Saturday 19 October 2013

Pierre & Gilles

"Why don't you come to our place? We will show your our studio and our house! I hope you don't mind dogs." Gilles wrote to me. We had not yet managed to see each other - they were having their work exhibited at the Musée d'Orsay, and signing with a new gallerist, and my stay in Paris was coming to a close. But it finally happened.
It's a rare occasion when I am given the chance to meet my hero. Pierre & Gilles' work has accompanied me from my early teen hood until now. They were quite surprised that I recognised so many of their reference. Like them, I was strongly marked by Catholicism in my childhood. Like them I was more than familiar with the Greek myths and created a world of my own. As a thirteen years old boy, I was particularly struck how eroticism could co-exist harmoniously with a sense of innocence. Something that strongly contradicted the turmoil caused by a fairly puritanical upbringing, being a boyscout and still then, a firm believer in the Christian faith!
More than a decade ago, I met them briefly during a signing of one of their books. They made a very nice drawing for me and seemed to show some interest in me. But shyness and a long queue of admirers behind me prevented me from extending the conversation with them.
And now I was sipping a glass of sparkling water in their living room!
Their house was indeed the opposite of zen. Any object had a story that they were happy to tell. Gilles showed me their working place in the basement.
"Contrary to what people think, all the settings and props are real. Nothing is painted or computer-generated. I do the retouching to create this fantasy-like feel to the picture, and of course to give the face of the model this flawless aspect. We have all the props in all these boxes!" I looked around - hundreds of cardboard boxes!
"Will you be their next model?" my friends asked when I told them about the visit. Of course, I couldn't help nurturing the hope, especially since they have photographed many Asian models...
"Have you seen the exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay?" ¨Pierre asked.
"Not yet. I'm planning to go next week, if I have the time before I leave Paris..."
"Do you want to go on Monday? We can invite you. It's only opened for VIP or friends. We can arrange a visit if you wish" And before I could even reply, Pierre was already on the phone, talking to someone.
"It's all set! Bring as many friends as you wish!" he said with a big smile.
How could they be so nice???
Gilles went to get their last book for me and they both signed it for me. Another nice drawing made by Pierre in golden ink.
"Do you have this book?" Gilles asked. I didn't. "I have that catalogue with the golden cover which was released for your exhibition at the Maison de la Photographie, and a couple of books when your agent was Jérôme de Noirmont. I also have your very first book!"
"Oh that one is hard to find!" Gilles exclaimed. As I found out later, it was sold on e-bay for 415 US$!!!
He disappeared for a minute and came back, a pile of books in his hands.
"I hope it won't be too heavy in your suitcase!!!" Gilles smiled.
Then he showed me their last work. The theme was Prometheus chained.
"We borrowed that stuffed eagle from the Jardin des Plantes like we did each time we needed a 'live' animal!" On the picture, the bird devouring Prometheus' liver looked all too real!
Time just stopped at Pierre & Gilles'. They were happy to share their stories with me and also asked lots of questions, watching me with keen and observing eyes.
Funny how things invariably starts to take off on the last week of my stay!!! I thought.

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