Hedi Metal

Surface Magazine

Around the turn of the millennium, Hedi Slimane transformed the male fashion and beauty ideal. As creative director of Yves Saint Laurent Homme and Dior Homme, he ushered in a new image of masculinity; a barely post-adolescent body packaged in skinny jeans, shrunken jackets and dangling scarves. Since then, the scrawny rock boy has become a mainstream fashion image. But the Paris-born, 40-year-old Slimane’s aesthetic influence extends well beyond the world of couture (from which he, perhaps temporarily, retired last year). While also moonlighting as an interior designer, furniture designer and guest editor of French newspaper Libération, the assiduous Slimane has managed to establish himself as a photographer and installation artist. In fact, his artistic endeavors started long before he ever entered an atelier, when he started taking pictures at age 11 and later studied art history at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris. Over the past four years, Slimane has published four books, shown 11 solo exhibitions and participated in three group shows in prestigious galleries and museums around the world. “He is a true workaholic: he doesn’t stop thinking or doing and he’s always taking photos,” says Agustín Pérez Rubio, chief curator of the Spanish contemporary art museum, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC), where Slimane is currently showing a large site-specific installation of photos and videos taken during the Benicàssim music festival in 2007.

However, as he slips in and out of different disciplines and contexts, Slimane’s vision remains constant. His black-and-white frames are starkly composed with simple but striking silhouettes while his installations and sculptures (and even furniture) have a similarly graphic foundation. “Hedi is an artist who has his own space, his own universe, where he explores the thin line between adolescence and the loss of innocence,” says Pérez Rubio. The hero of Slimane’s universe is the young rebel who shuffled down the Dior Homme catwalks and who appears throughout his body of work, from the young bohemians in his debut book Berlin, to the rock stars and their fans who are the subjects of shows like “Perfect Stranger” at the Galerie Almine Rech in Paris last year and of the MUSAC exhibit. “I always had a feeling for anything that was emerging,” says Slimane, explaining his fascination with youth culture. “When I was a teenager, I was already aware of the vulnerability and grace of it. I started photography at age 11, and, oddly, the subject has always been the same, all these years, unchanged.”

Slimane’s most prolific muse is Pete Doherty, singer of London bands The Libertines and Babyshambles, and a druggy tabloid fixture who was portrayed in Slimane’s book London Birth of A Cult and inspired at least one Dior Homme collection. “I tried to capture the rise of a young rock star, a sort of new romantic character,” says Slimane. In frame after frame, Slimane calmly and tenderly examines the incandescent sensuality, recklessness and vulnerability of a musician who is regularly portrayed as a wasted crack head in the gossip pages. Pérez Rubio sees Slimane’s interpretation of pop culture as the foundation of his work. “He likes to keep up with everything,” says Rubio. “He’s extremely inquisitive, and his curiosity makes him absorb things around him and turn them into poetry and magic.”