A peaceful sensuous spaceship. A futurist dream. A great sleeping beast, soft and gleaming. The arrival of Mobile Art by Zaha Hadid in the front square of the Arab World Institute (AWI) in Paris may well look like an hallucination, but its presence is nonetheless both powerful and real.
After stopping over in Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York in 2008, showcasing the work of contemporary artists inspired by Chanel’s aesthetic codes, the travelling exhibition pavilion has found a home.
Designed in 2007, the pavilion was commissioned for Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld, a huge admirer of Zaha Hadid’s work. "Design a pavilion for me!" he said to her. And (mobile!) art was born.
The result was a donut-like mobile structure weighing 80 tons, measuring 45 meters in length with 700 m² of floor space. The aerodynamic look is balanced with sophisticated technology.
Chanel donated Mobile Art to the AWI following a request from the AWI chairman, Dominique Baudis. Not as corporate sponsorship, but as a straightforward donation with no strings attached, motivated purely by Chanel’s passion for art.
To celebrate this triple acquisition – for architecture, town planning and the political sphere – the AWI hosted an inaugural evening on 28th April, with Karl Lagerfeld and the two Pritzker prize-winning "starchitects" Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel.
Mobile Art is the first work in Paris by the Iraqi-born British architect. Finally! Her installation in the front square of the Arab World Institute provokes an exciting moving dialogue between two masterpieces: the AWI building, designed in 1981 by Jean Nouvel and inaugurated in 1987, looms as an imposing perfect rectangle decorated with mashrabiyas in a powerful symbolic tribute to the Arab architectural tradition, and Mobile Art, which embodies intuition and constructivism through its organic forms and inner "skin".
These two architectural concepts are based on two principles, one masculine, the other eminently feminine and sensitive.
The dialogue has taken shape. Contrasting and complementing forms. Magical osmosis. After the inaugural exhibition - "Zaha Hadid: An Architecture"- which drives the spectator into Hadid’s fascinating work on parametricism, the Mobile Art will serve from October 2011 as an exhibition space for contemporary art from the Arab world.
"We live amidst concrete and dreams," observed Adam Zagajewski, one of the poets who attended the inauguration. The dream is right there in the front square of the Arab World Institute.
Photo: Delphine Achard
The 300 m² space adjoining the existing Chanel boutique offers a natural and fluid area in the signature colors of black and gold that has been inspired by jewelry from the Spring-Summer 2011 Ready-to-Wear collection.
The make-up bar presents the Lumières Byzantines eye shadow palette, created by Peter Philips for the Paris-Byzance collection. The nail bar, meanwhile, highlights a summer palette.
There are pieces from the Paris-Byzance collection as a sneak preview amidst designs from the Spring-Summer 2011 Ready-to-Wear collection, and dresses and suits - on loan from the Chanel Conservatory - worn by those loyal to the House, such as Keira Knightley, Michelle Williams, Penelope Cruz and Michelle Mercier.
The small private lounge on the first floor, with its black mosaic floor and sequin-embroidered carpet, offers a view all the way down to the stairs leading up to the Palais des Festivals.
From May 7th to May 22nd 2011, 10am to 7pm
6, Boulevard de la Croisette
Fall-Winter 2011/12 Ready-to-Wear
People often ask me, ‘when did you start writing your book about Chanel?’ – and the true answer is over a decade ago, when I first met Karl Lagerfeld. I was interviewing him for a magazine profile at the time, but we ended up talking about the ghosts of the past, as well as the fashion of the future; and one of the intangible presences in the room was Coco Chanel herself. Her portrait still hangs above Lagerfeld’s desk in the Design Studio, her apartment remains preserved on the second floor, hidden behind the mirrored walls; and late at night, when rue Cambon is almost silent, you feel that if you were to turn round swiftly enough, you might just catch a glimpse of Mademoiselle Chanel herself.
Once I had passed through those looking glass doors, into the extraordinary world on the other side of the mirrors, I knew that I wanted to discover more. Lagerfeld proved to be a wise guide in the maze that surrounded the legend of Coco Chanel, as did her close friend, Claude Delay, and her great-niece, Gabrielle Labrunie. I was also lucky enough to discover several private archives in England and Scotland that contained previously unseen photographs of Chanel, and a number of letters and diaries that gave surprising new insights into her life. In my search for the truth about this most elusive of women, I travelled from the abbey at Aubazine that contained clues to her childhood, to the remote Scottish Highlands where she had fished with the Duke of Westminster and Winston Churchill.
When my book was finished – not that you can ever really come to a final conclusion with Chanel – there was yet another surprise to come. Monsieur Lagerfeld produced a treasure trove: a series of beautiful illustrations illuminating the enigma that is Coco Chanel, which became the starting point for this wonderful new edition of the book…
France, March 24th, 2011
Germany, end of April 2011
UK and USA, September 2011
Photographed by Olivier Saillant
Photographed by Benoît Peverelli
Fall-Winter 2011/12 Ready-to-Wear show
Fall-Winter 2011/12 Ready-to-Wear, Grand Palais, Paris
Photos: Delphine Achard