This piece appears as part of “Not In Paris,” an online exhibition hosted and curated by Highsnobiety. Head here to see the full series.
The idea for “Not In Paris” clicked together in April on a phone call from New York to Île-de-France, between myself and Grand Palais president Chris Dercon. He was telling me about how the Musée du Luxembourg planned to activate their postponed exhibition ‘Man Ray et la Mode,’ and I was pontificating out loud about Highsnobiety’s plans to “cover” an officially cancelled Paris Men’s Fashion Week.
The curator and I did not even discuss “Not In Paris” in our chat, but as he told me about ‘Man Ray et la Mode,’ the idea shot through me like a thunderbolt through a clouded sky of conference calls, cancelled plans, and bad internet. To start, the mental image of prints by the quintessential surrealist photographer hanging in an empty and locked museum — the surreal multiplied by the surreal — was the exact kind of jubilant irony we wanted to celebrate and embrace with the “Not In Paris” project. But furthermore, this particular body of work itself – which is rooted in Man Ray’s “side hustles” as an operative in the fashion world – speaks to the manner in which the garment industry serves as an incubator for such different modes of practice: from artwork, to photography, to architecture, to music, to dance. As much as it is about not being there, “Not In Paris” is about this: the reality that fashion is a tent that houses the entire spectrum of cultural production.
In lieu of opening ‘Man Ray et la Mode’ this spring (the exhibition opens September 23, just in time for the heretofore not-cancelled Ready-to-Wear Week), Dercon and the Musée du Luxembourg created ‘En Attendant Man Ray’ [‘Waiting for Man Ray’], a series of correspondences about the artist’s work by a group of photographers, artists, fashion designers, and beyond. — Thom Bettridge, Editor-in-Chief
“The commercial fashion-photographs for French Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vanity Fair were an important source of income and creative outlet for the restless art-experimenter Man Ray. In the 1920s and ’30s, Man Ray, staying true to his surrealist imagination, changed the way fashion was advertised and the manner in which the fashionable modern woman was perceived. The photographic inventions of Man Ray are still a treasure trove for rendering the display of fashions at once more playful and intelligent. We have therefore invited admirers of the œuvre of Man Ray, themselves professionally active in the world of fashion, to tell us with their own words or images why the œuvre of Ray matters so much to them.
Our contributors are fashion- photographers themselves, or influential curators, critics, designers, editors, models and stylists of fashion. Many live and work in Paris, but also in Antwerp, Berlin, Firenze, London, Milan, Munich, New York or even in far away Australia. Yet once the pandemic is over they will all be in Paris again to make fashions or show and tell the way we want to dress.” – Mr Chris Dercon, President at Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais, Paris
“I was struck by Man Ray’s picture “Le Violon D’Ingres,” 1924, while studying photography in the mid-eighties. My family comes from generations of bridge makers, different uncles were either violin or guitar makers, while I was working as an apprentice of making bows for string instruments. So seeing this naked woman’s back in the shape of a violin with the F-Holes retouched in, left me very surprised and excited about life and photography.
Chris Dercon asked me to make a piece of work inspired by Man Ray’s images. So [above] is the picture: there is my girlfriend Dovile and my Dad’s carvings: a bass bridge, a black mask and an elephant, also a ping-pong table and some dead lilies.” – Mr Juergen Teller, Photographer and Artist
“Man Ray became famous for something he was not really interested in, namely his photographs. Actually, he wanted to become a painter. He says: ‘I photograph what I don’t want to paint, and paint what I can’t photograph.’ I sometimes think that too, I could have been a really good boxer.
Man Ray, too, was always many things, not just one thing — writer, filmmaker, philosopher. I also think of Man Ray’s ‘gift,’ an iron with nails on the underside, the transforming reversal of an everyday object into an art object. Actually, in Schumann’s Bar we do exactly the opposite and turn an art object into an everyday object, like a really good cocktail.” – Mr Charles Schumann, Artist and Gastronomist
“Inspiration comes when you are not provoking it; it comes at night, during a walk, a dream, an encounter, while reading a book or listening to a song. Inspiration comes at an unexpected moment, as a surprise. Sorrow and joy can inspire just as pain or pleasure can. Inspiration can produce a state of ecstasy or a jolt to your heart. Inspiration comes with trial and error; sometimes an experiment seems to be a turning point, a point of no return, it takes form like a collage, double images, black and white shadows that shuffle to produce a moment of change. That moment is as precious as a moment of silence and contemplation; no return, the circle is round. Dreamers are the artists of time; they are the world changers; they are driven by creativity because they need to change the flow of history! Without them the world would be endlessly boring and therefore we adore them, we give them the applause they need to continue realizing their dream.
The Man Ray experiment, counterposed with the Maison Margiela cut outs give the viewer a moment of joy; they propose an intriguing perception of time as the click of the camera and the cut of the fabric are decisive moments. in making. As Germano Celant said in the catalogue of the Art and Fashion Biennale of 1996 in Florence, ‘To cut is to think.’ He further writes ‘The cut of the scissor is like the click of the camera, like a stroke of the pencil or paintbrush: all these acts are decisively isolate. A form or representation, marking a surface that generates a reality.’ Thanks to Germano Celant, fashion and photography are the Arte Povera of today’s future.” – Mrs Linda Loppa, Independent Advisor Strategy and Vision, Curator, Coach, Writer
“I chose the image with Lee Miller. The first thing that caught my eye was her smile, unique, mysterious, but she is real, she is really there. Her personality is there, in that moment, in that picture taken by a sensitive person who knows that it’s now or never. And she stays.
It’s funny that I did not even think about the rest of her body actually. Only her head and chest are speaking so much. She looks in the camera and reveals the contact with the photographer, like a synergy, giving and taking. The silk scarf with the print is precisely placed around her chest and arms, but anytime she is going to move, being free. This image inspires me because of the graphic angle, there is so much strength and a search of beauty. I imagined Man Ray while he develops the photo in the dark room, it must have been magic seeing this image appear!” – Mrs Kristina de Coninck, Model, Martin Margiela’s Muse
“There’s a thing I read about Man Ray when I was a younger artist thinking I needed to be secretive or anonymous as a commercial photographer. It said that Man Ray was the highest paid commission photographer in New York for many years. That just blew the door of this neurotic little ‘artist’ room I had made for myself.” – Mr Roe Ethridge, Photographer and Artist
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