Former fashion designer and founder of French luxury fashion house Maison Margiela, Martin Margiela is often described as influential but elusive.
From the time he launched his label in 1988 until he left the fashion scene in 2009, he was considered unlike any other fashion designer. In addition to his unconventional approach to fashion, he refused to be interviewed or photographed in person, and even refused to bow after a show.
Just as Margiela began to fade from the fashion world’s memory, Margiela re-emerged as an artist in her first solo exhibition in Paris in October 2021.
Margiela will be hosting his third show in Seoul after Beijing, but his stance on staying “out of sight” hasn’t changed.
His first show in South Korea kicked off last month at the Lotte Museum of Art in South Seoul’s Songpa district.
Even his art is deeply mysterious with a touch of queerness, as he was not present to explain the intentions behind his work, and the descriptions written on the walls of the exhibition were rarely seen.
Ku Hae-jin, who was in charge of curating the program, emphasized the request for anonymity.
“We hadn’t even met him during the planning of the exhibition. It flew,” she said at a press conference last month.
The exhibition space was laid out like a maze, says Goo. He aims to encourage complete immersion in the exhibition, thinking about what you are about to see. ”
Since Margiela pursues the “essence” of his work and encourages the viewer to ponder, the mystery is felt throughout the exhibition, as can be seen in the large-scale installation “Dust Cover” (2021), in which an unknown object is covered with leather cloth. theme. about it.
The eerieness of his work stems largely from his longstanding fascination with hair, dating back to his childhood when Margiela’s father was a hairdresser. Hair has also been a recurring theme in previous shows for his eponymous brand, Maison He Margiela.
Exhibits such as “Vanitas” (2019) and “Redhead” (2019-22) are faceless silicone spheres embedded with real human hair, parted symmetrically in the middle. The latter sees different versions of her hair dyed red, a color recognized as “sensual” by the artist.
The former has five heads in a row, each representing a different period in a person’s life. From childhood to later years, hair colors from blond to silver are expressed.
“Vanitas,” Latin for “empty,” symbolizes the vanity of life, and no one can escape death, the curator said.
Another hair-inspired piece, Cartography (2019), features a large print image of the crown of the head. An arrow points to another hair part, but visitors should pay attention, as staff frequently change images.
In the sculpture “Torso Series” (2018-22), it is difficult to tell which part of the body is embossed.
According to the curator, Margiela’s deep study of the human body has something to do with modern society’s standards of beauty created by capitalism.
This explains why he constructs a dramatic visualization of deodorant and red nails. Margiela considers rejecting the aging process or refusing to change one’s appearance to be “unnatural” in and of itself.
“People dye their hair and paint their nails because they say that industrialization is beautiful today,” said curator Gu. “We continue to transform our bodies, so our torso sculptures seek to reflect the discrepancy between what modernity defines as attractive and what individuals think otherwise. ”
There is a certain absurdity and eerieness to Margiela’s artwork, which may surprise visitors who were expecting something very hairy and resembling Maison Margiela’s clothing.
A video at the end of the exhibition shows a woman with her face completely covered in hair, laughing maniacally.
“It’s really baffling that something like this could happen in a museum,” said curator Gu. “But he’s already known as a fashion prodigy, and he’s now turned his medium of expression into art.”
The Martin Margiela exhibition runs until March 26th. Tickets are 19,000 won ($14.90) for adults. The Lotte Museum of Art is open daily from 10:30 am to 7:00 pm.
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