Thursday, 6:12pm
15 January 2009

Design blitz at the museum

Antoine+Manuel cram their oeuvre into the Musée des Arts Décoratifs

One goes to openings to gawk at people as much as the art, writes Véronique Vienne. Last night the upbeat Antoine+Manuel show at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris was no exception. Everyone looked cool, no matter how haphazard their sense of colour. Weeks of freezing weather had sorely tested the fashion flair of most Parisians, but the exhibition’s over-the-top décor had a glamorising effect on the motley crowd wandering from room to room.

Antoine Audiau and Manuel Warosz (top) have worked together since 1993. Part designers, part illustrators, part decorators, they have managed to evade labels and maintain independence. Yet they are a little eccentric. Their favourite graphic motif is like a computer circuit gone native: leafy offshoots branching out every which way to create a maze of exuberant pathways. Their bag of graphic tricks includes inkblots, scrawls, geometric constructions and crazy chequerboards.

Christian Lacroix is the duo’s most prestigious client, and they design campaigns for theatres and cultural institutions, too. Antoine (the thin one) is the colourist while Manuel (the big one) is the layout artist. Together they design posters, invitations, wallpaper patterns, playful lamps and furniture, and create typographical compositions that often turn into murals.

With everything they have ever done crammed together into six rooms on either side of a long winding hallway, the Arts Décoratifs exhibition is a total immersion into the buoyant atmosphere of their Parisian studio. I left with my head spinning, while an endless stream of muffled visitors kept coming in from the cold, about to be transformed, unwittingly, into chic onlookers. Courtesans in Versailles must have undergone a similar metamorphosis upon stepping into the King’s gilded salons. But surely that’s no crime: can’t ornamentation embellish people as much as places?

‘Antoine+Manuel, graphiste et designer’ is at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 107 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, from 15 January to 12 April, 2009

Antoine+Manuel Compilation, vol. 1 (above) was published on 16 January,

Read Véronique Vienne’s full review of the exhibition in Eye no. 71, out March 2009.

See also ‘The decriminalisation of ornament’, Eye no. 58 vol. 15.

And ‘Polyphonic playground’, Eye no. 68 vol. 17.

Below: Jupiter, from ‘Gods’ by Antoine+Manuel.

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.