The Eighties exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs : fashion, design and graphic design in France

If there was an exhibition that I absolutely could not miss this fall in Paris it was the one about the Eighties exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

The 80’s are the years of my childhood and I have a lot of memories that I partly found in this exhibition. I say partly because I don’t remember the whole fashion and furniture part and because toys and pop culture were absent. This is quite normal because the subject was really focused on fashion, design and graphics. I prefer to point this out to you so you won’t be disappointed.

eighties exhibition

Overall the exhibition was very good, but the museography and the management of the flow of visitors in the first rooms were really catastrophic. I say that because rooms were rather small which would not have been a problem if there were no videos presented. The visitors stopping to watch the videos, the flow of the visit was very slow until it caused a huge traffic jam in one of the rooms which presented period advertisements. We had a hard time getting through and could hardly see what was in that part.

The Mitterrand years

Of course it was difficult to talk about the 80’s in France without talking about François Mitterrand (president of France from 1981 to 1995), especially when we look at it from the point of view of creation and culture. These years were a period of creative effervescence, of great cultural projects and of a new era of communication. Everyone remembers this poster “La force tranquille” created by Jacques Seguela.

Golden age of graphic design

In the first rooms, we find all the graphic work done on major construction sites (La Villette, the François Mitterand Library, the Louvre Museum) or on major events created at that time, such as the Fête de la Musique or the Fête du cinéma.

In 1982, Jack Lang launched within the Ministry of Culture, an interministerial reflection on the place of graphic design and the revival plan “Graphic Design and Typography” in 1984. Graphic design is then considered as a discipline in its own right. It benefits from numerous public commissions. Indeed, thanks to decentralization, institutional sponsors have become more numerous.

The president’s designers

The 80s saw the emergence of a new generation of designers. In France, they were favored and encouraged by François Mitterrand and the Minister of Culture Jack Lang. It was decided that two thirds of the purchases of the Mobilier National would be devoted to contemporary furniture. In 1982, in order to modernize the private apartments on the second floor of the Élysée Palace, orders were placed with five interior designers: Annie Tribel, for the guest room opening onto the main courtyard, Marc Held for the large living room, Ronald-Cecil Sportes for the small living room, Philippe Starck for Danielle Mitterrand’s room, and finally Jean-Michel Wilmotte for the President’s room.

“La société de l’image”

Money, show-offs, the cult of the image, individualities that assert themselves are all things that marked the 80s. The media was liberalized and advertising exploded. It was a prosperous decade for advertising agencies.

The nave

This is the space I prefer in the exhibitions of the Decorative Arts because there is room to visit quietly. I really liked the scenography that was done during the Dior exhibition. You can see some pictures in this post.

I will not detail everything, but just tell you that in this space are exposed clothes and furniture created in a period of great effervescence for the design. At that time in France was created the Valorisation de l’innovation dans l’ameublement responsible for promoting a hexagonal design which is contributing to the emergence of a new French scene.

An image-based society

In the last rooms, the night cultures, the counter-cultures, the eclectic looks of the 80s are exposed.

Ready-to-wear clothing competes with haute couture at a lower cost, it is popularized in fashion magazines, stars and showbizz invade women’s magazines. Being a stylist becomes trendy thanks to figures like Jean-Paul Gaultier. The great supermodels of the 90s begin their careers. In these rooms we also find clothes created by brands like Naf-Naf or Kookai.

The subcultures of the 80’s are diffused in an alternative press which is opposed to the commercial press. These are more or less artisanal magazines, distributed outside the traditional networks and which treat many cultural and societal subjects.

The shop

I was pleasantly surprised by the store. They did not miss the boat as it is sometimes the case in some exhibitions. There are many emblematic objects of these years and for all budgets.

I came out of there with a few objects and especially the exhibition catalog. I recommend you to buy it if you are interested in the exhibition. It allows you to go deeper into what was exhibited and to know a little more about this period very rich in creativity and freedom.

Have you seen the exhibition? Feel free to leave me a comment to tell me what you thought of it.

See you soon!

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