I am passionate about exhibitions. Like anything else, it started with exhibitions I have seen and have been amazed, impressed or touched by. In an exhibition, all my senses are awake. It touches me in every way. My appetite for knowledge and responsiveness to academia are stimulated, my fascination and sensibility for (spatial) design are encountered, my eagerness for interaction and participation (my research for fun) is somehow satisfied, and exhibitions are a way of living my passion for fashion, art and history. Going forward in my career, learning more and more about exhibition-making and curation, I have recently been thinking about the exhibitions that have mattered until now: the ones which made a difference for me and which, even without noticing it, pushed me to do what I do today.
The first exhibitions which comes to my mind is Paris, Delhi, Bombay at Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2011 – it is the first exhibition that I went back to see several times. It was a huge exhibition which showcased works of art about the Indian society, by Indian and French artists. Visiting it, I realised that an exhibition is a choice. It is not about universal knowledge as one might think, it is about expressing an opinion, conveying an idea, telling something to someone. As a student in first year of art history at the time, I completely related to Paris, Delhi, Bombay‘s choice. I remember one detail in particular: the map of the space was conceived as an Indian symbol – of which I don’t remember the name. That’s when it stroke me: an exhibition is a whole, it’s objects displayed, it’s a space, it’s a message, a thesis, a floor map, a choice. Plus, I was touched by the artworks themselves and by the connection of it all to modern society. An exhibition can be engaged.
Slowly, I started going to exhibitions for the work on display and/or its subject, but also for the experience itself. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier. From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. at Grand Palais in Paris in 2015 has also been important to me. Curated by the designer himself, it was a big experimentation – for instance, the treadmill technology used in sushi restaurants to present the food to clients was used size XXL to create a moving fashion show within the gallery. Even though the whole thing was not polished: some captions were missing, it was dusty … it was spectacular and it was fun. For a couple of hours, I entered a dream and I haven’t forgotten it ever since. That’s crucial. When I enter an exhibition, I expect to forget what I was doing five minutes before. I expect to be transported, in any kind of way.
During my time in London, several exhibitions had an impact on me and directed me to one direction or another in terms of my practice. However, I keep in mind only a few. First, the incredible Hair by Sam McKnight at Somerset House in late 2016. Aside from being the first exhibition about a hair artist I ever saw – and it being a subject I was interested in – it combined all the elements I expect in an exhibition: a good content of research, a well-designed space but most of all, it was a complete experience. Every centimetre of space was thought in relation to the one next to it. The space as a whole worked really well. Plus the exhibition wasn’t static: there were video, sound, things to look at everywhere, interactions, which touched me even more because I respond to it. Hair was magistral. It is still one of the best exhibition I have seen in my life so far.
South Africa: the art of a nation at the British Museum in late 2016 too is another exhibition which defined my London time. It was well researched and really well made. The exhibition succeeded in creating this closed world when you could immerse yourself – once again, an experience. The approach was historical but finishing with the contemporary scene. I felt a connection with the art on display the entire time. I had been interested in the culture and history of South Africa for a while but the exhibition made me make the decision to move to the country for some time at some point. There was no going back to it. My attachment to the exhibition is thus very personal. It touched me emotionally and influenced my life. And guess what? I am now in South Africa.
Going to exhibitions is part of my life. It’s first a pleasure and secondly a job. looking back to the exhibitions that have had an influence on me help me understand where I am today in terms of my practice, my interests and also myself. Several other exhibitions could be in this post and will, when I’ll continue this exercise, constitute another post.