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Oh couleurs! at the MADD Bordeaux

Curated by Constance Rubini with scenography by Pierre Charpin, the exhibition explores the way users interact with the colours in designed objects

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Text by Rab Messina

For designer Pierre Charpin, the underlying inspiration for Oh couleurs!, a new exhibition at the MADD Bordeaux, came from flamenco. Not from the bright spots in the flowing skirts or the red lips, but from a melancholic 1975 hit by duo Lole y Manuel that slowly cried “todo es de color.”

It figures: colours are everywhere, and they might bring on happy memories for most, but they can also point to everyday sadness. There’s the red blood on snow when someone got hurt that was a favourite of Ettore Sottsass —and another source of inspiration for Charpin—; even the orange of the Guantánamo jumpsuits and the black of mourning clothes. Colours, in other words, are emotions. “I was of course aware of the various theories on colour, but I forgot everything, including the very names of certain colours,” explained the French artist and scenographer. “I wield color directly, intuitively. The way I use it is essentially emotional.”

His work as a product designer is already known for his use of brighter-than-bright shades and plain, whole black, and, fittingly, Oh couleurs! explores the ways users interact with the colours in designed objects.

Each of the cells in the location, a former prison behind the MADD, is dedicated to a topic. Under curator Constance Rubini’s supervision, there’s a study on how a quotidian object like the Tupperware container can help track the advance of pigments in the plastic industry. Another cell examines the way indigo went from saturating cheap boro fabric in Japan to becoming a sign of naval excellence in Europe and America. The objects in the Iridescence cell focused on the creation of Cosmicolor, a process that uses aluminium to mimic the effect of pearlescent colour on surfaces.

But then, of course, it all goes back to the red of passion, the shade of bright spots in flowing flamenco skirts and the red lips of the bailaoras. Olivier Saillard, the director of the Palais Galliera, filled his cell with rouge-à-levres kisses to the brim, and encourages visitors, no matter their gender, to leave their own lipstick prints. Todo —y todo el mundo— es de color.

Oh couleurs! is open until December 3 at the Musée des Arts décoratifs et du Design
Bordeaux. A satellite exhibition, with work by Jeff Koons, Alessandro Mendini and Charpin himself, is taking place at the Hôtel de Lalande.

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Todo es de color, carte blanche à Pierre Charpin Oh couleurs ! Le design au prisme de la couleur Musée des Arts décoratifs et du Design © madd Bordeaux – F.Griffon
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Irisation – La couleur lorsqu’elle est structurelle Oh couleurs ! Le design au prisme de la couleur Musée des Arts décoratifs et du Design © madd Bordeaux - M.Delanne
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Detail of Yogi, from the late 19th century Oh couleurs ! Le design au prisme de la couleur Musée des Arts décoratifs et du Design © madd Bordeaux – J.C. Garcia
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Vincent Beaurin, Ocelle, 2016 Oh couleurs ! Le design au prisme de la couleur Musée des Arts décoratifs et du Design © madd Bordeaux – J.C. Garcia
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Le jaune du Sud – Couleur et géographie Oh couleurs ! Le design au prisme de la couleur Musée des Arts décoratifs et du Design © madd Bordeaux – J.C. Garcia
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Tupperware, from the 1940s until today Oh couleurs ! Le design au prisme de la couleur Musée des Arts décoratifs et du Design © madd Bordeaux – J.C. Garcia
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Alessandro Mendini, Poltrona di Proust, 1978 Oh couleurs ! Le design au prisme de la couleur Musée des Arts décoratifs et du Design © madd Bordeaux - M.Delanne
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