Mademoiselle Privé, the latest exhibition by Chanel, had a very brief run at the Saatchi Gallery in London. If you were not able to make it in person, we hope this review will do the experience justice.
The exhibition carries the viewer into the world of Coco Chanel, her creative process, and how her spirit still shapes the innovative inner workings of the House today. The artifacts of the exhibition focused on certain iconic elements; camellias, wheat, the color red, Coco Chanel’s lucky numbers, and their No. 5 perfume. Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of fashion, said that the aim of the exhibition was to highlight the creativity of the brand, “It’s about what’s happening behind the scenes, how [Karl] Lagerfeld is working with the patrimony of Mademoiselle Chanel.”
“Experience” is exactly what Lagerfeld had in mind with this latest immersion into the world of Chanel, this is their third show at Saatchi. Meant to create full sensory interaction with the attendees, the exhibition featured a maze of giant fabric panels hung from the ceiling and bucolic gardens inside and out. Along with the tactile features, a custom-made smartphone app brought another dimension to the displays, animating unseen aspects of the objects and tableaus simply by pointing at them with a phone.
Highlights of the exhibit include re-editions of the jewelry collection Bijoux de Diamants, that Coco Chanel created in 1932, and custom couture pieces that Lagerfeld designed for brand ambassadors. The final component of the exhibition was a short film, Visite Nocturne, written, directed and featuring Lagerfeld, in an amusing “fight” with the ghost of Coco Chanel, portrayed by Geraldine Chaplin.
Taking over all three floors of the Gallery, it was easy to lose oneself in the exhibit. While the smartphone app added another level of augmented reality and interactivity, sometimes its better to just look with your eyes. It required a year to mount the exhibition, and while its sleek and engrossing atmosphere was successful, there seemed to be information missing. At the heart of it all was Coco Chanel’s witty quips, but those were fed to you mainly through your phone, which required a constant staring at your screen rather than around you – and a significant amount of battery power.
While technology helps us, it hinders simultaneously. If an attendee chose not to download the app, the exhibition became jumbled, and no longer felt like a cohesive whole. How much one person absorbs, experiences, and enjoys art and culture is entirely up to them, and should not rely on a device feeding information to them. However, if the exhibition was not challenging and pioneering, it would not be Chanel.
Many thanks to Adriana Andujar for her photographs and personal experience notes that contributed to this article.