CULTURE CHANEL 02: Curator Jean-Louis Froment Choreographs Chanel Exhibition of Passion, Fashion, and Picasso
In Guangzhou, Architecture, History, and Fashion are all intertwined in an elegant dance, choreographed gracefully by acclaimed French Curator and Artistic Director, Jean-Louis Froment for the third chapter of the Culture Chanel Exhibition which first opened to audiences in Beijing and Shanghai a few years ago. The architecture of Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House is the show’s site. The History is the work on display of master artists, Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau among the few. And the Fashion is the work of the House of Chanel from its inception to now.
“Dance” is the keyword for an exhibit with a main center piece that is not a Chanel item, but the world’s largest original Pablo Picasso, Le Train Bleu, a 10m x 12m stage curtain of two voluptuous female figures dancing for a 1924 Sergei Diaghilev ballet of the same name.
Curator, Jean-Louis Froment below in front of Le Train Bleu.
But before this apex which occurs in the Opera House’s black box (a perfect fit), Froment takes us on a walk through amongst pieces straight from the Chanel Archives, arranged amongst manuscripts, drawings, photographs, and art by Coco Chanel’s contemporaries, Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Amedeo Modigliani, and Max Jacob, just to name a few. Of course there are current Chanel pieces in there by Karl Lagerfeld which mirrors archive works, as well as photographs by Mario Testino, Jerome Schlomoff, Peter Fink, and Corinne Day.
A Photograph of Coco Chanel
Works by Picasso at Culture Chanel Guangzhou 2013.
Thankfully the works are housed in delicate glass boxes with no text, label, or date, to explain them. The visitor is forced to really look at each piece which is removed from context and time deliberately by Froment, so the focus is not on a linear narrative, but a visually thematic one.
As an example, each major piece from the archive is placed in one of 5 chapters which all touch on the themes of the ballet, Le Train Bleu. The themes of Breathe, Move, Love, Dream, and Invent, connect to a period in the life of Coco Chanel, as well as her adventures on the beach as a sailor, on horseback, as a tennis player, as a dancer, as a lover of men, as a lover of the countryside, as a muse, as a dreamer, and as a crafty inventor. (I put it literally linear for you all.)
Initially it may be a bit jarring that there is no explanation for which bottle of perfume is original and which was made last year, but that is the point. The point is not to look at the placard next to the work, the point is to look at the work, and to formulate for oneself the items created by Coco Chanel and the House of Chanel, as a gauge of what women seek in their time.
A few exceptions however, this piece cannot be mistaken for current perfume and is an OBVIOUS original. The original bottles for Chanel No.5 designed with perfumer Ernest Beaux. The small one in 1921. The large one in 1924.
On top of being introduced to this show in Guangzhou by Chanel, we were also given the opportunity to speak with curator, Froment about the 3rd show and the overwhelming space designed by Zaha Hadid.
theWanderlister+ Interview with Curator, Jean-Louis Froment RE: Culture Chanel Guangzhou 2013.
W+: How exciting was it to prepare an exhibition for the Guangzhou Opera House, a Zaha Hadid space? Is the feeling different from the first two exhibits in Beijing and Shanghai with you?
JLF: Absolutely! This architecture really inspires me a lot. And definitely the architectural context was distinct. It really gives a certain dynamism to this exhibition, that Chanel appreciated. The fact that this is not a traditional venue for exhibition, we had to invent a subject that had a relationship to such a venue. The exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai wouldn’t work in such a venue, because immediately if those exhibits would be housed here, the Opera House as a building would be irrelevant. That’s why I requested the House of Chanel to frame the exhibit around the performance and specifically “the Ballet”.