The fourth dimension

The spaces we inhabit all have a meaning. And the way we design them contributes to define that meaning – or not. By conveying values, stimulating reactions, suggesting relationships. Purely immaterial functions, but ones that are often important, especially in the case of buildings open to the public

Celebration Picasso - Photo © Vinciane Lebrun, Voyez-Vous
Celebration Picasso - Photo © Vinciane Lebrun, Voyez-Vous

In Paris, two exhibitions are in progress, very different but with several important points of contact. The shows are “Célébration Picasso, la collection prend des couleurs!” (Musée Picasso, until 27/08) and “Yves Saint Laurent – Formes” (Musée Yves Saint Laurent, until 14/01/2024). Both involve a living creative talent and one that has passed away; both establish a dialogue between art and fashion.

In the case of Saint Laurent, the work of the fashion designer encounters a stimulating counterpart in that of Claudia Wieser (German, born in 1973), punctuating the various exhibition spaces. A precise aesthetic line that emphasizes and reveals thematic constants in the evolution of Saint Laurent: rigor, admiration for Constructivism, the ability to play with color – also in daring ways.

Ruben Modigliani - Photo © Valentina Sommariva
Ruben Modigliani – Photo © Valentina Sommariva
Yves Saint Laurent – Formes, Paris - Photo © Thibaut Voisin
Yves Saint Laurent – Formes, Paris – Photo © Thibaut Voisin

The operation carried out by Musée Picasso with artistic direction by Paul Smith, one of the best-known figures of British fashion, has deeper repercussions. The rooms formulated by Smith, together with the curators Cécile Debray and Joanne Snrech, offer a lively sequence of surprises that captivate viewers, taking them on a journey of discovery – and comprehension – of a series of masterpieces. Exactly what any museum is supposed to do.

There is nothing superficial about the exhibit design: “I’ve tried to look at Picasso’s work in a less conventional way,” Smith explains, “putting together more of a visual experience that is interesting for younger audiences and audiences that are not very knowledgeable about the work of this great master. It’s a more spontaneous and instinctive approach.”

Both shows stimulate deeper reflections on the role of decoration, seen not as a “passive” frame by as a tool capable of performing a function. Which in these cases – but also in a library, a waiting room, and so on – becomes the transmission of a set of values, engagement with the audience, participation and sharing. These are not banal factors: an aware, mature (or unaware and immature) society can also be constructed on their basis.