Christian Louboutin L’exhibition[niste]

Jusqu’au 3 janvier 2021, le Palais de la Porte Dorée présente « Christian Louboutin L’Exhibition[niste] ». Conçue comme une invitation à plonger dans l’univers foisonnant de Christian Louboutin, créateur de souliers et figure incontournable du monde de la mode, l’exposition explore toutes les facettes de son univers, dans un lieu qui est cher au créateur et qui a vu naître sa vocation. Avec Olivier Gabet, directeur du Musée des Arts Décoratifs et Commissaire de l’exposition, Christian Louboutin revient sur ses inspirations et son processus créatif.

How did you discover the Palais de la Porte Dorée? What is your relationship with it? 

It was pretty normal for a neighborhood kid to go to the Palais de la Porte Dorée, as there was a  Tropical  Aquarium.    My  sisters accompanied  me  there on most  weekends; I  was fascinated  by the shimmering colors  and beautiful shades of  the fish.   Given  that the Aquarium was located in the Palais de la Porte Dorée, I started to explore the place, which was also home to the Musée des Arts Africains et Océaniens.  That was the beginning of infinite imaginary journeys, allowing me to travel, under one roof, across continents, and to discover distant lands and unknown tribes. 

These journeys were always a great source of inspiration for you. What are your interests ? 

There are actually two pleasures in travel: that of going to a place we know and appreciate, even  if  each  visit  is  different,  but  also  that  of going  to  a  country that we  discover, and indulging in encounters and surprises.  I like the unexpected, spontaneous and instinctive side of travel. For example, it was on an unannounced visit to one of his boutiques that I met the Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee, who has since become a dear friend and created  a piece for  the  exhibition.    I  like  this  approach  to travel,  as  well  as  that  of discovering  cultures  and skills  that are  still  unknown  to  me.    I  also  enjoy  all  the preparations,  all  the  hours  spent  before the departure  imagining  and  dreaming of one’s trip. 

Can you tell us more about the title “The Exhibitionist” ? 

It’s  a  title  that  came  to me quite quickly.  It’s a play on words between ‘exhibition ’in English, which means exhibiting, and the act of revealing a part of oneself to others.  To expose oneself is to show oneself, to lay oneself bare.  An exhibition is about displaying. Both concepts are therefore quite close, but there is a more subversive notion in exposing oneself that I like, because by exhibiting my work, I expose myself more intimately.  I’ve invested a lot in this project, both professionally and personally; I reveal a great deal about myself, my inspirations, and my creative process in this exhibition, and I wanted this to be understood from the title of the exhibition. 

Can you tell us more about how you met Olivier Gabet? 

Olivier was commissioned by the Palais de la Porte Dorée to curate the exhibition.  He is also  the  Deputy  Director  General  of  the Musée des  Arts Décoratifs. We  came  to  an immediate  understanding.  We have the same taste for decorative arts.  I had seen him and knew him by reputation.  It was very simple for me to establish a dialogue with someone like Olivier: open, cultured, and very at ease in building bridges between different aesthetic and sociological worlds, between fashion, architecture, craftsmanship, theater, … 

This exhibition revisits nearly 30 years of creation. Is it a retrospective ? 

I prefer the word celebration to that of retrospective; celebration is part of the present, the past and also the future, with its many surprises that I look forward to.  I wanted to feature unique elements that punctuated my life and that are prevalent throughout my work.  There are, inevitably, some key moments; yet beyond a purely chronological approach, I wanted to showcase these great  inspirations,  which  are,  among  others, Bhutan, and exceptional workmanship  

This exhibition does not position itself as a shoe exhibition. How did you envision it ? 

To put on an exhibition exclusively dedicated to shoes would have been limiting. I wanted to take advantage of being in a place that was as dear to me as the Palais de la Porte Dorée, to be less literal in my approach and to show aspects of my work that the public is less familiar with.  It’s an opportunity for me to emphasize the importance of drawing, to make the  creative  process visible while highlighting unique  personalities  and  know-how. I imagined it as a journey through my inspirations, my encounters, my passions, which also allows me to step outside the framework of an exhibition that would be purely a fashion show. 

This exhibition presents itself as an immersive experience, a journey into your imagination. Why did you choose this format rather than that of a standard exhibition? 

There is always a playful aspect to my work; it’s something that is tied to my personality and to my way of seeing life.  This exhibition is about my career, but also about my way of seeing the world.  To bean “exhibitionist” is also to accept to reveal a part of oneself, and the only way to really do it is to immerse oneself and to want to share such simple feelings as joy and self-questioning.  I had the idea of having a show that would reflect the place: both popular  and high-caliber,  two characteristics that  are  not  mutually  exclusive,  as  I know my work interests people outside the fashion world 

There are very different inspirations in this exhibition. How did you make them co-exist ? 

As easily as they co-exist in my work and in my life. It is, above all, a question of curiosity, and of my interest in different cultures and the people who bring them to life.  I work often  by  combining  materials, colors,  inspirations,  and  know-how; I like the idea that everything comes together to create something new. The same is true for this exhibition 

How long have you been conceiving this exhibition? 

My last exhibition was in2012.  It took place in London and marked our 20th anniversary. “The Exhibitionist” was not born of a particular desire on my part to have an exhibition, but rather of a meeting with the team at the Palais de la Porte Dorée as part of supporting the building’s restauration . There was an immediate chemistry between our teams, and they invited me to think about  doing an exhibition at the Palais. It’s quite recent ; it all started less than two years ago. 

Why did you choose to involve several artists in this exhibition? 

I not only involved artists, but also exceptional craftsmen with a unique savoir-faire. From the beginning of my career, they have always had a prominent place in my creative process, whether through collaborations or cartes blanches.  Inviting artists and craftsmen to take part  in this  exhibition  was  also a way of showing my respect  for  them, while  providing them with the opportunity to express their own vision of my work. It was a way for me to show that my work is often a team effort.

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