‘It’s Always About Collaboration’: Multihyphenate Michèle Lamy on Art and Revolution

The French icon curated an exhibition in Dubai that includes Rick Owens, Studio Drift, and Nacho Carbonell.

Portrait of Michele by Edward Bess

In the ever-evolving landscape of contemporary art and fashion, few figures stand as prominently and intriguingly as Michèle Lamy. With a career that spans decades, Lamy has cemented her place as a formidable force in both industries.

Lamy is a figure of many talents and titles: entrepreneur, artist, fashion icon, and muse. Born in France, her journey began in the legal field, but her passion for the creative soon led her down an unconventional path. A move to Los Angeles in the 1970s marked the beginning of a series of ventures that would intertwine her destiny with the worlds of art and fashion. From opening the pioneering restaurant and club, Les Deux Cafés, which became a cultural hub for artists and creatives, to her deep involvement in the fashion world, Lamy has always been at the forefront of innovation.

furniture scultpure by rick owens using black plywood and orso leather upholstery

Rick Owens, Petite Double Bubble Black Plywood, 2019

Perhaps best known for her collaboration and partnership with designer Rick Owens, Lamy has been a driving force behind the brand’s distinctive aesthetic and global success. Her own work, however, transcends any single category. Lamy’s artistic endeavors include everything from performance art to jewelry design, all marked by her signature style that blends raw, organic elements with a touch of the mystical.

Last month, Lamy curated an exhibition called “Chiaroscuro” in Dubai, at the headquarters of ICD Brookfield Place in collaboration with its arts program—a 200,000-square-foot dining, retail, and community space space connected to some of the city’s main cultural hotspots like Tabari Art space, as well as Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and the Arts Club.

various sculptures set in a large space

Installation view of Chiaroscuro at ICD Brookfield Place, Dubai. Courtesy ICD Brookfield Place Arts and Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Photo by Ismail Noor

Lamy’s presentation of objects was organized in collaboration with ICD Brookfield Place Arts and the Carpenters Workshop Gallery, the eponymous establishment with bases in New York, LA, London, and Paris founded by Loïc Le Gaillard and Julien Lombrail. It included a selection of art and from creators including Rick Owens, Studio Drift and Nacho Carbonell. Video art and sculpture filled the expansive lobby of the shimmering glass and steel tower. With a strong focus on artists from the region, Lamy’s selection included poet, education and AI game engineer, and artist Isaac Sullivan, who presented a video work alongside large aluminum and camel hide objects by Zeinab Alhashemi.

Then, in an event that felt very Berlin, Lamy’s band Lavascar—yes, she is a musician as well—took over the night with a harrowing performance in the basement of ICD. Dark electronic ambient waves of ethereal vocals crushed by synthesizers, played to a mix of twinks from Saudi Arabia and rich Persian scene girls.

Within the Gulf’s favorite petro party state, I managed to catch Lamy for an interview.

scultpure of a chair attached to a metal welded branch

Nacho Carbonell, Combi Cocoon 2 (46/2016), 2016

I read somewhere that you’re “part Algerian Romani, part Russian spy, part extra terrestrial.” What planet are you actually from? Can you set the record straight? 

My parents were in the French Resistance. My father grew up in the woods around Oyonnax, and my mother was the daughter of Louis and Angele Poncet…[She] spent a lot of time on her bicycle bringing food to the Resistance in the woods. This is how my parents met and why I was born in 1944 in Jura…but I am a creature of this world…putting my little drops…

How do you see the role of emerging super-cities like Dubai in the 21st century? Is the West, well, a bit boring? 

I find peace in the Middle East…Talking to the stars in the sky brings me some peace…

sculpture in the desert by zeinab alhasheim using aluminium, camel hides, screw bolts

Zeinab Alhashemi, Camouflage 2, 2022. Photo by Lance Gerber, Desert X AlUla, Saudi Arabia

Where do you stand on the spectrum between art and revolution? Should art be beautiful? Or incite revolution? Can it do both? 

Art these days should be about revolution…I try to do my little bit with my art…tell me what I could do better…Poet Etel Adnan should be our leader more than ever these days, even if she’s passed… “There is life in life death in death both accelerating”…

You’ve also been involved with contemporary art working with artists like Marina Abramovic and Shirin Neshat. What interests you about art?

We try to do our best to believe that [art] will help us and the world to survive reality. Was Guernica able to achieve this? It certainly did…along with the courage of those who resisted… And that is what we need now.

installation view of Chiaroscuro at icd brookfield place

Installation view of Chiaroscuro at ICD Brookfield Place, Dubai. Courtesy ICD Brookfield Place Arts and Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Photo by Ismail Noor

Do you have any advice for young people?

Let’s try with all our means to recreate a better world.

How about any thoughts on social media—is it evil? 

No, it is not. For me, right now, it’s the only place you can realize what is actually going on in the world…you can see all different angles on anything…who is biased…who are the freedom fighters…

What about your creative process, can you tell me about that?

Everything starts with a strong black tea and a cigarette…I like to walk around, usually when I want to make a point…I like leading, but sometimes I’m just getting seduced by who I meet—if I was in front of a blank page, I could write things all over it. But it’s always about collaboration. It’s always about having the right people together…

sculpture in white carrara marble of an abstract figure with legs crossed

Khalid Zaki, Serene, 2023. Image courtesy the artist

And in terms of materials? What beckons you? 

Anything raw…concrete…alabaster…ox bone…

Does anything annoy you about Rick? 

I have this base with Rick and the furniture, so that maintains a certain direction.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.