To read my initial post on this exhibition, please click: here.
"What if beauty was something that you could hold in your hands? Not a beautiful object but the idea of it? What might that be? Would it be heavy or light?" These are some of the questions that I took with me as I walked away from the Musée Cognacq-Jay's sublime exhibition Lumières: Carte-blanche à Christian Lacroix. Wanting to dig beyond my initial, not-exactly transient joy after having swept through the many silk-shod rooms, I turned my thoughts questioningly towards the designer himself.
From the museum's Press kit:
Visions of the Enlightenment
What is your perspective on the Age of Enlightenment and how has it influenced your work?
"My perspective on the Age of Enlightenment is simply that of someone who is passionate about that era...I can only gratefully advocate everything that the Enlightenment brought about in terms of social progress, political thinking, the fight against obscurantism, tolerance and a thirst for knowledge, as demonstrated by the encyclopaedists. All the more so given that, paradoxically, this seemingly unshakeable knowledge, these foundations that were thought to be the definitive basis of modern societies were suddenly undermined, disputed and denied in the early 21st century. If only for these reasons, it is interesting to make these connections between the 18th century and our own times... From 1880 to 1910, people were expected to live in accordance with good taste – that is, past tastes – as the middle class post-Napoleon III adopted the style of the pre-Revolution enlightened aristocracy. I must confess that, beyond my appreciation and respect for the Age of Enlightenment, I am not impervious to all the rococo froth it created and inspired in the second half of the 19th century and beyond, with the somewhat risqué 'marquise', 'shepherdess' style, which was basically bourgeois and borderline kitsch. Contemporary artists often look back upon the 18th century from this angle."
Elsewhere, Mr. Lacroix admitted that the period's most obvious influence on his work can be seen in his deep appreciation of costumes - both within his former haute couture designs (as I have mentioned previously, his famous "pouf" skirts of the 1980s were basically 18th century dresses chopped in half) as well as in his theatrical work. And indeed, costumes are used throughout the exhibition to punctuate each room's particular persona. This fascination with outer presentation goes hand in hand with the creation of the individual, one of the Age of Enlightenments overriding themes.
I returned to this once dusty museum looking for the Romance of another time or maybe of another me but older now, I found that yes, my heart would still rise up like Fragonards's girl on "The Swing" but also that my mind was solidly rooted down in the importance of freedom that the Age of Enlightenment helped to promote.
Flipping this little bit of gold up in the air, I let it fall smilingly palm to palm as I was happy - at least in this instance, hopefully in others - to look at both sides of the same intricate coin.
8, rue Elzevir
The exhibition is now closed and the museum will reopen on May 9th, 2015.
Open 10am - 6pm
Unfortunately, the museum is not at all accessible to those with reduced-mobility.
There is app for the exhibition en français. If you are interested, see here.
For more information about the museum in English: click here.
Et en français: http://www.museecognacqjay.paris.fr/