PARIS — Forget the “love locks.”
A different type of locks will be in focus as famed artist Charlie Le Mindu is set to be Paris’ mane event with a new installation. His latest work takes thousands of hair pieces to cover the famous interior staircase of La Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf department store.
The installation, titled “Tricophilia,” will last four months, morphing every calendar page turn to mark the seasons, evolving from all-natural through styled art pieces.
Le Mindu worked with more than 10,000 wigs in various textures for the first iteration, to convey his all-natural vision. While the wigs are synthetic Kanekalon, a change made from his usual huuman material due to fire safety restrictions, they will still represent all types of global follicles. Natural-looking locks will hang from the staircase representing natural colors and styles.
Spring will bring additional interpretations of hair, using slices of fabric and unusual materials such as banana leaf for his creations in floral themes, before moving into super-styled sculptures that take inspiration from his hairstyling expertise, including drag queen techniques. Finally, Le Mindu will “harvest” the hair, cutting the installation and creating some intricately coiffed art pieces that will be gifted to guests.
In March, Mindu also will cocreate four days of performances with dancers from the Paris Opera. He’s previously created multimedia installations with a cabaret of dancing mustaches, for example, at Paris’ Palais de Tokyo and Cartier Foundation.
This time the performances will involve the dancers interacting with shoppers and clients, as there won’t be a stage or lighting. He promised a “totally new” concept, though planning is still in the works.
Decorating more than 410 feet of the staircase was daunting, and a task the artist couldn’t take on alone. Mindu enlisted 20 students from nearby schools to help build the sets remotely for three weeks, before a marathon overnighter installation just before the big reveal.
Mindu’s journey to a hair artist started with sweeping the floors in his aunt’s salon at age 6, when he realized that styles, cuts and colors could really impact people’s emotions. Now he sources hair from around the world, choosing texture and DNA depending on the project.
“I have a dealer — essentially it’s exactly the same as a drug dealer,” he joked, citing China, Peru, Siberia, and Ukraine as great sources for strong hair. “I always FaceTime with him, in terms of what is going to carry the color and quality.”
With the addition of pieces and moving of installations over the time period, Le Mindu called it a “living” installation. “It’s the first time for me to work on such a huge scale.”
Le Mindu is pleased to bring his art to the consumerist masses. “It’s great, because most of the stuff I do is usually shown in museums, and it’s obviously very different. When you go to a museum, you go there to see a contemporary exhibition, and when you go to Samaritaine, you go there for shopping, you’re not expecting to see this,” he said.
While hair is the most common and sustainable fiber, people can often have a visceral reaction, which makes his art a bit subversive for the LVMH-owned luxury department store.
“Every reaction is different. Some people hate it and have a really big problem with it [but some] people see the texture and and the movement, the colors and it can be quite impressive,” he said. Alongside the installations, the store’s windows will play on the hair theme with textiles in collaboration with the Alliance for European Flax, Linen and Hemp.
The department store has envisioned an entire program around Le Mindu’s work, called Paris à Poil(s). It includes the whimsical windows, as well as an in-store pop-up dedicated to all things hairy — from dog accessories and wool blankets, to products from Kevin Murphy on offer. There will also be special styling services available during Paris Fashion Week.
Le Mindu regularly collaborates with designers for their collections, including Balmain, Mugler and Vivienne Westwood, and works on celebs such as Lady Gaga and Megan Thee Stallion.
Bringing his coiffed creations to the luxury department store might be quite subversive on first, but in the end, “I think it’s a great fit,” Le Mindu added.
The installation runs from Wednesday to May 9.