The Bernier/Eliades Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new artworks from artist Martin Margiela. Martin Margiela’s visual practice spans a broad range of media, including painting, sculpture, installation, collage and film. His works attest to his fondness for the overlooked and unconventional. Margiela magnifies both disruptions and poetic junctions, seeking beauty in the fleeting. He believes that objects are always in a state of transformation, and he is intrigued by the marks of time. Important sources of inspiration for the artist are the human body, epidermis and hair, as well as the urban environment as an infinite place of wonder. Margiela’s work is dedicated to the unknown and the surprising, in combination with an exceptional sensibility for materials. Margiela’s work undoubtedly holds a certain romanticism, even though he is known for his radicalism. Sometimes, he might remind us of the phrase from Alphonse de Lamartine, a XIXth century poet, “Inanimate Objects, Do You Have a Soul ?”. Through his artistic practice, he likes to awaken inert objects, restore their dignity, underline their uniqueness, elevate them to a status they’ve lost. From a neglected object to an idealized one, the step is taken in series such as “Shore Shoes” or “Barriers”. Who could have imagined that flip-flops washed up on tropical beaches (“Shore Shoes”, a “color” series, a “black and white” series) would become – precisely cut and recomposed – new sandals with reinvented shapes, faded or shimmering colors, protected from contact by two-sided Plexiglas boxes? Which allow us to discover that their backs are in fact as interesting as their fronts. Do the construction site barriers (“Barriers”) that all too often populate our cities have any other destiny than to be constantly moved from one place to another, to force us to take detours? Martin Margiela believes they do, he even finds them intriguing, he likes their basic form. He achieves to make them appealing, thanks to a precise fake-fur overlay, with couture finishes. The initial coldness is forgotten, thanks to this warming and benevolent material. For “Tops & Bottoms”, Martin has chosen two plaster prints of antique models from the Ateliers du Louvre. His cutting of the plaster results in a commentary on the notion of clothed and unclothed, full and empty; one of the pinnacles of classicism reinterpreted by a contemporary eye. The result is stereotyped forms of underwear, like those of a body that nonetheless retains traces of a distant past. But the human face is entitled to another technique, one that until recently was seen as obsolete. Martin was fascinated by the lithophanie process, in existence since the early 19th century: a thin white porcelain plate in bas-relief (called “biscuit”) which, illuminated on the reverse by a light source, gives the depth of a projected photo. For the “Smoke” series, he chose the faces of men blowing smoke to transpose these images using this ancestral technique. Abstract without light, these portraits come to life, acquiring a mysterious soul (unsettling sfumato) as soon as the light source is activated.


Martin Margiela founded Maison Martin Margiela in 1988. Right after the twentieth anniversary of his eponymous brand, Margiela decided to leave the fashion world. Since then, he has devoted himself exclusively to the visual arts. During his fashion career, several art museums exhibited his designs, including Bozar (Brussels), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam), Haus der Kunst (Munich), LACMA (Los Angeles) and Somerset House (London). Since 2009, he devotes himself exclusively to the visual arts.
Since 2021, Martin Margiela had solo exhibitions at Lafayette Anticipations (Paris), M WOODS (Beijing) and LOTTE Museum of Art (Seoul).


Vincent Wierink
February 2024