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PARIS — Encased in a Perspex box, the microphone of Pete Doherty is perched upside down on its crumpled mouthpiece, resembling an ice cream cone smashed by a naughty child. The cord is entwined with that of another microphone, belonging to Doherty’s former Libertines bandmate, Carl Barat — his is identical, but laid flat and in more pristine condition.
Titled “Portrait of a Defeated Band,” the sculpture by Hedi Slimane speaks to his ongoing fascination with the rock world — and his growing stature as an artist able to wrench romanticism from industrial materials and stark minimalism.
“It’s really the idea of portraiture — metaphoric portraiture,” the designer explains at Galerie Almine Rech here, where his first solo show opened over the weekend. “If this band [the Libertines] had not existed, kids would not have started buying guitars.”
Like his photography books devoted to the burgeoning rock scene, Slimane’s photos, videos and sculptures explore the rituals of rock, and especially the fans. Their adulation is plain in a series of large-scale photos of mosh pits — printed on scrims and mounted on a cube that visitors are encouraged to stomp through. And so are their beliefs —phrased as song titles and stamped into glossy iron plaques reading “Panic Attack” or “Time for Heroes.”
Almine Rech, who also represents the likes of James Turrell and Gavin Turk, said collectors were initially wary of art made by the designer of Dior Homme clothing. However, at the Frieze Art Fair last October, she sold more than a dozen works. “We had people who were very interested in the fact that he was creative in other fields,” she says.
Collectors were particularly enthusiastic about Slimane’s “fragmented” photos, cut and mounted in sections that can transverse a corner — suddenly making wall hangings architectural, too (at prices running up to 20,000 euros, or $34,000).
“They love those pieces because it’s quite a new idea. You can completely change a room,” Rech says. “The idea of the fragmented image, which suggests gaps in time or thought — it’s very poetic, too.”
Rech says Slimane is difficult to categorize, but certainly is in tune with a generation of artists for whom music and performance are hot subjects — as well as the media they use.
Yet Slimane, who has a project bowing in September at the Architecture Foundation in London, stresses his flurry of art-world activities does not suggest his interest in fashion is waning.
On the contrary, he hints that his next Dior Homme collection, to be unveiled later this month during men’s fashion week here, would move beyond the rock themes he’s explored the last few seasons. “I’m much more focused on atelier work right now,” he says.