Monday, November 14, 2016


“I love people,” says French fashion designer agnès b. “I want everyone to be happy.”

That philosophy comes across not only in the kind of clothes she produces, but also in the artwork she collects – creations that promote freedom and rights and affirm human resilience. Fans can now see 69 pieces of her immense art collection at the Musée de l’Histoire de l’Immigration in Paris, an institution that focuses on immigration in France.

Designer agnes b. at "Vivre!!"
(Photo: Tasshon)
“I love to discover artists and people,” she told Tasshon in an interview. “Art and design are connected, and I try to support artists who are saying something for the good of the world.”

The exhibition, titled Vivre!!, acts as a kind of dialogue between the agnès b. collection and works from the museum’s own permanent set.

The designer presents iconic black-and-white photographs by Malian photographer Malick Sidibe in “discourse”, for instance, with the huge, vivid colour paintings of Congolese artist Chéri Samba, whose work has been acquired by the museum and whose talent agnès b. says she admires.

The show is divided into different categories, with intriguing headings: World maps, Rebellion, Writing … the Words, Living, Love, Work, Youth, Death, Dance, War and Who Are We.

Image from the video
by Regina Jose Galindo.
In the “Rebellion” section, visitors will find themselves immediately drawn to an arresting video by Regina José Galindo called “Quien puede borrar las huellas” (Who can cover his tracks). It shows a barefooted young woman stepping into a basin of red liquid (blood?) and then walking along the sidewalk in front of a phalanx of armed police officers or guards, leaving red footprints in her wake.

Other works question the notion of identity or deplore the senseless brutality of conflict, such as Damir Radovic’s 2013 work, which bears these words in neon lights: "Who started the war?" This is a reference to the Yugoslav War of the 1990s, with its ethnic cleansing atrocities and crimes against humanity.

In addition to Radovic, the exhibition features another artist from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Antoinette Ohannessian, who shows how blasé humans can be about violent conflict.

agnes b. (photo: K. Ohishi)
“Agnès b is a collector that’s really engaged with what’s happening in the world,” says Sam Stourdzé, the show’s curator. “The artists aren’t chosen for their rank in the marketplace but for their relationship with humanity. She supports artists and art, as a designer speaking to others who are creative.”

For agnès b, there are parallels between visual arts and the art of couture, and it was barely a decade after starting her own brand in 1973 that she opened an art gallery - la galerie du jour. Since then, she has been involved in numerous artistic and humanitarian projects and has won several awards. 

“I don’t do fashion, I do clothes,” she told Tasshon at the exhibition. “I try to make things that can be worn forever. I want people to be happy when they wear my clothes.”

And perhaps when they see her art collection as well.

Vivre!! runs until Jan. 8, 2017 at the Musée de l’Histoire de l’Immigration, Paris.