Legendary Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela has kept a decidedly low profile since retiring from the industry in 2008, staying elusive aside from the chance appearance at an event or in print. His eponymous label, established with Jenny Meirens and presently overseen by John Galliano, still exists without its namesake founder at the helm. Now, Margiela himself makes a comeback to the public realm, this time as a visual artist. In late 2020, it was announced that Margiela would present his first solo art show. It was delayed to October 2021 as the pandemic unfolded and now, finally, the exhibition is here. Never-before-seen Martin Margiela artworks will be on display at Lafayette Anticipations in Paris as part of Margiela’s artistic debut.
Curated by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel and opening tomorrow, 20 October 2021, for his first solo show, Lafayette Anticipations has invited Margiela to take possession of and transform every one of its spaces. The show presents, for the first time in public, over twenty works: installations, sculptures, collages, paintings and films. It also puts forward a hypothesis that Martin Margiela has always been an artist. Internationally renowned in the fashion world since the late 1980s, throughout his career as a designer, he deliberately upended the conventions of fashion one by one, through runway shows, materials and forms that became conceptual and aesthetic revolutions.
With bold conviction, he has pushed art beyond the boundaries usually devolved to it, constantly inventing new zones for experience by endlessly extending the limits of the work. The exhibition at Lafayette Anticipations, which is designed as a total artwork, carries on Margiela’s obsession with transformation. It is an exploration of existence. Turning habits upside-down, visitors enter through the emergency exit, then immerse themselves in a labyrinthine show where works appear and disappear at various vantage points along the way. In a typically iconoclastic way, Margiela has worked with multiple mediums. His references give equal value to a Caravaggio painting and a box of hair dye. Together, these borrowings form the portrait of an artist who has never stopped questioning how we see things and how we pay attention.
The works on show, most of which were made in the Lafayette Anticipations’ studio, return to the artist’s obsessions. The body is very much in evidence: anatomies inspired by the academic tradition; hair and skin in almost abstract form, signs of the passing of time. Disappearance is an omnipresent theme. Margiela has never been afraid of absence or disappearance. He believes the life of an object or a being never ends, but is in constant mutation, renewing any number of times. The very idea of an end is pure fantasy – incompletion is a fundamental state. Going against the tide of dominant values, Margiela celebrates the beauty to be found in the vulnerable, the fragile and the fleeting. By refocusing our perspectives, he transforms the banal and the trivial into opportunities for discovery, wonderment and surprise.
Martin Margiela at Lafayette Anticipations, 9 rue du Plâtre, F-75004 Paris. 20 October 2021 – 2 January 2022
Feature image: Martin Margiela (via Pinterest)