Walking into the exhibit, 2357, at Galerie Polaris is like a visit to the circus - there is an instant smile, a widening of the eyes, a sense of pure pleasure waiting to be had. Zany! Banners hanging from the ceiling; hug-me dolls lying on the floor; strange iconic space monkeys standing at the entrance. What is this wacky, wild world?
None other than the latest creation of Walter Van Beirendonck, designer extraordinaire. Named "2357" - 1st art installation by Walter Van Beirendonck, this exhibition is Walter's initiation into the gallery cube. His website proclaims of this project:
It's the year 2357, 300 years after the death of Walter Van Beirendonck, and aliens discover his tomb. His two guardians still proudly secure the entrance. Behind them a room full of relics accompany the artist: his own sarcophagus, which contains a blow-up mattress, his skin and a sampler blanket, as well as 40 flags to signify the 40 collections of the artist's career so far.
Since the late 80's, Van Beirendonck has wowed the fashion world and avant garde culturati with his cross-over men's wear, conceptual extravaganzas, and unstoppable creative energy. His boutique in Antwerp, Walter, is both curation and commerce, and he has been given major retrospective surveys throughout the world's fashion and design museums. He is a whirlwind, a funster, a big huge Sex-Clown ready for center-stage.
What could be more fitting than for his first art installation to take place in Paris, where fashion is art and art is fashion. Commissioned and supported by Galerie Polaris's director, Bernard Utudjian, this work brightens up the season's openings in what has been a very cold winter for Paris.
As I walked through the long, room at Polaris, I immediately spied Walter in sunny yellow holding forth in the office. With Walter we are not talking mere fashion or objets d'art; we are talking Total Theater. His force is fantasy - a joyful leap into the boundless possibilities of imagination. Post-human, futuristic, shamanistic, astral-projection, cyber-reality, avatars and alter egos, Van Beirendonck's vision is one playful act after the next, a toy store of the mind.
Fitting, therefore, that he would select the Tomb as the metaphor for this work and, naturally, his own tomb. What is more monumental, more other-worldly than the Tomb? Herein are found the after effects of gargantuan personality, the fetishistic idolatry of self. Hence the 40 flags representing his 40 collections, made with an earnestness that is immediately appealing. My friend said "only a person who really cared about the subject matter could produce those objects." And upon further investigation, one finds the puppet-like objects in blow-up plastic and soft cotton. Rather than recoiling from this overt me-ism, I found delight in his grandiose illusions. It is as if Walter challenges each of us to megalomania without malice, egoism without elitism.
Stop by the gallery and let the Van-B light shine over you...it will warm your heart. And don't miss the video in the side room; Van Beirendonck's creations on the runway are sure to astound.
- Georgia Fee
(Images: Walter Van Beirendonck, installation shots from "2357" @ Galerie POlaris, 2008. Courtesy of Galerie Polaris.)