Azzedine Alaïa Has a Different Kind of Show

Mirror of: NY Times By: Vanessa Friedman

Forget frocks and eye-popping knitwear. Think poetry, with a dash of politics on top.

In a move to reinforce the idea of creative community, the designer Azzedine Alaïa has transformed his Paris showroom, most recently host to three days of fall/winter défilés, into a gallery space devoted to the exhibition of more than 70 collages by the Syrian-born, Paris-based poet Adonis, one of the most famous of the Arabic world and often named as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. On Monday, Adonis was awarded the Kumaran Asan World Prize for poetry.

In Azzedine Alaïa’s atelier in Paris, one group of collages by the poet Adonis. Credit Donatien Grau
In Azzedine Alaïa’s atelier in Paris, one group of collages by the poet Adonis. Credit Donatien Grau

The show, which will run until May 10 and is the first time that many of Adonis’s collages have been publicly displayed, is the most ambitious cultural effort yet from the designer. (He also hosts the annual World Press Photo exhibit, as well as other, less formal essayages.) It also signals the beginning of what are planned twice-yearly, free-to-the-public exhibits in Mr. Alaïa’s atelier/flagship store/home base in the Marais section of Paris.

A catalog of the Adonis works will also appear.

Though fashion in general is having something of a public art moment, what with the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton and the Prada contemporary art museum set to open in Milan, Mr. Alaïa’s effort is the smaller, more personal version of the trend.

Mr. Alaïa decided to hold the Adonis exhibition, for example, after the poet gave him one of his collages, which involve superimposing words — his own and those of other Arabic poets — and scraps of material over a background of “invented” calligraphy, after a visit. (The trip presumably included a meal in the Alaïa kitchen, as most do.)

“Do you have any more?” Mr. Alaïa asked. It turned out Adonis did — when he was having trouble writing poetry, he would make some art — so they hatched a plan: not just to display a previously unknown side of the writer to the world, but to hold an event that would show, not tell, visitors a different side of the Arabic world than the one in the news.

In other words, the messaging opportunities woven into the exhibit escaped no one. Well, Mr. Alaïa is known for his uncanny ability with a knit.