Années 80. Mode, design et graphisme en France

from 13 October 2022 to 16 April 2023

The musée des Arts décoratifs will celebrate the 1980s with a major exhibition entitled Années 80, Mode, design et graphisme en France, to be held in the Central Hall from October 13th, 2022, through April 16th, 2023.

From the election of François Mitterrand (french president) in 1981 to the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, this historic decade, still vivid in people’s minds in France, is considered both a political watershed and an artistic turning point in the fields of fashion, design and graphic arts, where postmodernism opens up all artistic possibilities.

Années 80, Mode, design et graphisme en France brings together over 700 artworks including objects, furniture, fashion designs, posters, photographs, videos, album covers and fanzines, retracing this frenzied decade that became synonymous with eclecticism. The 1980s saw the emergence of a new generation of creators, from Olivier Gagnère, Elizabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti, to Philippe Starck and Martin Szekely, all of whom designed and created in a context conducive to freedom of expression.

Fashion design also broke free from the traditional dictates of style, with designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler skyrocketing to “superstar” status. The 1980s were also the apex of advertising, graphic design, and audio-visual production through the works of Jean-Paul Goude, Jean-Baptiste Mondino and Etienne Robial.

From new wave to post-punk and hip-hop, a new chapter was also being written in the history of music and dance in the legendary nightclubs of Paris.

The exhibition scenography, a clash of vibrantly colored shapes and designs, is the work of designer Adrien Rovero.

Pierre & Gilles, Étienne Daho et Bibic, 1983
© Photo: Pierre et Gilles

Années 80, Mode, design et graphisme en France revolves around three important themes that reflect the merging of ideas and forms specific to the decade: a new political and cultural era, design in effervescence, and the “look” of the 80s.

In galleries overlooking the Tuileries Gardens, the exhibition opens with the 1981 election of François Mitterrand, announcing a decisive change in France with a poster featuring the slogan “La Force Tranquille” (The Quiet Strength). The poster, commissioned by Mitterrand and created by advertising legend, Jacques Séguéla, marked the dawn of a new era in global visual design and the arrival of electoral marketing. The new president’s major projects were accompanied by a new visual identity, with graphics created by Grapus for La Villette and the Louvre, and Jean Widmer for the Musée d’Orsay.

To promote contemporary creations, the new president called in five designers to renovate the private apartments at L’Élysée, including Marc Held, Ronald Cecil Sportes, Philippe Starck, Annie Tribel and Jean-Michel Wilmotte.

Michel Bouvet, Faites de la Musique poster, 1987
© Les Arts Décoratifs / Photo: Christophe Dellière

Jack Lang, the emblematic Minister of Culture, inaugurated the nationwide Fête de la Musique in Paris on June 21, 1982, encouraged public recognition of French fashion with the creation of the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) in 1986, and supported fashion shows held in the Cour Carrée at the Louvre, as well as the Oscars of Fashion.

Media and audio-visual production also experienced an unprecedented boom. Étienne Robial created the concept of habillage or audio-visual presentations, for television stations such as Canal+, M6 and Channel 7. At the time, the proliferation of stations led to the golden years of advertising film thanks to iconic directors such as Étienne Chatiliez, Jean-Paul Goude and Jean-Baptiste Mondino. Written media also underwent a transformation as Claude Maggiori redesigned the covers of French daily ‘Libération’ while the ‘art’ of the slogan flooded all forms of media in existence.

Jean-Paul Goude, Royaume-Uni : Londres multiethnique sous la pluie, Notebook of the bicentenary of the French Revolution, 1989
Ballpoint and felt pen on paper Collection Jean-Paul Goude
© Jean-Paul Goude

The world of design takes center stage in the Central Hall of the musée des Arts décoratifs with an extraordinary blend of styles that came to life during the 1980s. These include modernist designs with high-tech accents mixed with neobaroque and primitive art, exalting the savoir-faire of the decade.

Martin Szekely, PI Lounge Chair, 1983
Édition Néotù, Carte blanche of VIA 1982, Fnac 2018
© Les Arts Décoratifs / Photo: Jean Tholance

Steps taken by the Valorisation de l’Innovation dans l’Ameublement (VIA), introduced in 1979 by the Minister of Industry, gave carte blanche to an entire generation of young creators. Contrary to decades past, the artistic spotlight was not shone on schools or movements, but rather, on brilliant individuals such as François Bauchet, Olivier Gagnère, Sylvain Dubuisson, Jean Paul Gaultier and Jean-Paul Goude, as well as Philippe Starck and Martin Szekely. In the wake of the VIA’s support, avant-garde spaces dedicated to contemporary creation were also created, including Perkal, Néotù, Yves Gastou, En Attendant les Barbares, Avant-Scène and Gladys Mougin.

Elizabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti, Chaise Mobilier pour la Maison de Couture Christian Lacroix, 1987
© Les Arts Décoratifs / Photo: Jean Tholance © Adagp, Paris, 2022

And while the State was encouraging creation in France, private commissions were not to be outdone. The 1980s were marked by two iconic private commissions recreated in the form of period rooms: the decoration of the Christian Lacroix couture house by Elizabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti, and the office of auctioneer and collector, Jean-Claude Binoche by Pucci de Rossi.

Le Palace Magazine, n°12, 1982
© DR

A tide of celebration and freedom swept through the 1980s as fashion shows became spectacular productions, paving the way for wild nights in now legendary clubs like Le Palace and Les Bains Douches. In those specific clubs, appearance was everything and eccentricity the rule, as the Parisian in-crowd danced to the beats of new wave, rock and hip hop. Youth diversifies its membership groups, giving rise to a multiplicity of subcultures with their own looks.

Fashion was seized by the phenomenon of revival with looks dating back to ancient times right through to the 1930s. Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana drew inspiration from historic silhouettes while Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood and Chantal Thomass parodied the same looks. Martin Margiela and Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons took things in the opposite direction as they attempted to deconstruct the notion of clothing. Azzedine Alaïa and Marc Audibet created designs that hugged the athletic bodies of supermodels while the ample shapes of Issey Miyake and Anne-Marie Beretta were more architectural and became a genuine medium of expression for Elisabeth de Senneville and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.

  • Claude Montana, Robe en cuir très épaulée à boutonnage pressionné, Spring-summer 1979, Ready-to-wear collection
    “L’Officiel de la couture et de la mode”, February 1979
    © Photo: Michel Picard / Éditions Jalou
  • Élisabeth de Senneville, Two-piece set, 1983
    © Les Arts Décoratifs / Photo: Jean Tholance

Fashion also took hold of the male wardrobe, as exemplified by Jean Paul Gaultier’s famous marinière sailor shirt as mainstream brands like Naf Naf, Kookaï and Benetton inundated the public space with their advertising campaigns. At the same time, from Les Halles district, agnès b. designs the timeless clothes of the Parisian woman. The great parade orchestrated by Jean-Paul Goude celebrating the bicentenary of the French Revolution in 1989 brought the decade to a dazzling close.

Maison Martin Margiela, Ankle boots tabi, 1989
© Les Arts Décoratifs / Photo: Christophe Dellière

Retracing the highlights of a decade that rewrote the rules, the musée des Arts décoratifs also pays tribute to its own story: the Musée de l’Affiche et de la Publicité, founded in 1982, and the Musée des Arts de la Mode, founded in 1986, now part of the institution. Années 80, Mode, design et graphisme en France reminds us how the 80s represented a joyful clash of styles and how that memorable decade filled the worlds of fashion, design and graphic arts with a spontaneity and freedom.

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