Olivier Saillard on Models Never Talk
Olivier Saillard’s ‘Models Never Talk’ was as superb as anything you would expect from the artist and Museum Director of the Musée Galliera – actually, he exceeded all expectations we had. With a bare white room (save for a few chairs) serving as the backdrop for the performance, the show began with seven French former supermodels (Anne Rohart, Charlotte Flossaut, Axelle Doué, Christine Bergstrom, Claudia Huidobro, Amalia Vairelli, and Violeta Sanchez) each walking individually to the center, posing in front of a man with an open laptop, and then assuming poses to create a harmonious image that at all times looked perfectly photographable. The intention was to give models an opportunity to talk – a willful contradiction to the nature of their job – and talk they did, combining theatric gestures with vocal narration to recreate fashion moments by use of their personal memories. The presentation was beautifully choreographed, endearing, and funny – an astounding success and one of the best things to graze fashion week. We talked to the lovely Saillard after the show in order to further understand the performance, to ask about future collaborations, and to ask how his role as museum director influences his work.
What was the inspiration behind the performance?
When Lili Chopra with the director of Crossing the Line, which is a festival dedicated to new expression concerning dance, video, visual arts, and fashion…when she invited me to present a performance it reminded me of all the fashion designers, all the couturiers, like Paul Poiret, Chrisitan Dior, who used to come to New York with a lot of models with a lot of suitcases. But in my case the suitcases are completely empty. I have no clothes to sell, I have no costumes, I have only ideas, I have only a knowledge concerning the fashion history to offer to different people, and also for me, in the history of fashion, models – girls – are very important. They are a very big part of the process of the artistic creation, so it was a justice for me to offer to all these models to speak, to give a voice to the clothes, and to create a special performance for New York only with memories.
What made you select these models in particular?
You know it’s very simple – there are not a lot of models available to understand this kind of work, so only the most poetic people and the most available people can do it – it was important for me to choose some girls who had very important relationships with a fashion designer, like Amalia, Violeta, Christine, Claudia, who used to work with Saint Laurent, with Jean Paul Gaultier. And you know I think these women are…you know, in the past they were supermodels, they were very beautiful, they are still very beautiful. Axelle [Doué], who used to work with Madame Grès, for me is always very inspiring. So I want to show, also, that a woman, like men, I hope, is always beautiful at 20, 30, 40, because often you become older and nicer with the knowledge, with age. And you know, not a lot of people agreed to come with me and to take a risk to present such a work.
How does your role as Museum Director at the Musée Galliera influence your approach towards these types of presentations?
For me it’s the same thing doing a performance or doing an exhibition. Doing an exhibition I make a selection of clothes, of accessories, of costumes, and doing a performance I make a selection of movement, of gesture. But history is always part of both, so for me it’s the same thing. A performance, for me, is a kind of exhibition which lasts 20 minutes but it’s all strictly the same thing for me. It’s a chance for me to work with more than 100,000 costumes and pieces from the 18th century to today because it’s a lot of inspiration – the storage of Musée Galliera is material of inspiration for the performance and sometimes it’s the opposite.
There is always an air of transcendence to your work – there’s something that has more of an impact, duration, and significance. What are your constant inspirations?
My inspiration is to be very included in the present always. I have nothing to sell – after the performance we have nothing to sell except the show, for example, and it’s important because we don’t have to produce something except the gesture of the show. So my inspiration is people. I’ve been working for 20 years in a museum which is not the most alive part in the world, so it was important to work with very alive people, my inspiration is to see, for example, these models or to see the fashion, which is always for me a very inspiring discipline, but I wanted to show people that sometimes it’s an industry but many times it’s an art, and I want to introduce something more free, more poetic – it’s a mirror to fashion.
You’ve collaborated with amazing people like Tilda Swinton. Who would be another ideal collaborator?
It was a big gift to propose to Tilda Swinton to collaborate and when she said yes in a very simple way it was a big gift. Now it’s quite complicated to think about new people, but recently I proposed to Isabelle Huppert, who is for me probably the closest person to Tilda Swinton, she’s very interested in all kinds of art and cinema and any experiences, so probably we will do a special performance with Isabelle. But I have to recognize that Tilda is still always very inspiring for me; we will do a new performance in November during the Festival d’Automne, and it’s a big honor and a big pleasure to work with Tilda. After, I think, we will work not necessarily with an actress, maybe with unknown people. This work is a window for me, it’s a process to invent my life, so I don’t want to have some principle…so I don’t know (laughs)!