Who hasn’t been fascinated by the huge black diamond placed underneath the Grand Palais glass roof for a couple of weeks!
The 9500-ton masterpiece made of black lacquered aluminum has been realized by French artist Fabien Iliou, who has been commissioned by Italian Jewelry House Bulgari to do the scenography of the exhibition “125 years of Italian Magnificence”. Fabien is full-fledged artist who likes to use perspective and space in his work. We met him at the Grand Palais where he gave us an interview.
Can you tell us more about your academic background and your career?
Little I was attracted by things which were tied with perspective and space. My favorite movie since I’m 6 years old is Tron by Steven Lisberger. I like this kind of atmosphere which reminds the 80′s: very bright, pixilated and unending. As my parents were Biochemists, I was early acquainted with electron microscope images, models and meticulous things in general.
I studied at Arts-Déco in Paris. I was first interested in design and interior architecture and then I got specialized in photography. The 3rd year was quite difficult: I had to face some family problems and work at college was not easy. Yet it was also a turning point in my life: I got the opportunity to work with the renowned Scenographer Massimo Quendolo and work on my own projects at the same time. And I got a 6-month grant to go to Polytechniquo in Milan.
I learnt a lot with Massimo. We’ve been in charge of some famous exhibitions scenographies like “Afghanistan, trésors retrouvés” in 2006 at musée Guimet, “Sacha Guitry” at la Cinémathèque française in 2007 and “Napoléon Bonaparte et l’Egypte” at Institut du Monde Arabe the same year.
Can you describe us your experience for Bulgari?
I had already worked on the Bulgari exhibition held at Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome in 2009. But this time I was free to imagine an installation placed in the nave of the Grand Palais. I had to take into account the sequence of the rooms which are around the diamond but I had to reconsider the exhibition areas and rooms dimensions.
Regarding the black diamond, the only demand of Bulgari was to work with the glints of the glass roof. I had lucky to be very good supported at all stages of the project and to be able to show a masterpiece at the monumental scale of the Grand Palais.
After several modifications of the project, a company in Rome was in charge of the realization of the diamond.
The challenge was to install the exhibition in a very short period of time, only 8 days. More than 1000 people were working daily on the construction site. It was a titanic work! The 3 Technical Managers were the conductors of a score I had begun to write for 1 year 1/2. I had never been so tired but never so happy!
What was the aim with this diamond?
It was to connect the exhibition with the Grand Palais which is the most prestigious place to held an exhibition according to me. Visitors come also to see the Grand Palais. This roof top is like the jewel case of the Bulgari exhibition, and the diamond under the dome is the architectural center of the exhibition.
Which Bulgari piece do you prefer?
The long necklace adorned with an emerald of hundreds of carats which is on the cover of the exhibition catalogue. I got the opportunity to try it at the retrospective in Rome last year. It was very brief but I felt the power of this precious stone.
How do you proceed when you have an order?
I reply to invitation to tenders. If the Commissioner is interested in my project, he submits me a synopsis and explains me the main chapters of the exhibition. I’m generally free in my creative choices. The Bulgari experience was a bit different because the jewelry house has a hictoric background. They were more demanding and directive than an usual client but much more attentive which enable us to held this extraordinary retrospective.
You are a visual artist using photography, sculpture, design. Do you have a favorite means to express yourself?
Currently, I’m doing a lot of installations and sculptures based on pictures that I reshape to do what I called anamorphoses. It’s a technique that I’ve started to develop during my degree. It happens that museums ask my anamorphoses for scenographies. It was the case in an exhibition held in Bahrain. I also would like to work again on the lights I did several years ago made with washbowl serving as lampshades.
Do you have a daily routine?
Unfortunately and fortunately, I could never have regularity in my life! During creative phases, I prefer to stay at home instead of going to my office located in Paris at République. When production and installation times arrive, my daily organization is different. Since the Arts Déco I always have a notebook on me that I use during my travels.
What are your plans?
I hope things will change after this exhibition. I hope also to keep on working with Bulgari. I especially would like to develop my own projects and exhibit in galleries. Paris, Roma & Milan are the cities I prefer. I always had a connection with Italy because part of my family lives there and I speak Italian fluently. I like Italian’s approach of design and their attention for details. Yet Paris will always be Paris, and my favorite city. Contrary to what one might think, Paris is tremendous place culturally and artistically speaking.
« Bulgari, 125 ans de magnificence italienne ». Until the 12th of January 2011.