PARIS – The City of Light, that byword for understated chic and classic refinement, got a refreshing touch of the bold and the brash last summer, thanks to creative power duo Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari. Contemporary artist Cattelan and photographer Ferrari brought their iconic publication, Toiletpaper, to life at Galeries Lafayette in Paris. The city’s legendary fashion institution experienced the materialization of the magazine’s eye-poppingly surreal worldview – from glossy pages to 3D installations.
Since the first number came out in 2010, Toiletpaper has portrayed the troubled imaginations of its image-obsessed initiators in intensely saturated hues. Contemporary art made accessible in a magazine, it arguably subverts the usually rarefied art market. A department store seemed to be the logical place for Cattelan and Ferrari’s first foray into the real world – an excursion that comprised 11 window displays, one exhibition and – highlighted by an inflatable, phallic Eiffel Tower – an installation that occupied Galeries Lafayette’s famous Art Nouveau steel and glass dome. Naturally, products from the store’s collection appeared in the various presentations.
Windows along Boulevard Haussmann took quintessential symbols of la vie à la française as a starting point. Playful scenes – including a bevy of beach beauties in bikinis the colours of the Tricolore and another Eiffel Tower in a tropical, flamingo-fringed setting – formed lurid backdrops for simple but effective displays of Galeries Lafayette’s wares. Maurizio Cattelan refers to the windows as ‘electrical visions full of tension’ and as an interpretation of ‘French grandeur’.
Inside, shoppers passed through the long dim hallway that leads to the store’s gallery space, where they found an even more three-dimensional version of Toiletpaper’s nostalgia-infused world. The makers’ vibrant palette and inventive use of everyday objects featured strongly in their creation of five elaborate tongue-in-cheek domestic situations, from messy bathroom to backyard patio. Vividly graphic backdrops enhanced the effect of an spectacle that was part junk-shop Mad Men, part psychedelia or, according to Cattelan, ‘a lysergic doll’s house on a 1:1 scale’. Some of the items shown were those that Cattelan and Ferrari have produced with two companies, Seletti and Gufram. Visitors could purchase them for what the enthusiastic artist calls ‘a true tactile serotonin initiation: images become three-dimensional and can be taken home to lengthen the ecstasy-rich experience’.