The Unknown Hipster

My encounter with Sophie Calle

Posted in Art by unknownhipster on December 20, 2011

In France, Sophie Calle is to Art what Marguerite Duras is to literature : a super heavyweight champion who appeals to sensitive folks.

Back in the Fall, during FIAF Festival, Sophie Calle transformed a suite at the Lowell hotel into a whole installation entitled « Room ».

I went on a Sunday night, before the definitive closing of the exhibition at 11pm.

Most thrilling was to walk across the lobby of this luxurious and somehow discreet Upper East Side hotel to tell the receptionist: I’m here to see the installation… for it seemed highly unlikely that an installation was taking place there. Without rising an eyebrow, he indicated the elevator, 3rd floor, Suite 30.

The corridor leading to « Room ».

Very few viewers, essentially women, were moving silently inside the room, bending to carefully read the narratives accompanying the objects that the artist had displayed everywhere. In fact, the room was filled with Sophie Calle’s works, from the bathroom to inside the safe to the walk-in closet.

Not seen in this image, a photographic portrait of Freud adorning the sink.

In the lounge, the TV was on with the news. The news on that banal sunday night was so odd, looking so much like the News in all its tragic excess or dumbness, that I thought it was another piece of Calle’s work.

The artist and her iconic wedding cake.

A tiny woman with big eyeglass frames (more angular than those of Duras) and a short skirt was sitting on the couch, checking emails while sipping Chardonnay.

She looked so much like the artist, that I couldn’t help inquiring :

–       Is it you? I mean, are you the artist ?

–       Well, yes, I am.

–       How incredible to see you sitting in your own installation! But… is this the real news?

–       This? (She looked at the TV.) Yes, it’s the TV. Why ?

–       Oh, I thought it was a work of yours, some video you could have also done…

She narrowed her eyes.

–       Hmm… that would be an idea…

After that, we had nothing else to say. I kept on watching the news, and her too, while taking another sip of white wine.

 A stuffed cat.

–       Do you also sleep in your installation? I asked.

–       As a matter of fact, I did. Just last night.

It reminded me of the first time I had seen her work, No Sex Last Night, at a Whitney Biennal, in the early 90’s. I stood for a long time in front of the video screen to admit that it was true, night after night, in spite of a wedding in a Las Vegas chapel, there was no sex, and they kept on driving on and on with the top down.


A red wedding dress on a half burnt bed.


A man who was also seated on the couch was introduced as her boyfriend.

–       Are you part of the installation?

It’s not very kind, said Calle of my innocent joke, and I apologized.

–       So how did you sleep? Did you sleep on the Red Wedding Dress, or did you set it aside?

She looked at me, surprised.

–       There are 2 beds, I slept on the other one.

–       I see.

Once again, we had nothing more to say.



–       And you, who are you? she asked.

–       I am the Unknown Hipster.

–       Hmm?

I indicated my url and she checked this very blog you are reading right now.

She didn’t seemed facinated beyond measure. She landed on the post about Carine’s karaoke, Anna Dello Russo’s legs and Valentino singing My Way.

–       Who are these people?

I tried to explain that they were giants in the fashion world, but she seemed dubious.

At that moment, a tall blonde woman, with whom I had earlier admired the installation inside  the kitchen fridge at the beginning of my visit, was now walking toward the artist to hug her.

She was a dear friend, and they completely forgot about me.

Just before I made my exit, I interrupted to ask Sophie Calle if I could take a picture with my iPhone .

–       Are you going to do a portrait of me?

–       I don’t know, I said. Maybe.