24 Hour Parody People

Left: Artist Francesco Vezzoli with Kate Moss. Right: Alexandre and Victor Carril. (All photos courtesy of Prada)

AT 8:30 PM LAST TUESDAY, I arrived at the invitation-only dinner for the 24 h Museum behind two good-looking fellows who also had forgotten their invites and thus had to wait outside for the keeper of the guest list. There was something nice—can we call this consolation?—in knowing that for at least a brief moment an art critic was on equal footing with twins Alexandre and Victor Carril, Paris’s latest enfants terribles. Their attendance was not surprising. During the recent men’s fashion week in Milan, the brothers had walked the catwalk for Prada alongside other actors in a show the fashion house had described as a “parody of male power.”

“Parody” was the theme of this evening, the opening of a fly-by-night museum, conceived by Francesco Vezzoli and Rem Koolhaas’s OMA/AMO with the support of Prada, inside Auguste Perret’s Palais d’Iena, just around the corner from the venerable Musée d’Art Moderne. “Conceptually speaking, this is a parody of a baroque feast.” That’s how Vezzoli described the project to Hans Ulrich Obrist in an interview from the slick press pamphlet. The OMA/AMO team made similar comments. The four spaces of gallery, staircase, cinema, and “Salon des refuses” were meant to destabilize the austere neoclassicism of the Palais (erected between 1936 and 1946), a building whose staid appearance befitted its use for government bureaucracy. You have to hand it to Prada, OMA, and Vezzoli for consistency across the brand.

Inside, the first casualty in a night practically defined by them was some poor woman whose ravishing heels did not agree with the fuchsia shag carpet laid on the concrete entrance stairs (no doubt as a parody of the red carpet). Her crash seemed like pay dirt for the scores of trigger-happy paparazzi.

Left: Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Condé Nast chairman Jonathan Newhouse, and Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani. Right: Marianne Faithfull and Kate Moss.

Whatever its guise, the concept of parody always implies a distance from the object of ridicule. Without this separation, the parodist risks becoming his or her own subject. Upon entering the pink, fluorescent cage that was the theatrical backdrop for the evening’s meal, I looked around for this elusive parody. Was it sitting next to Catherine Deneuve, cigarette in hand? Or maybe at the table with Miuccia Prada and Louis Garrel? Or perhaps it was hiding in Kate Moss’s stunning gray fur jacket or in Salma Hayek’s six-inch stilettos?

Eventually, though, it became clear that the whole spectacle was no different from any other opening dinner I’ve had the honor of attending, save for the fact I was seated with fashion editors (Anna Wintour, Alexandra Shulman), actors (Isabelle Huppert, Diane Kruger), and models rather than dealers, curators, and artists (apologies to Alfred Pacquement and Carsten Höller, who were among the token representatives of the art world). That and the food and tableware were better. This Milanese cenacolo via Paris and Rotterdam made no mockery of the baroque feast outside of the caricature already inherent in such art-fashion gatherings; it was its contemporary updating, gluttony and egomania included.

Around 11 PM, as the B-list invitees began to congregate outside the cage for the nightlong party and as the A-listers snuck away to their drivers, I saw some curious onlookers snapping pictures of those of us still lingering inside. It was only at this awkward conjunction of la foule with le demimonde that the tragedy of the 24 h Museum truly emerged. Beyond the fact that navel-gazing here had reached such epic proportions that you didn’t even need the semblance of a critical project—just the three D’s (dinner, drinks, and dancing)—to create a work of art, the descending hierarchy of events from VIP dinner to members-only party to press walkthrough to public tours replicated seamlessly and without comment the unjust inequity of society at large. Um . . . Parody?

Left: The crowd at the 24 h Museum. Right: Catherine Deneuve and Melvil Poupaud.

It remains an open question whether 24 h Museum is no more than highly stylized party decor organized around the theme of the museum or a cynical artwork that riffs on artists’ installations by the likes of Duchamp or Fontana or Broodthaers to prop up a dystopian “museum without walls” in which Fashion is both the beginning and the end.

However, I’ll give one thing to Signora Prada and Signori Koolhaas and Vezzoli. They throw a great party. At some point between midnight and 4 AM, when the music was driving and the alcohol flowing, a friend asked me if I wanted to check out Kate Moss at the turntables or instead get another (free) drink. I didn’t even have to think: Given the choice between celebrity and champagne, I’ll take du champ every time.