La Freak, C'est Chic

Nicolas Trembley on Gelitin at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris


Left: Yves Saint Laurent designer Stefano Pilati and Kanye West. (Photo: Ami Sioux) Right: Singer Sean deLear and Gelitin's Ali Janka. (Photo: Nicolas Trembley)

Opening last Friday in the middle of Paris fashion week, Austrian collective Gelitin’s first museum exhibition (at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville) was not to be missed. Just when it seemed that the idea of fusing art and fashion was played out, the opening of their exhibition “La Louvre—Paris” effected a veritable return of the real. (A new trend for the coming season?) Sometimes the real can be too much: The poster for the exhibition, which features, among other things, Gelitin-ites Wolfgang Gantner, Ali Janka, Florian Reither, and Tobias Urban in the nude, did not make it past officials in charge of the city’s museum programs. But rather than change the image, the group simply had their galleries—Emmanuel Perrotin, Massimo de Carlo, and Meyer Kainer—do the promo work for the show.

The exhibition offered a chaotic, ghostlike version of the museum that housed it, complete with all the amenities necessary at today’s houses of culture, from washrooms to a bookstore and cash registers. (Note that in the exhibition’s title, “Le Louvre” is feminized to “La Louvre.”) In an act of recycling, everything was constructed with what remained of the preceding exhibition, by Mathieu Mercier, which the collective made their own by slathering it in caramel. But as is often the case with Gelitin, not everything brown smelled sweet: On one wall near the entrance was an enormous text by the artist Karl Holmqvist, rendered in excrement.

Left: Dealers Massimo De Carlo and Emanuel Perrotin with Fabrice Hergott. Right: Artist Sara Glaxia (on wheelchair). (Photos: Nicolas Trembley)

The artists, who spent eight weeks in Paris preparing for the exhibition, had plenty of time to make new friends and invite them to collaborate on the show, which contains over three thousand works. The pièce de résistance borne out of this frenzy of activity was a room of Mona Lisas, each version trashier and more hilarious than the last. Minimal hardcore and trumpet concerts? Check. Adults hugging baby dolls in the corner of one room? Yup. Guests stuffing Camembert down their trousers? That, too. Glancing about the galleries, it became difficult to tell what had been organized by the artists and what was being improvised by the army of freaks in attendance.

Novel odors were around every corner, from a giant foot made of cheese (reminiscent of classical statuary fragments) to a smoked shark, which several guests were bravely attempting to eat, to the bird droppings that dotted a cage whose base consisted of a model of Gelitin’s New York dealer Leo Koenig’s gallery. The one place from which smells didn’t emanate was the artists’ handmade lavatories, which no one dared use. (Had they, they might have discovered that, through a clever trick with mirrors, you could see your asshole from the seat.) None of this seemed to faze elegant T magazine editor Stefano Tonchi, who, along with the International Herald Tribune’s Suzy Menkes and Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, had opened the week’s festivities with an Oscar party at the Grand Palais.

Left: Performance group Danger Curt. (Photo: Christian Badger) Right: Collector Bob Cottle and photographer Ari Marcopoulos. (Photo: Nicolas Trembley)

The atmosphere at that party and at Gelitin’s opening could not have been more different. But the strength of this exhibition rests with how the anarchic group have imposed their way of functioning on the institution; the museum seemed obliterated by their madcap universe. Since no one was asked to show an invitation card at the door, and since there were free drinks and all-you-can-eat Camembert until 3 AM, the evening was impressive, to say the least. Most of the VIP attendees, including photographer Ari Marcopoulos and collectors Barbara and Bob Cottle, decamped early for an intimate party hosted by the Swiss fashion company Akris, where Swiss sausage (the famous bratwurst of St. Gallen) was served, and I met German TV stars I didn’t know existed.

Only an over-the-top fashion soiree could counterbalance Gelitin’s extreme production at the Musée Moderne, and at the end of the week, the magazine Self Service and the boutique Colette came through with a party at Lup, where a group of extraordinary Canadian performers led the way to the dance floor for sets mixed by actresses Chloë Sevigny and Ludivine Sagnier, fashion designer Stefano Pilati, and Dior jewelry designer Victoire de Castellane. But there were few artists among the sweaty bodies; instead, I saw the Olsen twins and Kanye West. I had to wonder what they would have made of “La Louvre.”

Left: Chloë Sevigny and designer Ben Cho. (Photo: Ami Sioux) Right: Ludivine Sagnier. (Photo: Christian Badger)

Left: Curator Francesco Stocchi and Macha. Right: Artist Salvatore Viviano. (Photos: Nicolas Trembley)

Left: Gelitin's Florian Reither and Colin Welsh. Right: Designer Vavu Dadu. (Photos: Nicolas Trembley)

Left: Valentino's Alessandra Facchinetti, T magazine editor Stefano Tonchi, and Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune. (Photo: Nicolas Trembley) Right: Dior jewelry designer Victoire de Castellane. (Photo: Ami Sioux)

Left: Director and photographer Ellen von Unwerth. (Photo: Christian Badger) Right: Dealers Christian Meyer and Renate Kainer with ARC curator Julia Garimorth. (Photo: Nicolas Trembley)

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