Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris will forever be my favourite museum. Truth be told their exhibitions are so good that sometimes I use them as an excuse to jump on the eurostar. But hey, some people obsess over sport and film, I however, fan-girl over art and fashion. The two are currently combined in a fabulous exhibition at the museum’s display of the inspirations of Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten, and as ever, Des Arts Decoratifs confirmed just why I am so enamoured with it.
Van Noten is probably most famous for being part of the Antwerp Six, if you don’t know who they are, I will do my best to forgive you, however for those not as fashion conscious as I am, the Antwerp Six are a group of six designers which include Van Noten along with other notable Belgians such as Ann Demeulemeester who graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium in 1980. Their radical designs introduced Antwerp to the fashion world when they presented their collections in London in 1986.
Since then Van Noten has been churning out stunning designs season after season and now he has put together a retrospective of his most spectacular pieces along with his inspirations at Des Arts Decoratifs. The result is extravagant. We are greater with the luxurious partnering of one of Damien Hirst’s butterfly canvases playing as a backdrop to an Elsa Schiaperelli dress, which is also covered in the beautiful creatures. It is clear that Van Noten is keen to not only show the history of his own work but also to celebrate and pay respect to his influences, with an equal number of his own work and the work of others.
The exhibition, which is the first retrospective of Van Noten’s oeuvre and also the first dedicated to his work moves chronologically in one sense, in the way that his collections have been displayed on the runway, however, the influences which accompany them move back and forwards in time constantly. Menswear and womenswear are presented alongside album covers, film clips, sculpture and paintings from Francis Bacon, to Yves Klein with detours via Bronzino and Elizabeth Peyton. In theory, the display should be a mess, however, out of the chaos, a beautiful cohesion emerges.
Cultural influences are also shown from India to Spain – two countries you wouldn’t automatically think to put together into one sentence. Many of the garments and garments have come from the Museum’s own collection which has allowed Van Noten along with curator Pamela Goblin to include historical costumes alongside more contemporary fare.
You could easily spend hours inside the show, which is spread across two floors of the Museum. I only wish I lived in Paris so that I could visit again and again as I am almost certain with over 400 pieces, that there is so much hidden detail that on each visit I would spot something new – or rather something old, to inspire.
Dries Van Noten: Inspirations is on display at Musee des Arts Decoratifs until 31 August