Outside the Musée Jean-Jaques Henner, a model with an unfalteringly sultry gaze wears a wine colored velvet cape, leather whip in one hand, sitting atop a black stallion who parades up and down the street, defecating in stride. Next to the museum entrance, a graffiti artist works on a series of paintings as another of Franck Sorbier’s models dances enthusiastically around him. It’s quite the spectacle, and only a small preface of what awaits inside the venue.
In contrast to the classical, elegantly extravagant backdrop of the 19th century mansion that houses the realist-romantic paintings of Jean-Jaques Henner, Sorbier’s models wear gender neutral reinterpretations of tailcoats and kimonos in luxuriously textural fabrics. They sport wacky Mohawk-style hairdos that take a shape similar to Basquiat’s signature look, pairing well with Sorbier’s bold and playful pieces which mix contemporary graphism with sumptuous detailing and structure. In the various rooms of the museum, models dance in pairs to the music of live violinists, as if they were courting one another at a regency-era ball. Although, the atmosphere is anything but stuffy or formal. Sorbier’s models giggle and play with one another, exuding a playful nihilism that makes me feel sort of like a naughty voyeur at their party.
It’s a bit like if Vivienne Westwood and Alessandro Michele did the costume design for a Tim Burton interpretation of Emma.