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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Greater Tokyo

Branding artist item idem (aka Cyril Duval) pays tribute to a master...

Yuichi Yoshii is my hero. The young-at-heart creative director of Tokyo's glam-metal retail temple Loveless, as well as the now-defunct Celux store (Louis Vuitton's private VIP salon in Omotesando), has always pushed the limits of Tokyo's shopping scene, at least since I moved here in 2004. I will always remember how enthusiastic he was when, as the freshly appointed fashion director of Tokion Japan, I proposed that I move my office into the Loveless shop window for an entire week. In the performance-art stunt, called THE WRONG OFFICE, I would go about my regular work with my team while also acting as a human advertisement for the magazine. I assembled a giant tableau, which amounted to an organized mess of papers, and it became a huge street success months before Karl Lagerfeld installed his office full of books in a similar project for Paris's Printemps department store.

After almost four years of brilliant creative direction for Loveless, Yoshii san is on the move again, with THE CONTEMPORARY FIX. Using guerrilla vocabulary, he destroyed his former (and popular) Aoyama restaurant, Pariya, keeping only the excavated foundations and adding metal structures from construction sites to create the very raw aesthetic of the new shop. It will change monthly and host various ephemeral projects.

It was a pure satisfaction, but not a surprise, to discover that the first guest in THE CONTEMPORARY FIX's program was renowned Japanese brand Mastermind, notorious for its cultivation of punk sensibilities within a high-fashion environment— their skull-and-crossbones logo appears on almost all of their products. Mastermind finally had their first flagship in Tokyo, if only temporary. On display are all their luxury items, from gold-coated Bearbricks ten times their size to an amazing logo-emblazoned motorbike, the ultimate must-have for wannabe-bosozoku, or Japanese Hell's Angels.

I can't wait to see what else Yoshii san has in store, in terms of both curation and retail design. I can't think of anyone else who's contributed as much to the constant rejuvenation of Tokyo's retail scene, except for Rei Kawakubo, of course, with her experimental space on Kotto Dori in Aoyama that I have seen evolve from colette meets Comme des Garcons (which I helped set up) to Dover Street Market Tokyo. And now comes news of her exciting joint venture with Louis Vuitton, launching in September. Clearly Tokyo is still the world's retail design laboratory.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

The fourth and final installment from item idem on his SWAP collaboration with Andrea Crews collective...

Looking back, I can say with certainty that we accomplished our mission with SWAP, to express ideas and images through a combination of media: a pop-up shop, a window display, products, performances and blogs. SWAP even appeared in the Fashion Scoops section of Women's Wear Daily, featuring the final state as a window installation at colette. Yet, ironically, these successes might have unraveled the entire SWAP enterprise, because that same window was taken down a day early, following a polite request from Louis Vuitton, who apparently didn't like our reappropriation of their bags.

Far from an attack on Louis Vuitton's image or logotype, the SWAP project was merely an attempt to share ideas through art and fashion. For the six of its seven scheduled days, the window was extremely popular, drawing reactions of all kinds. I remember Andie MacDowell passing by and taking pictures with her mobile phone, while a few minutes later, an elderly woman denounced the window as very ugly. Personally, I am never that interested in good versus bad; I am more focused on the background noise and the intensity of reactions, whatever they may be. I believe this is what the artistic endeavor is all about, to provoke vivid emotions and engender new ways of thinking. Still, despite the early dismantling, Hint remains a fantastic window to express how pleasantly surprised I am to attract Louis Vuitton's attention with our humble project, yet also disappointed that passersby couldn't enjoy SWAP on the last day.

I'd like to thank all the actors and partners of the SWAP project for their generous participation, especially Sarah from colette, whose positive attitude and affection for experimentation is a model for us all. SWAP will be back!

Photos by Baudouin

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

More from item idem on his SWAP collaboration with Andrea Crews collective...

The opening of the SWAP SHOP at Andrea Crews was surreal. The studio is located in the red-light district of Paris, so we were surrounded by sex shops and strip bars with exquisite names like Dirty Dick and Lorelei (which had a facade straight out of Bernhard Willhelm's most Tyrolean dream). Adding to the atmosphere, a fantastic Brazilian wedding was taking place next door in a night club. We managed to have the bride pose with us (in our Louis Vuitton armor) before she got totally drunk and rode off in her wedding car.

