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While others chase celebrity, Gonzalez-Foerster has opted for collaboration, regularly teaming up with French artist Philippe Parreno or Pierre Huyghe, winner of last year’s prestigious Hugo Boss Prize.
Still, engrossed in a telephone conversation with Huyghe, she doesn’t debate the theoretical intricacies of their cutting-edge work, nor does she speculate on the state of the art market. They brainstorm about where to go later for the best couscous. Having made a name on the international art scene with complex work that explores how individuals relate to their environments, Gonzalez-Foerster is an easygoing type who loves wearing Balenciaga.
As well she should. The 37-year-old artist recently hooked up with Ghesquière to create Balenciaga boutiques in Paris and New York. Their raw spaces bring together natural and synthetic landscapes and provide a radical shopping experience. Beneath images of moving skies spread across the ceiling, the shop floor is filled with boulder-sized rocks and angular arrangements of steel, fiberglass and aluminum that call to mind the architecture of Albert Frey, the Palm Springs modernist.
In fact, the shops were inspired by a trip to California, where the artist trekked through Palm Springs and Death Valley, finding fodder in the barren topography, the endless blue sky — and Frey’s distinctive structures.
"The contrast between desolation and drama in the landscape there is amazing," says Gonzalez-Foerster. "The relation between the landscape and architecture, and the way it fits into the landscape to create an atmosphere, was very interesting."
It is unusual for an artist so freely to cross the line separating the rarified worlds of the gallery and the boutique, but Gonzalez-Foerster’s work has always defied easy definition.
Perhaps the most widely known example of that spirit was the Annlee project, which was the subject of an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art that closed this month. Initiated by Huyghe and Parreno, Annlee was a simple manga Japanese cartoon character lent to various artists — including Gonzalez-Foerster, Joe Scanlan and Liam Gillick — who in turn created a narrative around her. With each contribution, Annlee’s so-called personality grew in complexity and depth, until she was destroyed.