Philippe Model will stage Musée de Valence’s collection

Stefano Pirovano

Musée de Valence opens its depot to Philippe Model, who turns the galleries into a stage where actors play according to colours. A spark brings back to life the sleeping artworks..

Next 13th of July, the Musée de Valence will add an important piece to the career of a creative personality who noboby has so far managed to really pinpoint. Philippe Model is not a fashion designer, nor a decorator, an interior designer, a scenographer, a tv character, a author. He is all, and more than this. Having successfully been through all these roles, there is nothing now that prevents him from curating together with Pascale Soleil, the museum’s conservateur-directrice, an exhibition titled De l’autre coté du miroir (The other side of the mirror) which freely taps into the Museum of Valence’s collections, mixing together epochs and styles according, above all, to colours. And this is quite exceptional, not just for the creatives as such, but also for all those museums which still have to find out the potential that exists by entrusting the curatorship of a show to characters who are not directly involved in the art world – as recently proved, for example, by Orhan Pamuk with his Museum of Innocence and by the Fondazione Carriero in Milan who gave Rem Koolhaas the task of curating the current exhibition on Sol Lewitt.

I build a setting which develops out of contrast and balance between themes and colours. This is my imaginary museum‘ says Model, whom we met some weeks ago in Paris. He has just turned 62, yet his curiosity appears to be still intact. ‘I imagine a passage behind the mirror, as Alice does in Wonderland. I would like it to be a museum in a museum, which allows to look at works from different and unusual perspectives‘. Here explained the code through which he conveys his thought.

Model is well-known for having designed unforgettable hats – like the glittering Stetson for Madonna – and revolutionary shoes, such as the ‘Elastica‘, prototype of all those sneakers whose uppers are entirely made with elastic bands; with regards to fashion he has always loved ‘its beauty’, while rejecting its consumerism, trends, and its quest for eternal present. ‘I’ve always tried to valorise people and their places‘ he tells us, also through haute couture accessories that made him famous in the ’80s, when fashion photographers used to live like rock stars and low cost brands still hadn’t  cannibalized the middle class and its ambitions. ‘In order to wear a hat, you ought to have an ambitious personality, and the same goes for gloves and shoes. The piece of cloth doesn’t exist as such, it is the accessories that give it life, and power‘.

The experience at the Musée de Valence, which houses more than 200 artworks, is not Model’s first one in a museum. The artiste créateur, as he calls himself, had already curated his work in occasion of the exhibition at the Fondation Cartier in Paris by photographer Ouka Leele, who had ‘portrayed’ with a huge Polaroid camera (50 x 60 format) accessories designed by Model. What was originally a tribute to the designer has now become the act of a scenographer who looked at fashion with that detached eye we mentioned. This is the same eye that designed in Paris the 650 square meter that Model rented between 1992 and 2016 in Place du Marché-Saint-Honoré to host photo shoots, fashion shows, parties and private concerts. It is also the same one that conceived the book ‘Métamorphoses’, published by Model in 2007 (Chêne). In this instance, there are 42 scenes that compose an actual visual dictionary which goes through styles and epochs, but which manages to remain surprisingly coherent with a perception of the space that is based on the semantics of objects and, above all, of surfaces. The year before, in 2006, Model had designed the exhibition that the Musée de la vie Romantique dedicated to an extraordinarily interesting character such as Pierre Loti. Today those same settings can be found in some of the venues whose interiors areindeed designed by Model, like the bistro Aux Furreurs or the restaurant Ancienne Maison Gradelle in Paris, or the boutique Verdeilla in Turin.

I gather, more than collecting – clarifies Model. Chasing things is not in my nature. I’d always prefer to do today what I feel like doing today. I am used to store items for the future, maybe for the next mise en scène‘. The container where Model keeps the results of his research – which sometimes is just simple harvesting, other times is instead the result of a precise aesthetic plan – is located in Sens, in the former tan-house of his father. The building was affected by the crisis of this sector and now Model has filled it with a new life, maybe lighter (according to Calvino’s definition of this term). The same approach can be grasped in his relationship with art. ‘I have many friends who are artists, I go to galleries, but I believe that this system at a certain point doesn’t allow you anymore to see and freely create‘. Model doesn’t like structures, being them physical, or simply mental ones. He favors the principle of freedom, which is first and foremost personal freedom. ‘You create for the sake of pleasure, moved by a sort of bulimic instinct, without even realising it‘. This is how his career has blossomed at the beginning of the ’80s, also thanks to illustrious collaborations with Claude Montana, Jean Paul Gaultier, Issey Miyake or Thierry Mugler.

Philippe Model’s works are already part of the Musée de la mode de la Ville de Paris (which has acquired a series of 12 hats, one for each month of the year), the Met in New York, the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje in Amsterdam, and the Museu de Disseny in Barcelona. The creative path of this sensitive artist goes on, on the other side of the mirror.

November 28, 2018