Michel Gaubert, in Andrea Crews' Bibi Chignon hat, prepared a great musical selection for Mai Ueda to perform her hits "Don't Call Me Elephant" and "I Want to Buy Some Clothes." He also played a lot of classical music, including Stravinsky, and even some unknown tracks from Dada artist Francis Picabia. Out front, for the pleasure of many Parisian hipsters who stopped by, we set up a trampoline that I had tagged with the copyright symbol and the item idem logo, made from the Nintendo font.

Michel Gaubert, Mai Ueda

The SWAP SHOP was certainly a unique project and probably the shortest pop-up store ever, open for only an afternoon. We all like the idea of a conceptual art and fashion exhibition based on products, not artworks. We also wanted to stage an exhibition with a complex vocabulary and evolution, from its conception months ago to the launch of the SWAP SHOP and the window display at colette, ending with a party at Le Baron. Then, of course, finally immortalized on Hint.

Next, I will show you my SWAP window at colette.

Photos by PLAY

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Friday, April 18, 2008

item idem, with an update on his SWAP collaboration with Andrea Crews collective...

The core of my aesthetic is being slowly, methodically dissected by the Andrea Crews team, while Jean-Michel Bertin, an up-and-coming set designer and collaborator with Louis Vuitton, Lacroix, Pharrell Williams and Justice, is bringing clever and creative solutions to the mix, with a smart understanding of time, space and budget constraints. Currently, we are setting up a gold and black dance floor tile for Mai Ueda to perform on—it's very slick. The rest of the space at SWAP SHOP is full of huge monolithic styrofoam blocks and colorful Louis Vuitton patterns mixed with copyright and anarchy symbols. On April 21, we'll launch our colette window, where we'll display a fleet of rebranded products, including colette stationery, shopping bags, a limited-edition tee, art notebooks (already a must-have!), sunglasses with wigs and a fake Rolex in the shape of a Coke container (inspired by my classic Caniche Courage watch, sold for a long time at colette and Palais de Tokyo). Meanwhile, Laurène Vernet, who heads up the graphic design team of Andrea Crews, has created a new totem—inspired by my emblematical "robo logo"—that will cover an entire wall of the exhibition space. And tomorrow, Andrea Crews founder Maroussia Rebecq will shoot a new outfit produced by her studio and inspired by my latest sculptural piece of clothing: Louis Vuitton bags converted into samurai armor and decorated with TV test patterns. You can see it here. More later!

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An introduction to SWAP by item idem (aka Cyril Duval), a self-described international conceptualist puppeteer...

The last few days in Paris have seen the launch of SWAP, a multi-disciplinary-art-meets-D.I.Y-fashion project, and the brainchild of myself and Maroussia Rebecq of the Parisian fashion collective Andrea Crews. SWAP is a concept rooted in Bernhard Willhelm's boutique in Tokyo (which I had the pleasure of designing) and it started from a simple question: If an artist can create a shop for a fashion designer, can a fashion designer produce an artist's exhibition? Thus, teaming up with retail legend colette, online fashion nexus Hintmag.com, Michel Gaubert and Japanese musician Mai Ueda, SWAP presents no art, appearing only through ephemeral interiors and events that examine the role of the artist through marketing and branding.

Stay tuned for more posts on the evolution of the SWAP project, including the opening of the SWAP SHOP at Andrea Crews (April 19), the spectacular SWAP WINDOW at colette (April 21 - 26) and the SWAP DANCE at Le Baron club.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cyril Duval's third and final report from Art Basel...

So I've covered the booths and the parties of Art Basel, but what about the beaches? Luckily enough, your loyal servant was cordially invited to miss an entire day of the fair to board a private plane and be one of the first visitors to Dellis Cay. And, for me, it was the best part of Art Basel.

What is Dellis Cay, you ask? Only the latest brainchild of Dr. Cem Kinay, a Turkish tycoon who's built a myriad of resort hotels all around the Mediterranean. Looking for a new challenge, the charismatic entrepreneur recently bought an entire 560-acre island in the Turks & Caicos archipelago off the Florida coast, not far from the Bahamas. Teaming up with the Mandarin Oriental hotel group, he then started crafting his dream of a luxury resort on the island chain, with living environments designed by some of the greatest architects of our time: Zaha Hadid, Piero Lissoni, Kengo Kuma and Shigeru Ban, to name a few. Forget Dubai, the Emirates and their dreams of glory and modernism! Just surf to Dellis Cay for a glimpse of the future architectural leisure paradise.

