THE GLASS BEADS GAME: On Wednesday, a group of Dior brand ambassadors mingled with French artists in ceremonial dress in the ornate setting of the Petit Palais museum for a ceremony marking the enthronement of contemporary artist Jean-Michel Othoniel at the ‘Acadamy of Arts.
Othoniel’s uniform was designed by Kim Jones, artistic director of men’s collections at Dior, and guests at the event included Catherine Deneuve; artist Sophie Calle; Kailand Morris, Stevie Wonder’s son and fashion entrepreneur; actor Arnaud Valois and ballet dancer Hugo Marchand.
After an official ceremony earlier in the day under the dome of the Institut de France, the action moved to the Petit Palais, which is organizing a retrospective of Othoniel’s work entitled “Le theorème du Narcisse”, which will run until January 2. Former Culture Minister Jack Lang presented the artist, best known for his large-scale glass bead sculptures, with his ceremonial sword.
Designed by the artist with his life companion, the Belgian sculptor Johan Creten, it was in fact an imposing sculpture, with a bronze pommel in the shape of a Borromean knot edged with pearls, and a blade carved from a single block of obsidian.
“Finally, we made a work of art together. It fills me with joy, as does the fact that it takes the form of a sword. I hope that we will continue to fight together for a long time with this same idea of the art that unites us, ”Othoniel said visibly moved to Creten in his acceptance speech.
Laurent Petitgirard, perpetual secretary of the Academy of Fine Arts, had only one reservation. “I’m not sure Jean-Michel is really aware that we regularly carry our swords. He’s going to have a slight problem, but we’ll find a solution – maybe a miniature version, ”he said to the audience laughing.
Othoniel credited Petitgirard with bringing fresh blood to the academy, which has a reputation for being suffocating, as its members – known as the Immortals – are appointed for life.
“It’s good to bring it back to life with younger members and to try to change mentalities closer to contemporary art. That’s why I wanted to work on a project with Kim Jones, because I wanted the costume to show that energy, that revival, ”the soft-spoken artist told WWD.
He drew the motif of the olive leaf himself. “I was lucky that the Academy accepted and that Kim Jones and the Dior workshops agreed to work with me on the design. The way they made it through the embroidery is amazing, because the designs were in black and white, so the embroiderers really brought their own interpretation to it, ”he added.
Elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, sculpture section, at the end of 2018, Othoniel was active within the institution, helping to set up a new residency for 25 artists which will begin next year. “I used to go there to work with a sweater and jeans. Having this costume, going through the ceremony, makes you a little more aware of the importance of the Academy, ”he said.
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