maison martin margiela at somerset house

VISITED the Maison Martin Margiela exhibition this week at Somerset House. I think it has to be one of my favourite gallery spaces in London, always presenting shows in such a manner that gently guides you through the ideas and logical ordering of what is being exhibited. This was unlike ‘Skin’ at the Welcome Collection, where I found myself floundering in the middle of the room, uncertain of which way to view things and unable to make out which bits of text went with what. Not to mention the inexplicable decision to place descriptions next to some pieces so low that it was rendered unreadable unless you were a child, midget or crouching on the ground.

But back to the good stuff. The Margiela exhibition was a wonderful amalgamation of key themes, pieces and surrounding material that cohesively explained the aesthetic and drive of the brand. And it was perhaps evenenough simply to look at the collection of past fashion show invites to be able to grasp an understanding of the label’s ethos. I would do anything to a) be a proud owner of this collection, and/or b) have personally received one of those invitations.

From a presentation point of view what struck me most at the time, and has lasted in my mind since, was the exhibit depicting the evolution of Margiela’s tailored shoulders. Hovering upon the horizon as you entered the exhibition was what appeared to be plaster casts of this ever changing silhouette. Yet as you came closer it became apparent that they were in fact plain fabric reproductions of past garments, supported from within and made to look uniform in order to allow the viewer to focus on the form, nothing else. Their positioning on plinths elevated the status of this simple exhibit into one that demanded attention. For me it was an excellent example of effective exhibition design, keeping it simple and void of technological gimmicks.

On a giant wall-sized screen the Spring/Summer 2009 fashion show was being played, its soundtrack echoing through the whole space. It reminded me of the Nick Knight/Ruth Hogben/Jonathan Kaye collaboration – Make Up Your Mind’ – posted on SHOWstudio a while ago, in which the “Wig-Coat” from this season featured. I just had to put it up on here as it’s such a delightfully playful yet seductive film.


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