The Venice Biennale is to the Art World what Milan is to the Fashion crowd. The romantic types should stay away, the company of heavy-weight collectors, ego-maniac artists and cynical critics is not for the faint-hearted. Not to mention the harsh competition between secondary market hipsters of all kind. I toughened myself weeks ago with special combat training and meditation. The programme includes mental visualisation of forcing entry to exclusive events, and surviving skills like grabbing cocktail food in hostile environment, and of course sleeping at the occasional crash-pad.
First, I wanted to drop by the French Pavilion to see what the great Claude Lévêque, author of the well known hilarious neon writing « je suis une merde » had planned for the national representation. But I decided to wait a few more days before visiting the more ascetic Bruce Nauman at the US Pavilion.
I was trying to concentrate on the Liam Gillick’s installation at the German space when I got disturbed by a woman talking loudly on the phone about what she was going to wear that night to François’s.
It irks me I had no invitation for the most sought after event : the opening of the Punta Della Dogana, the place François Pinault had founded to house parts of his immense collection and exhibit it to the public.
I didn’t get discouraged by the fact that more than a thousand influential people and Art lovers had received invitations but me, and once in my best attire, I tried to hail a water taxi.
Unfortunately, all the decent boats had been reserved for the invited guests.
I finally ran into a protesting artist, who in the manner of the artist Swoon had assembled various trash pieces into a floating barge. After negotiating a 150 € “suggested donation”, he accepted to take me on board. Although the crossing to the Giudecca normally takes a few minutes, we got caught in traffic on the Grand Canal, my shoes flooded and my pants washed by waves from the celebrities’ speed boats rushing by.
We choose to dock behind the buffet, a place that seemed most discreet. Alarmed by the giant black flag floating above our embarkation, or perhaps in fear of a sea-food risotto shortage, a guest fiercely ejected me back to the sea. I recognized Marc, and begged for hospitality. Although I had been refused entrance by a young arrogant P.R. assistant at her last show in Paris, Stella personally helped me up the pier, and handed me a welcoming glass of prosecco.
- So, how’s Tadao’s work ? I asked, Does it look good ?
But my new friends had disappeared, trapped in a crowd of admirers.
Spotting our host alone, I rushed to him, thinking it was good timing to greet him before the party takes off.
- ” Thank you for collecting so much Art,” I told him. “And this Punta is a really cool…”
- “Would you mind stepping back ?” a staff member interrupted me, “there are photographers at work behind you.”
There was a line to enter the Dogana. But once in, only the lonely were looking at the Art. I spent a long time studying « Fucking hell », the monumental Jack and Dinos Chapman masterpiece. An older man, dressed like a priest, was one of the rare visitors, like me, to show more interest in the works displayed than in watching tycoons and super-models.
- “Are you wearing Alexander McQueen ?” I asked.
- “No, it’s vintage Comme,” he replied dryly.
It turned out he was a real cardinal. His position, he admitted, made him a frequent invite to this kind of event.
- I suppose the Art world considers me a potential client, he said.
- Why do you think contemporary Art is usually based on jokes ? I asked.
- Well, life’s a joke, buddy, the serious bit comes after.
And he slapped my back. I was quite shaken, and went wandering in the next rooms.
There were rumors of a dinner hosted by Angela Missoni, in honor of (the less ascetic than I thought) Bruce Nauman, on a yacht. Following the crowd, I befriended a drunk oligarch who wanted to talk about his own collection.
- “I got them all,” he bragged, “the guy who does the handbags ! the nurse painter ! all of them !”
He was on the list, and we got on board together. The yacht was packed with the most beautiful girls, all shoeless so as not to harm the precious wood deck, which gives them a particular unusual dreamy coolness, but I intended to have at least one serious Art conversation and headed first to the celebrated artist.
Karl and I are the most opposite human beings one could imagine. But I often find myself closer to him than what I’d thought, and it’s not only megalomania. Besides that, I have an history with Karl. Back in the 90’s, I was once assigned by the underground magazine «The Clamped Oyster» (it had disappeared since, outpowered by glossies like among others, Purple) to report from Karl’s studio at the house of Chanel. I assisted to the last fitting before the show, in the very heart of the sanctuary, where Karl was reviewing and giving the last touch to his models, surrounded by collaborators, muses and advisers, such as Victoire de Castellane, Amanda Harlech who had left her horses for the day, and some of the world most prestigious magazines editors in chief. Everybody was so serious, the only fellow with who I could share a momentory friendship was Michel Gaubert, the soon to be World famous DJ, who modestly show me a cassette tape on which, the night before, he had laid down musics for the show: « a little of Mozart, a little of something else ». I should have been thrilled to be where no one’s never allowed, and in a sense I was –although I would have prefered to witness Allen Ginsberg reading « Howl » for the first time, or being 2nd camera assistant on Jean-Luc Godard’s « One + One », not to mention being an intern at the Factory in its glorious days – but somehow, I couldn’t concentrate on the action, distracted by Camille Miceli, the PR of the time, who in high boots, mini skirt and tight tee-shirt was asking me if I needed anything. I was hynotised, unaware that one day she would pose in her nude for Paradis, Thomas Lenthal’s magazine, who on his side was to become Victoire de Castellane’s husband. Back at the rehearsal, Philip Treacy, the great hat designer was graciously slouching in his casual clothes, while I had stupidly trade my worn out jeans and thrift store plaid shirts for what I believed to be more adapted to Couture, and had pulled off a boxy navy power suit, paired with a red tie. The red tie was the mistake, and when I was finally introduced to Karl, it was to hear « Oh, I thought you were the security man, looking after the jewelry ! ». One would have been vexated to death (and well, I can’t say I wasn’t) ! But I survived to understand I had been gifted with the most exclusive style advice ever (it’s okay, I’m glad to share it with you now).
So whenever I come accross a Karl’s interview, I read it, meticulously ! There’s always a lot to learn from. The most rescent one I read was in the May issue of Interview Magazine, where asked by model Sigrid Agren what would be his advice on how to become a supermodel, he replys :
Lagerfeld :(…) You want to know what the real secret is ?
Agren : Tell me.
Lagerfeld : It’s not being perfect.