French Artist Jean-Michel Othoniel on His Breathtaking Collaboration with Dior
Anyone who has been to Paris in the last 20 years is likely to be familiar with the arches of glass bubbles at the entrance to the Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre metro station. The cupolas, which have become a popular rendezvous marker for Parisiens and tourists alike, are the work of French sculptor Jean-Michel Othoniel, who created them in 2000 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Paris subway. Othoniel’s spindling glass sculptures, made alongside the best Murano and Basel glassmakers, have enchanted the art world for the last three decades. He has held exhibitions at the Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, and the Brooklyn Museum in New York, and his work is a part of the Louvre’s permanent collection.
Othoniel will also be the first artist to be invited by the Musée du Petit Palais to take over the entire museum, including its garden. His Le Théorème de Narcisse exhibition opened late last month and runs until January 2, 2022, and features more than 70 new works.
To honour his contribution to French art, Othoniel was inducted into the prestigious Académie des Beaux-arts’ sculpture department in 2018, as one of only six permanent members of the committee. He will officially take his seat on October 6 after the induction ceremony.
“When I entered the Academy, my desire was to bring back a new energy, and foster a new generation,” says Othoniel. “And so I wanted my uniform for the ceremony to reflect this energy and the change that is currently taking place within the Académie des Beaux-arts, as we welcome new disciplines such as dance and comedy.”
Othoniel worked with Kim Jones, artistic director of Dior Men, to create a unique outfit for the ceremony. The jacket is decorated with olive branches created from golden threads, glass beads, copper leaves and green silk. The branch is a symbol of the institution and a major reference in Othoniel’s book The Secret Language of Flowers: Notes on the Hidden Meanings of the Louvre’s Flowers. While the olive branch is present on the academicians’ traditional uniform first designed by the artist Jacques-Louis David in 1801, Othoniel and Jones’s creation amplifies the symbol, spreading it across the legs and waist of the trousers. The suit is completed with a crown of olive branches encircling the jacket collar.
“The collaboration with Kim Jones and Dior was a dream come true,” says Othoniel. “Kim interpreted my drawings into the olive embroidery, and then we experimented with different prototypes and different types of embroidery. I loved working with the craftsmen and foundrymen. For me, this costume is truly a work of art.”