Sarah of Colette (with whom I have worked on several projects, including the opening of Colette meets Comme des Garçons in Tokyo) and I were excited to go to the island, invited by Nadine Johnson, who runs such a fantastic PR company. As Sarah and I are more actors in the fields of art, fashion and design than press, our idea was to "cover" the island with a different angle: taking tourist-style pictures of ourselves on the island with a disposable camera. We also brought on two other musketeers: Jina Khayyer, the Parisian correspondent of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and Simon Castets, a mischievous friend of ours and a talented private art consultant.

We left early in the morning from the Raleigh Hotel and boarded the jet, where we met the others, about 40 people in all, including Dr. Cem Kinay himself, as well as Piero Lissoni to view the site of his future creation, the first on the island to be realized. When the plane took off and we all received little press kit of Dellis Cay (each contained in an engraved iPod nano!), we decided to indulge ourselves in the pleasures of the jet set. Here I am talking about Dom Perignon. Then I don't remember much, except that we entertained the other passengers with our tricks. At one point, I decided to challenge the supreme coolness of art collector Jean "Johnny" Pigozzi, who was talking with Sarah, by adopting a 1930's movie star look—I put on a fake mustache and read the Herald Tribune upside-down.

Landing in Providenciales, the main island of Turks & Caicos, we passed through customs, got a cool new stamp on our passport, jumped on a private boat and rode fast on the warm and clear azure water toward Dellis Cay, which is still absent of any buildings. (Construction will start in the beginning of 2008 and the island will officially open at the end of 2009. I can't wait to come back for the official opening.) Stepping foot on the island was like a Christopher Columbus dream—well, at least before we were welcomed by a small army of smiling staff, all dressed in white and handing us a personal beach kit to enjoy the day.

More champagne glasses later, and after a buffet of lobsters tails, I headed to the private massage parlor, where I had one of the greatest massages ever. But the clock was running so we decided to go swimming and start our tourist shoot. Simon and I had prepared everything, after hours of compulsive shopping in Miami's tackiest beachwear shops. We had a painted coconut bra for the Jina, an American flag beach towel for Simon, and a tropical sunset towel with flamingos for myself, as well as some special props I had brought from my favorite shop in Tokyo, such as sunglasses without the lenses. (Originally I gave these glasses to Mark Eley of Eley Kishimoto, as he said he couldn't live without them. We agreed he would produce them under his label, we would share the profits and that this collaboration would be our Kelly bag!)

The shoot we made was hilarious and the polaroids captured the colorful aesthetic I was trying to set up. Simon and I had picked out a colorful centipede floatie to play with in the water, but we couldn't fit more than three on it. Johnny then told us that it was exactly the same centipede that Jeff Koons had exhibited a few years before at Art Basel. Maybe he found it in the same shop where younger brains would dig it out a few years later.

The day was almost over, so we left the island to its beautiful original state and took boats back to Providenciales, heading to the house of Dr. Michael E. Misick, the Premier of Turks & Caicos, for late cocktails. Here at his residence, with its grounds laid with rocks in the map of the archipelago, we would enjoy our last moments, joking with the Premier and his son, who obviously shares the same passion for sunglasses and cigars. Simon took the opportunity to talk with Dr. Cem Kinay, who remained a man of mystery during the day, learning how he convinced the aforementioned stars of architecture to participate in the environmentally concerned yet luxurious project: by calling it a challenge.

That is all about Dellis Cay, but the dream has just started. One last anecdote: I arrived for sunbathing the next day on Miami Beach with the Dellis Cay bathrobe I was given, when Sarah asked, "But Cyril, do you realize that you are wearing the bathrobe of a hotel that doesn't exist yet?" As we realized the veracity and beauty of what she said, Simon added, "Cyril, you're a walking Pierre Huyghe."

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Part two of Cyril Duval' Art Basel adventures...

