashion industry decided that customers wanted more from stores than a convenient location, a cool interior, an assortment of desirable product, and great customer service. The specter of e-commerce was brandished before retail executives that spurred them into a do-or-die frenzy. Lounges, live events, interactive art, virtual reality changing rooms, digital mirrors were touted as remedies for failing brick-and-mortar retail. Needless to say, only retail conglomerates and corporate brands with deep pockets could afford to invest in such expensive toys.