African Influence in the Arts in Paris has been visible for a decade, especially in my quartier, the 6th arrondissement, ST GERMAIN DE PRES. Still, lately EVERYTHING AFRICAN has taken over. The fashion world has recently caught on, and the patterns, colors, textures of the African continent are in every dress shop window as well as the windows of the world of decoration and especially today the windows of the top art galleries. The Fashionistas went rogue.
Every Thursday night, the European art world gathers at the NIGHT OF VERNISSAGES IN RUE DE SEINE. The drinks and parties start at seven and last well past midnight, where the artists and dealers make final sales at Cafe La Palette. In the nineties, the Rue Visconti, ( the street where I had my couture showroom and shared sewing ateliers with Karl Lagerfeld) became mainly a street for art galleries.
They began to promote African Art, especially the masks from the Dogon in East Mali. The masks went from hundreds in the seventies to today millions of dollars and up, including a four million dollar donation by President Chirac for ONE MASK to the Musee Quai Branly, (a must-see museum if you visit Paris).
Today buying African Art became like buying Amazon stock for French artists and we all fled to Kenya, Namibia, and Joberg to shop till we dropped buying fabrics, headscarves, jewelry, and masks. Now the best selling clothing stores in France are featuring everything African which is becoming the best selling clothing in the world. Monoprix (our French Walmart ) went African last year and I bought it out.
WHY? What does African Art have that other countries do not? The answer…
COLOR ME HAPPINESS. Wild, wilder, wildest. Africa throbs with excitement, natural beauty and untamed artists who are free to create without boundaries. All the rules of top art schools fall apart and every color of our inner imagination works.
The patterns of fabrics today feature African decor, the jungles, the deserts, the animals, the plumage. In-home decor rooms have the vibe of an African holiday hotel.
In dresses, prints are layered and scarves and headgear are added.
African designers are headed to Paris /New York. Look out for Adama Ndiaye a beautiful talented woman from Senegal who has already landed.
The African print is used now in the shoes, bags, even on the sneakers, the animal print is also replacing real fur. Teddy Bear fabric in jackets was last winters number one best selling item worldwide. Fur stores are closing. I remember shooting “The Comedians” in the early sixties Dahomey Africa and Elizabeth Taylor and I got our husbands to shoot several Leopards for fur coats to be made by Dior. Wow, have the times changed. We wear faux fur and dress like African bush women while fighting against animal cruelty.
African style jewelry is big, bigger, biggest and the influence today is to pile on your jewelry, no holes barred, around your neck and wrists. This excessive look creates today’s trend of OVER THE TOP. Perhaps our times are confusing, politics, viruses, cheating in sports, foreign films getting Oscars for the English speaking category.
In a world of ANYTHING GOES, we can now let go creatively and just do it.
It is important for the “WESTERN ART EYE “to remember the overall influence of African Art in the last century in our art and design, starting with Picasso. We have incorporated their color palette, which includes the primitive masks and objects, but also the colors of the African landscapes, nature, and animals. Art today benefits not only from their simplicity and reverence of nature but also their HAPPY use of color.