Balenciaga, Bourdelle: a stroll in the antechamber of beauty

In 800 Signs

Balenciaga was an ambidexter. Suspicious, wary, he used to present his work one month away from Paris runways to protect it from plagiarists. He would always operate in absolute silence, with the cut as his one single obsession. Far from ostentatious glamour, Balenciaga designed volumes without tulle or corset, invented silk gazar with Swiss manufacturer Abraham. He formed those balloon dresses from 1950s and 1960s which sealed the reputation of the House forever.

A dialog of beauties: Balenciaga, Bourdelle. Photography © Araso
A dialog of beauties: Balenciaga, Bourdelle. Photography © Araso

More signs


Inside his ivory tower of 10 Avenue George V in Paris, the Spanish Master created collections for the elite of the elite. Black infant women, dressed like ramparts for these spiritual heiresses of el Greco and Zurbarán. A maestro beyond reproach, Balenciaga is dubbed by his peers, including Chanel, who will say « he was the only one of us, couturiers, who knew how to sew, draw and cut » and the Maison Christian Dior: « Haute couture is an orchestra that only Balenciaga knows how to conduct, all of us, the other designers, merely follow his lead. » In 1950, whilst Cristóbal is on top of his fame, a certain André Courrèges writes to him: « I want to work for you, for free, like the last apprentice ». By a strange twist of fate, it is because of André Courrèges’ success that in 1968 Balenciaga deems his time is over and closes his couture house.

Balenciaga inside the Bourdelle Museum, Illustration © Araso
Balenciaga inside the Bourdelle Museum, Illustration © Araso

These beauties now come out of their tissues from Palais Galliera’s conservation rooms to go back to another atelier, that of sculptor and painter Antoine Bourdelle and once again display their marvels to the public. Beauties from the past dialog over nymphs’ sculptures and end of the XIXth century portraits. What are they saying? Probably that not so long ago in the middle of templating and tacking, fashion would create timeless icons. Powerful images worthy of featuring in the Pantheon of works of art. Unbeatable mat blacks, shiny blacks, see-through blacks. Gazing at their own beauty in the light of 2017’s fashion, they probably laugh, at least a little.

Balenciaga, l’oeuvre au Noir, an exhibition by the Palais Galliera at the Musée Bourdelle in Paris, until July 16th 2017

Paris Perfume Museum: a new temple for Culturetainment

The long awaited Grand Musée du Parfum finally opened late 2016 in the former place of Christian Lacroix couture house. A super sophisticated scenography and latest fashion technology are the cornerstone of this brand new hotspot for culturetainment.

A week ago, American blogger Seth Godin published a sweet-sour post entitled The Candy Diet. He points out that «The economics seem to be that the only way to reach a lot of people is to race to the bottom » and blames mass-media for widely spreading anti-intellectualism, the only possible outcome of which is a « cultural suicide ».

Le Grand Musée du Parfum, illustration © Araso
Le Grand Musée du Parfum, illustration © Araso

The phenomenon is threatening culture as a whole. Since 2015, the Musée de l’Homme historical collection has disappeared in a loud staging. The Great « Museum » of Perfume just stole the show with an even louder collection of gadgets ending in a… luxury perfume shop (across the street from Hotel Bristol). Convenient, deceitful and soulless.

A mall dressed-up in a museum is still a mall. No matter what you call it. And it still has nothing to do with culture.

Le Grand Musée du Parfum, 73 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30 am to 7.00 pm
Fridays until 10.00 pm

Disconcerting Cy Twombly

The introduction is a bit abrupt.

Lines dashing in shades of grey across large off-white surfaces. Is he a genius? A Naive? A slacker? It’s intimidating. One gets the feeling the work may not be as simple as it looks. It took indeed Cy Twombly two summers in a row to complete the ten paintings that compose the Fifty Days at Iliam series.


Writing comes into play, dysgraphic, almost embarrassing. Color explodes most of the time, trickles, even pukes. It feels out of control. Taking a closer look one can grasp the palimpsest, the complex layers. A letter is sticking out, the angy “A” from “Apollo”, the slimy “O” from “Autumno”. The man, who belongs to the american avant-garde has read the Antiques and lives in Italy. A line in the shape of a soft hiatus starts to materialize.

