On one of my last days in Paris I visited the Carnavalet museum in the Marais. This museum was built in 1548 and occupies two seperate mansions that contain over 500,000 pieces of art, photography, furniture, engravings, drawings, paintings and sculptures of the Modern Time which references pieces from the Renaissance until today. Much of the art collected are portraits of characters who played a role in the history of the capital and works showing events which took place in Paris, especially the many revolutions which stirred the capital, as well as many scenes of the daily life in all the social class.
The museum was amazing and so inspiring on many levels. I was particularly drawn to the furniture and interiors section as the fabrics, colors and design of the pieces have had such an historical influence on design through the ages. As everything in the museum was extremely old, it was quite a surprise to find Karen Knorr photography mixed in with portraits and artifacts from the 17th century.
Karen Knorr was raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico in the 1960′s and finished her studies in Paris and London. The pieces on display at this museum explore human relationship to nature, animals, their represention and display in natural history fine art museums and zoos. In her photographs, Knorr uses space in a formalist way, but also acknowledges the natural world.
I was fascinated by her imagery using taxidermy within these amazing historical museum sets. Most of these pictures were taken at the museum and were displayed in the rooms that they were taken in so that you could feel the weird alternate reality that she suggests in her images.
Her work conjures up questions regarding space and proportion really allowing the viewer to question the relation of scale while also contemplating the significance of the animals to the function of the space.
All of the pieces have a dreamy quality to them and took my imagination to a place where there were no humans, just animals assessing their place in history as they roamed thru the museum. There is a bit of fantasy and a bit of reality, keeping the viewer in constant limbo wondering our place within the context of the image.
The presence of the fox and other taxidermied birds and animals in Knorr’s images offers something both frightening and familiar, something that disturbs everyday existence, that makes dysfunctional the calm and quiet of the museum space. The crammed and abundant furniture in the corner suggests a dialogue with the fox while giving the viewer a a sense of uncanny on whether the fox is alive or not.
Something I definitely noticed in Paris is their love of taxidermy. Stuffed birds and rabbits were in some of the most modern galleries in the Marais as well as used for visual display in boutiques and interior stores.
Another predominant element to Knorr’s photographs is a sense of the ‘Baroque’ aesthetic. Knorr’s prints embody perfection in the intense coloration that produces an excess of an aesthetic experience, which is representative of Baroque imagery and architecture. Her photographic prints contain an extreme amount of detail, bright color hues, as well as strange and unexpected content, producing a sense of awe and wonder in the viewer, which was also one of the most fundamental aims of the Baroque aesthetic.
With the majority of Fall Fashion falling into the “Minimalist Chic” trend, I was pleased to see Christophe Decarnin’s take swayed further on the side of opulence making many references to the aforementioned Baroque period. Balmain’s “Rock n Roll Baroque” collection channeled Louis XIV at Versailles with gold, brocade, frock coats, heeled ribbon laced Louis boots and gold lame dresses.
This first look below is the room above’s translation into fashion. The influence taken from the interiors is seen in the fabrics, color palette and ornate design of the gold frames.
BALMAIN wasn’t the only designer to reference this opulent period. Andrew Gn also had many references and used gold baroque trims and heavy black velvets to tell his story. Inspired by a XV commode in his Paris apartment, he called his collection “Modern Rococo” and collected inspiration from the 18th century.
VELVET is a trend that has been rising since last Fall/Winter and many designers used it on the Fall runways for 2010. Mostly seen in versions of rich red, many designers also based their collections on black velvet. I pick rich red velvet as my micro trend paired with flared baroque trousers and a waistcoat. Or how Ralph Lauren did it with a Romantic gypsy-like theme layered with soft chiffons, florals and leather.