Now enough about art, let's talk about the world of glamour and futility—parties! First up, the fete for the fourth edition of Javier Peres' Daddy magazine, hosted by himself, Terence Koh and Aron (the downtown don) in a men's strip club called Goldrush. Seeing the queer mafia in this crappy neon temple, symbolizing Western hetero cowboy power, was actually pretty cool—cute faces all around, no useless celebs showing off, plus everyone got free lap dances, thanks to Daddy Javier. Later, speaking of naughtiness, Monsieur Andre and his Le Baron team again provided the best place for finding trouble. Indeed one could meet almost anyone there, burning the last energy of the day in secret communion before waking up four hours later to buy and sell more art. Then there were parties for Purple, WOW, colette (this pic is of Sarah and myself), etc. So many parties, so little time.

And now, I'm still shocked by how people can throw a party and simply expect people to gather in an ill-designed space. I mean, an open bar isn't everything. Thus, the award for creative laziness goes to Visionaire's party to celebrate its latest art book, despite the hot vinyl records inserted inside, such as my pal Mai Ueda, with her great “I Wanna Buy Some Clothes“ track, and a hilarious backstage compilation by Michel Gaubert. Not only did they settle on MINI as their sponsor (do we care about a toy car gift?), but the doorman was possibly the bitchiest ever—fortunately, I didn't have to tangle with him. Upon entering, we were welcomed by half-naked, long-haired Chippendale look-alikes (I never thought I would one day say that—please someone bring back Hedi's skinny boys), who shamelessly pushed copies of the new Visionaire in our faces, as if we were shopping for live chickens in a New Delhi market. Plus, the music was all about Justice (nothing against them, but you know), the cocktails were kind of weird and we had to contend with an army of paparazzi trying to find the beautiful people. Perhaps they were waiting for late-arriving Linda Evangelista, as I was not.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Not even the theft of his laptop at the Miami airport (and no, there is no back-up) could keep Cyril Duval from sharing a few of his Art Basel adventures earlier this month. Here, the first of three parts...

As the main exhibition is the focal point of Art Basel and what allows people to expense their trips, I'd like to start with my two favorite booths. (Look for party tidbits in the second part.) First, a big shout-out to ShanghART for its supermarket installation, which artist Xu Zhen filled with products to resemble a Chinese grocery store. (With my numerous trips to mainland China, I can vouch for the authenticity of every detail). But here, all the boxes, bottles and so on were emptied of their contents in what appeared to be a comment on his country's paradoxical images of wealth and want, and which were available to buy directly off the shelves (we spotted art stars Eva & Adele doing exactly that). What a beautifully poignant concept.

Not that I'm allergic to the decorative nature of art, and certainly Miami is the ideal place to shop for colorful art that matches your chinchilla couch. It's just that sometimes functional installations are stronger than paintings, in the way that a simple tropical fish tank might rock your interior more than a Damien Hirst. Some leading curators have long analyzed this, and I am here thinking of French critic Eric Troncy, who has constantly challenged notions of artworks as mere display elements. To him and myself, a juxtaposition of work by great artists—say, Jorge Pardo and Olafur Eliasson—doesn't automatically work.

Hint readers will know I'm sucker for the work of Terence Koh—so now for the expected mention of the Peres Koh booth, perfectly placed in a corner of the exhibition hall. As always, Koh's Art Basel contribution was a dark monolithic riff on love, sex, life, death and immortality. Although some people still don't get him (at least if you read and believe the blurbsunami that flooded APB online), I'm always amazed by his clever plays on the media and the art market through the crude yet oh-so-real reality of his art. There's no bullshit in his work. Chapeau, Mr. Koh!

Finally, am I the only one shifting from admiration and respect to exasperation and lassitude regarding the whole Reena Spaulings/Bernadette Corporation/Claire Fontaine conglomerate thing? I mean, yes, we know that capitalism doesn't always work (oh, and by the way, Andy Warhol knew, too), but they are still making a good use of it. Well, we all do, but at least we don't make morality issue out of it.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Berlinnocence Lost, Part II

The second installment of Cyril Duval's German adventure...

