M/M (Paris) at the Musée d'Orsay

"From one M/Museum to another"
13 October 2020 - 10 January 2021
The Musée d’Orsay and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs are pleased to join forces to invite the artist and designer duo M/M (Paris), established in 1992 by Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak, to install a “double exhibition“ in their galleries, titled From one M/Museum to another.

Pushing the traditional boundaries of the creative disciplines for over 25 years, and responding to the publication of Volume II of M to M of M/M (Paris), their monograph published by Thames & Hudson, they are using an original modular device to present an exhibition on both sides of the Seine in the permanent collections of both museums, exploring their work through the content of this new book.

The installation by M/M (Paris) at the Musée d’Orsay is a response to their exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
This introspective look into their archives extends over the Tuileries and the Seine, focusing on typography and, more particularly, on their series of anthropomorphic alphabets.

Together, Mathias Augustyniak and Michaël Amzalag have designed over 100 typefaces. In this vast collection of letters, some are based on photographic portraits - letters with a human face: The Alphabet, The Alphamen, The Punctuation Series, Figures and The New Alphabet. One by one, the faces have been graphically transformed to enter the universal system of the alphabet.

In Hector Guimard’s work, where the subconscious is just as present as language, it is the conversation between visceral figures and the universal norm that is fascinating. When he drew up the Métropolitain typeface and gave it a romantic and intensified signal-structure, he conveyed both his portrait of a crowd in Paris and a sign for the entrance to the Metro. As we look at this, we recognise Paris, its inhabitants and its system of underground transport. It is, in fact, the mouths of thousands of Parisian faces, and not just that of the Metro.

M/M use the same creative strategy in their typefaces, which always leaves the dialogue open between the universal and the specific, the conscious and the subconscious. This conversation between two contradictory but complementary states is intensified in this collection of anthropomorphic alphabets, which combine faces, letters and plants, as does the formal language of Art Nouveau.

This is the first public exhibition of The New Alphabet, designed in 2016 from photographs by Inez & Vinoodh. Intrinsically very ornate, bordering on psychedelic, where the design almost erodes the alphabetical portraits, this alphabet has visual accents that at times evoke the graphic works of Matthias Grünwald and Hans Cranach. In the context of the Musée d’Orsay, these letters also recall the works of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and then “the pupils” of this school of artistic thought, such as Aubrey Beardsley, Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris.

To show these letters in the Musée d’Orsay galleries devoted to the Decorative Arts, M/M have created a “furtive” system of presentation.Borderline is a modular display enabling a fluid array in spaces that are essentially very different, like those in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Musée d’Orsay. On a two-coloured geometric structure that marks out, defines and highlights one space within another, 120x176 cm images, the standard size of an industrial poster in Europe, are hung, the visual “monad” of M/M (Paris)’s graphic and artistic work in the context of their exhibitions.

Showing anthropomorphic alphabets in order to enhance the romantic, conceptual and harmonic texture, revealing the artworks in the collections of the Decorative Arts as they have never been seen before by inserting these posters, which tell of their obsession with full-scale typography: M/M (Paris) invites us to a subtle and rich interplay of encounters at the Musée d’Orsay.

Through the windows of the Orsay galleries where M/M’s work is displayed, we can see the banks of the Seine and the Louvre Palace, where M/M’s installation continues in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.