Christian Lacroix Curates: Mirabilis


Mirabilis Exhibition at the Popes’ Palace, Avignon

Staged in a grand hall in the Popes’ Palace in 2018 was an exhibition which highlighted the treasures found across Avignon’s five main museums and galleries: the Petit Palais, Calvet, Requien, Roure and Lapidaire.  What made it rather special was the fact that it was curated by Christian Lacroix.

Despite the fact that he is a famous fashion designer with a theatrical flair, Lacroix wasn’t just able to bring his aesthetic sense to this exhibition; he studied Art History in Montpellier and was in Paris intending to become a museum curator before the allure of haute couture pulled him away.  Financially no doubt this was an excellent decision and surely even someone as creative as he is would have been somewhat crushed by the single-interest academic brains working around him.  Besides, it means that now he can swan in and show curators how you do an eclectic exhibition without it looking like a jumble sale.

View of the room displaying the Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

As a random example, below is a fairly typical display – combining ethnologically interesting objects with some stuffed animals of the kind that I would never usually look at.  Somehow because of the way they’ve been integrated into one display, you really do take the time to examine the individual parts, in a way that maybe you wouldn’t if the case had all of just one type of item – like birds.

Startled beaver and other things, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Mould of an Egyptian funerary stele with inscription, terracotta, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

The Painter’s Easel, c1686, Antonio Forbera, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Trompe-l’oeil of an engraving, 18th century, Gaspard Gresly, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Pair of gold bracelets, Roman era, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Pygmy caricature of Caracalla, 3rd century AD, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Fragment of wall mosaic, beginning of 5th century, from the St Marie de Toulouse Church, made of glass and gold leaf, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Statue of Vishnu, 17th/18th century, India, bronze, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Statue of Parvati, 17th/18th century, bronze, India, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Back-view of the statue of Parvati, 17th/18th century, bronze, India, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Head of ‘the vizier’, 13th dynasty (?), Egypt, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Female busts, Roman era, found in a tomb discovered in Montfavet in 1775, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Embracing couple, Roman era, found in a tomb discovered in Montfavet in 1775, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Figure of a priest, end of 6th-beginning of 5th century, Etruria, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

St Longinus, end of 16th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

St Longinus, end of 16th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

St Longinus, end of 16th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Self-portrait, c1670, Louis Broccard, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Sculpture of/from Jacquemart, Jacquemart Tower, 17th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Sculpture of/from Jacquemart, Jacquemart Tower, 17th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Sculpture of/from Jacquemart, Jacquemart Tower, 17th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Necklace made of teeth, shells, and glass beads, 18th/19th century, South America, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Set of feathers and reeds, 18th/19th century, Peru, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Statuette of Moai Tangata, Easter Islands, 18th/19th century (male one); Moai Kavkava, Easter Islands, 18th/19th century (female), Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Moai Kavkava, Easter Islands, 18th/19th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Inuit Anorak, Aleutian Islands, north America, end of 18th century, made of seal intestine, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Detail of the hoot of the Inuit Anorak, Aleutian Islands, north America, end of 18th century, made of seal intestine, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Engraved bamboo, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, 19th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Engraved bamboo, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, 19th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Engraved bamboo, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, 19th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Engraved bamboo, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, 19th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Stele of Doryphoros, 2nd/3rd century AD, Syria, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Funerary Relief of Manto, 3rd century AD, Macedonia, Greece, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Lamp from Campagna, possibly 1st century AD, bronze, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Joseph and Mary (?), 18th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Statue of bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta, 14th century, China, wood, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Little theatre showing the Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci, no date, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Portrait of Thomas Palmer, 1815, Louis Léopold Boilly, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Bed à la Polonaise, 18th century, given to the Countess of Chansiergues by Marie-Amélie de Lorraine, Archduchess of Austria and Duchess of Parma, January 1780, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Vertebra of Pope Innocent VI, 14th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Detail of a bust of a saint, unknown date, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Faun, 1140-1145, Abbey of St Ruf, Avignon, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Head of Avolokitecvara, c1200, Cambodia, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Bust of a young knight, second quarter of the 15th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Bust of a young knight, second quarter of the 15th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Interior doors, unknown date, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Two stuffed pig cushions, 18th century, China, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Detail of Winter, 1803, Hubert Robert, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Funerary stele of Glykon and her mother Tateis, second half of the second century/beginning of 3rd century AD, Phrygia, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Top: Vanité macabre, 17th century, Anonymous; Middle: Martyr, second half of 19th century, Louis Marie François Jacquesson de la Chevreuse; Bottom: Vanité macabre, 17th century, Anonymous, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Mourners, second half of the 15th century, convent of St Claire, Avignon, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Bust of a man with a beard (God?), 15th century, Chruch of Célestins, Avignon, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Head of a bishop, 15th century, convent of the Carmes (?), Avignon, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Pieta, c1457, convent of the Dominicans, Avignon, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Detail of the Pieta, c1457, convent of the Dominicans, Avignon, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Virgin and Child, 15th century, convent of the Célestins, Avignon, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

The Visitation: the Virgin and St Elizabeth, end of 15th century, anonymous artist, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

The Visitation, 1140-1145, Avignon, St-Ruf Abbey, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

10 painted ceiling fixtures, second half of 15th century, anonymous, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Painted ceiling fixture of a woman, second half of 15th century, anonymous, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Painted ceiling fixture of a man, second half of 15th century, anonymous, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Painted ceiling fixture of a something, second half of 15th century, anonymous, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Detail of Christ crowned, after 1372, from the tomb of Cardinal Philippe de Cabassole, alabaster, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

St Peter, after 1372, from the tomb of Cardinal Philippe de Cabassole, alabaster, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Sioux moccasins of Folco de Baroncelli, beginning of 20th century, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Ex-votos from the chapelle Notre-Dame de Pitié, 19th century, St Didier Church, Avignon, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

‘Mes vingt ans et moi’, 20th century, Léo Larguier, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

Portrait of Jeanne de Flandreysy, 20th century, Louis Ollier, Mirabilis Exhibition, Popes’ Palace, Avignon, France

So In Summary

I have seen displays and exhibitions by curators in other places trying to do this eclectic look – but they end up by feeling utterly pointless and frankly disrespectful to the objects.  The advantage that Lacroix perhaps has over the average curator is his artistic eye, and his amusing sense for juxtapositions.  Somehow he managed to make you want to look at all the artefacts, even the usually unappealing ones like stuffed animals, rather than just running your eyes over each case and moving on.  The Avignon museums are graced with many fascinating and beautiful works, and this exhibition certainly showed just how varied and important they are as well.  M. Lacroix showed, I think, that curating can be intelligent, good-humoured and visually stimulating, and I hope he gets a chance to host similar exhibitions elsewhere soon.

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