Art. What is it ? Where does it start, and where does it end ?
In today’s contemporary art “market”, it seems no one bothers asking the question anymore.
Art, as it would appear, is whatever is made by a self-claimed artist, whatever is recognized by the market.
Enter The Museum of Everything.
Premiering in Paris at the new Saint-Germain location Chalet Society after several exhibits in London, this groundbreaking, sprawling, multi-level and multi-layered show changes the game.
Forget the market.
For founder James Brett, it’s about special things, made by special people, people who haven’t gone to art school or thought of showing their work, much less of selling it.
Antoine Asseraf: What started you on The Museum of Everything project ?
James Brett: I don’t come from a particularly artistic family and my parents never taught me what creativity meant – but as a child I had a lot of it and it always got in the way.
And so I worked in different industries and was working in film, and I remember meeting a very interesting photographer, the late Bob Richardson. He was the father of Terry Richardson. Terry’s a terrible photographer (sorry!) but Bob was a genius. He was the first person who really told me that “You don’t choose it, it chooses you”.
In the same way, I can’t really tell you why I started The Museum of Everything. I didn’t set out to do it, I wasn’t interested in art, exhibitions, nothing. But I was working in film and I know film very well, I studied acting, so I’m creatively interested. And in my travels I started to see artworks, first of all by people in the American South, that was just cool and graphic. I always liked graphic novel and comics as a child – and as an adult frankly – and they started speaking to me.
The artworks were cheap, really like 20-25 bucks, and the more I looked the more I found. I started finding better examples, and realized there was a whole history in America of folk art, African-American art and self-taught art which seemed to come from the individual, it didn’t have the pretension or the words of formally-trained artists, and it was immediate. As a film-maker I loved that, because I’m not really interested in what you are or what you say, I’m interested in the stuff, in what you do.
As I continued I saw there were some other areas that had a great psychological depth. For example, the work of Henry Darger. I discovered there was a word for it, Art Brut, of which Dubuffet was the proponent. And that also interested me because in my youth, I was fascinated by the mind, how the mind works, and why we make the choices we do, all of this sort of existential philosophy of life.
Prophet Royal Robertson untitled (NO DIVORCE WHORE's ALLOWED), c 1980 © The Museum of Everything
Marc Jacobs’ tour-de-force ending for Paris Fashion Week, featuring handcuffs, elevators, and some obsessive ladies, almost made everyone forget about the Galliano debacle. The image now engraved in everyone’s mind is that of Kate Moss closing the Night Porter-style show, cigarette in mouth. But however powerful it was to see it live, somehow this image had already been floating in collective consciousness…
“Kate” by René Habermacher for Numéro Paris, Make-up by Linda Cantello.
Before he became a photographer, René Habermacher was as an illustrator — who was already a bit of a photographer. Numéro Paris, under the helm of Babeth Djian and Thomas Lenthal, frequently commissioned him fashion and beauty series made up entirely of photorealistic illustrations, “unreal” photos.
“Unreal” because there was no shooting, no camera. Only René, an idea, dozens of image references, hundreds of hours of drawing and airbrushing, and in this case, the advice of master make-up artist Linda Cantello, of Roxy Music fame.
So for this 2003 beauty series, René imagined Kate Moss as heir to Charlotte Rampling’s SS-cap-wearing and cigarette-smoking character from the 1974 film The Night Porter.