His paintings are lyrical ballads. His sculptures are gently archaic. His photographs are like haikus. Cy Twombly is, in a way, a guest in his own art; a form as powerful as it is fragile, vigorous and delicate all at a time. It’s infinitely compelling.

Visuals © Araso

Cy Twombly, an exhibition on view at the Centre Pompidou in Paris from 30.11.2016 to 24.04.2017

Somewhere in Galliera there is this coat for Sonia

Somewhere in Galliera there is this coat.

Designed by Martin Margiela in 2010, it celebrates the goddess with the red thick hair.

But the goddess Sonia Rykiel passed away this year.

The coat is synecdoque one can barely notice for the reference comes naturally.  The installation only makes it obvious how Sonia Rykiel is a public figure whose image remains in people’s mind. Her peers just wouldn’t stop paying tribute to her.

Not far behind the hairy spectre her little sweater with multicolor stripes stands as yet another symbol.

Sonia Rykiel was so particular, so remarkable, one can hardly ever forget.

Coat by Martin Margiela as a tribute to Sonia Rykiel, illustration © Araso
Coat by Martin Margiela as a tribute to Sonia Rykiel, illustration © Araso

The exhibition Anatomie d’une collection in Paris fashion museum Palais Galliera is extended until February 12th 2017 with new pieces and a tribute to Sonia Rykiel.
Last may we talked about the show here.

René Magritte, illustration Araso

Magritte, imagination and the construction of images

What would Magritte do nowadays? Now that images proliferate, a reflection of our egos rather than of our imagination and constantly begging for attention?

Magritte the adman, the illustrator, the poet, the sculptor of a Swan Lake, the great master ès building images nurtured inside his very own brain, would probably gaze upon our world with a teasing eye and a grin.

He would teach us how to turn imagination into phrases, digging into it first. He would show us how to put a key into a lock and a girafe into a glass.

A custodian of a Sleeper’s dreams and those of the unsettling People from the River (1926), he has also built his own codes of beauty (The Six Elements, 1929). He would lecture on the Principle of Incertitude in the Instagram era and go for drinks with a revived Raymond Hains and Bertrand Lavier.

He would give us lessons on how to play and have fun, how to exist without craving the look of others. Because images we make betray us in spite of appearances anyway.

Illustration © Araso

"This is not René Magritte", by Araso in Paris Pompidou Museum
“This is not René Magritte”, by Araso in Paris Pompidou Museum

René Magritte, The Betrayal of Images
Until January 23rd 2017
Centre Pompidou Paris, access here
Every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (except Tuesdays)

Manufacture de Sèvres - Illustration Araso

A regular Thursday morning towards the end of August: inside of Sèvres national ceramic manufacture, the artisans get busy in an astonishingly monastic silence.

Valérie is head of production and creation. Like many, she came to ceramic by accident and stayed out of passion. Since her very early years, she’d had «the taste for things well made, with this exact combination of academic accuracy and sensitivity ». Like Valérie the next generations of craftsmen have taken the path of physical endurance, extreme concentration and resistance to elements. In other words: it’s a extraordinarily sensual job.

Of course Valérie knows the manufacturing process inside out. She first joined Sèvres as a painter and continues to fight for the transmission of this unique knowledge of how to make things by the book. She is also a fervent advocate of the «print of the hand», an undeniable mark of uniqueness, authenticity and rarity which also gives a piece its character.

Nowadays she barely paints anymore to focus on production and the sourcing of raw materials, a burning issue. Her day starts at 7 in the morning and is punctuated by several visits to the workshops, to make sure all needs are covered.

No wonder she wouldn’t return my emails.

Visuals and illustration © Araso

Sèvres is open for the European Heritage Days on September 17th and 18th.

Valérie Jonca and her team will guide visitors through the workshop with exclusive insight. A tailor-made experience not to be missed on French heritage and craftsmanship.

Sèvres – Cité de la céramique
2 Place de la Manufacture
92310 Sèvres (France)
Tél. : +33(0)1 46 29 22 00