What is art? What is fashion? Do they make natural companions? Doesthe latter elevate itself by association with the former? All fodder forconversation and multiple opinions. One thing on which most of us wouldagree — even the haughtiest been-there-done-that,it-takes-a-lot-to-impress-me types among us — is what constitutes amajor wow. Case in point: the tour de force Karl Lagerfeld delivered forChanel, a show in which he challenged his audience’s intellect,imagination and emotional core, and made it one big fashion party. Thecommunal takeaway — the joyful side of awe.

It started months ago as satire. “The idea came from people whooverreact to art today. It’s all become a little too much,” Lagerfeldsaid during a preview, adding a quip to an imaginary colleague. “You’rean artist now? What, you don’t make dresses anymore?” Thus, he decidedto address the ever-escalating fashion-art juggernaut. He startedconceptualizing “artwork” — 75 pieces in all — turning his small-scale originals over to others to be realized on a huge scale (they had to fill the Grand Palais, after all). Some referenced Chanelobviously: interlocking Cs made of pearls that were falling off onto thefloor; an image of Mademoiselle’s private atelier entrance; a ChanelNo.5 Robot, and one of the naughtiest, “Modern Narcissus,” a life-size,3-D nude (but for her socks) lounging on an elevated Plexiglas platform.Only by looking at the mirrored floor beneath her would one see thecamellia placed strategically to cover her lady part. As is the way withmost art, it spoke differently to different viewers. One piece featureda furniture series in ascending heights: a mat, a stool and two chairs.As per its title, most saw a riff on “The Evolution of Man.” One woman,an obvious acolyte of form following function, saw a surface on whichto plunk her empty juice glass. A waiter’s quick action restored thework to its original state.

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