Two days later ended up being totally different from the Bang Bang bar. Beating the cold snap with my Abominable Snowman fur coat, I went with Hanayo to HAU 2 theater for Bruce LaBruce's premiere of his first play, Cheap Blacky. The place was packed and it became obvious that it was already a success. Here's what Bruce told me about his experimental concept: "The idea for Cheap Blacky originated from the moment it dawned on me that there is a black servant named Whity in Fassbinder’s film “Whity” and a white servant named Blacky in Joseph Losey’s film Boom! As for this production, after one day rehearsing in the space, I realized we would have to have major lighting, so we requested and got the best lighting guy in the house, a Marxist intellectual lighting technician! So we lit it like a rock show!”

The lights went down, then up, followed by ninety minutes of flamboyance. I knew right away that I was watching a reinterpretation of the film Theorema by Pier Paolo Pasolini. (Quickly, for those who haven't seen it, it's about the beautiful and young Terence Stamp as a mysterious guest in the house of a bourgeois Milanese family. His velvet eyes and magnetic sex appeal seduce all members of the family, including the teenage kids, both parents and the maid, who is the other central character). Thrilled that I was watching a recreation of one of the most influential movies I've ever seen, I was all eyes and forgot to breath at times. The best moment for me was when the maid, played by Vaginal Davis, first entered, descending into the crowd and singing the blues, à la Billie Holiday, in a distorted but vocally perfect way.

Later, at the afterparty, where Peaches and others were DJing, I learned that Bruce and Vag have known each other for more than fifteen years, since Vag lived in California (she just relocated to Berlin), and that Bruce introduced her work to the Butt guys, who awarded her with their latest cover. Such family stories! As the play is going on tour, starting with Zurich, I urge everyone to see it.

I then had to leave for Miami, where my mongolian lamb fur coat would not be necessary, though I was sure it would still fit in. But I can't wait to be back in Berlin, if for nothing more than the mystical toe worship that Vaginal Davis promised me. My French feet will never be cold again. Oh, I almost forgot! Terence Koh would like to tell Hintsters that asianpunkboy is back.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Berlinnocence Lost, Part I

We asked Cyril Duval—aka item idem—to tell us all about his first trip to Berlin...

On my way to the Netherlands to accept a Great Indoors Award for my design of Bernhard Willhelm's Tokyo flagship [see Hint's store report, April '06], I decided to stop over in Berlin to take in two art shows by friends Terence Koh and Bruce LaBruce. I wasn't prepared, however, to be welcomed by snow and a 20-degree temperature drop from what I'm used to in my home of Tokyo. Shame on me for bringing nothing heavier than a simple jacket. So I borrowed an Abominable Snowman coat to weather the weather.

Having missed the September opening of "Blame Canada," a gallery show by Terence and Bruce inspired by Twin Peaks, I wouldn't miss the closing party at Bang Bang, a well-named bar and large-scale installation at Peres Projects Berlin, in the Kreutzberg area. As neither Terence (out of town) nor Bruce (in town, but uber-busy on something else—see below) could make it, I went with Hanayo, the ultimate German goddess-guide. Hanayo and I became very good friends in Tokyo a while back and we have many friends in common, such as Michel Gaubert, who discovered her when she famously covered "Joe le Taxi." Hanayo and I even have our own invisible band. She knows all about Berlin and who's in town at any given moment. And she has that little extra je ne sais quoi that makes everyone go totally crazy for her.

Hanayo [left] and I arrived to a dark space with black-latex-covered walls (a Terence trademark? It did remind me of "God," his antichrist installation at de Pury & Luxembourg in Zurich) and I was struck by how insane the place was, anchored by a giant metal dance floor recalling Michael Jackson's sidewalk-tapping Billie Jean video. But here the tiles were all black, conveying pure darkness—no lights or smoke, just a ladder leading up to the second floor on the ceiling. For a long time I've known about Bruce and Terence's idea of a backroom with glory holes placed horizontally—imagine manhoods in stalagmite/stalactite formation—and here it was right in front of me, but without the flesh of opening night.

With people dancing maniacally around me, I managed to make it to the bar, where I got a Twin Peaks flash. Suddenly I was in Laura Palmer's worst nightmare, except there was no red-velvet curtain from which Bob, her killer, might pop out, just a bar heavily decorated with trophy animal heads, upside-down oil paintings, weapons and other fetish hunting curiosities. To me, the bar became the core piece, or at least the one directing the overall concept. And then, someone whispered to me, "Terence Koh—he is Armageddon!"

To Be Continued...

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