Michèle Lamy by Kristina Nagel Image Credit: OWENSCORP

An artist, entrepreneur, producer, collaborator and performer who studied philosophy under French post--structuralist Gilles Deleuze and worked as a defense lawyer and even as a cabaret dancer before moving to New York and subsequently Los Angeles in 1979. French-born Michèle Lamy has always defied categorisation, extending the realm of high fashion, fine art, interior design and performance. The sheer breadth of her œuvre and its defiance of categorisation is also Lamy’s allure. She creates, in her words, simply with black tea. This is the juice for her endeavours as well as the remarkable string of artists she sees from the worlds of dance, visual art, film and design and architecture. It all seemingly comes together with ease through her work.

In 1990, while working as a fashion designer and creating her clothing line Lamy, she hired the American designer Rick Owens who became her business partner and then her life partner after the two got married in 2006. The pair had moved from Los Angeles to Paris three years prior. Her design acumen in many ways dates back to her childhood. Born in 1944 in Jura, France. Her grandfather made accessories for one of France’s most renowned couturiers of the time: Paul Poiret. At OWENSCORP, which the couple established in 2004, Lamy is the Managing Director of Art and Furniture. Since the company’s beginnings, Lamy has worked side by side with artisans in the construction process of pieces for Rick Owens’ furniture line.

Prong Totem Foam, 2016, styrofoam and gorilla gaffer tape Image Credit: OWENSCORP

Visual art is one of Lamy’s great passions. “Some of my favorite artists are showing right now at the Pinault Collection Bourse de Commerce in Paris... like Lee Lozano with his exhibition Strike...Mira Schor with Moon Room... and Ser Sepra with I Fear...” she says. More recently, recounts Lamy, “I was jumping on the train to London, I saw an image of Benjamin Millepied’s one-night performance at Richard Serra’s East West/West East which are all fantastic.” Then in Paris the other night at Opera Bastille, “a revelation: [the opera] Lohengrin; Kirill Serebrennikov, the Opera’s Director, and set and costume designer is a genius,” she exclaims. Such artistry uniting the visual and performance world gives her energy and creative inspiration.

Additionally, Lamy has co-curated and worked closely on the Carol Rama exhibitions at Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris with Rick Owens Furniture in 2015 and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2016 alongside the works of Steven Parrino. In 2014, Lamy created “LAMYLAND”, an umbrella term for her independent creative endeavours, bringing together all the essential elements pivotal to her practice: collaboration, experimentation, storytelling and creation. It was a natural progression to her infamous Les Deux Cafés, the Los Angeles cabaret spot she founded, curated, and ran during the 1990s.

As she describes it, LAMYLAND is a cultural movement. Most always at its core, is an architectural installation that functions as a communal gathering space for performances, social engagement, and contemplation. Like Lamy herself, it is a movement the defies categorisation, it is multidisciplinary, one that brings all art forms together under one roof and with one mission and vision and that is creativity with a purpose. In many ways LAMYLAND serves as artistic activism.

Daybed Black Plywood by Rick Owens furniture Image Credit: OWENSCORP

Also, in 2014 and under LAMYLAND, she launched her ‘BARGE’ concept – a project which gathered influencers from various creative disciplines in an informal yet aesthetically inspiring environment for moments of intercultural and creative exchange. The first barge, “Bargel”, launched at Frieze London in October 2014, followed by “Bargenale” at the Venice Biennale in 2015 and 2017. Always seeking to take the Barge concept further, in July 2015, Lamy was invited by the artist Doug Aitken to re-create her “Bargican” magic within his Station to Station exhibition at the Barbican Centre London. Each “Barge” had unique features, including a recording studio, a restaurant, a theatre, and an art gallery. Lamy wanted “Barge” to be a travel and also become what she says a “Haven of peace” for those who experienced it. “I wanted to make a place to be; a place where all my friends can come. And where I can be surprised by new people too,” Lamy said at the time.

Lamy is also a regular collaborator of THE SKATEROOM, a social enterprise that works closely with the world’s most influential artists to empower the youth through art and creativity. She’s often referred to as the “Godmother” of THE SKATEROOM, and helped to curate their first collective show, What Are We Skating For?; What Are We Skating For? that was an extension of Lamy’s 2018 show What Are We Fighting For, which grew from her love for boxing. The boxing themed bazaar housed in London retailer Selfridges, was a three-month residency that included a boxing ring, branded merchandise, installation artworks, and themed collaborations with brands from Versace to Supreme. It was continuation of the artist’s work over the past few years whereby she collaborated with New York’s underground boxing club Overthrow to a boxing installation at the Venice Biennale. “Boxing,” she says, “is a great metaphor for life. It is about standing for what you believe in.”

These days Michèle Lamy continued to prolifically create. She is also increasingly venturing into new regions. One is the Middle East, particularly the Gulf in the countries of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. As Lamy states: “Rick built a house, and I am taking it on the road...Working on projects and exhibitions from Dubai to AlUla soon...more to come....” And more from Lamy is always to come.