Classical and contemporary art come together in this collaboration with the Musée du Louvre and the artist duo M/M (Paris), inviting us to read the writings that can be found in the works housed at the Louvre. The T-shirts in this collection were designed by M/M (Paris), who photographed the Louvre Pyramid and some of the many works in the museum’s collection, such as the Mona Lisa, and transformed the photos into collages, typography, and other graphics. The collaborators—an ambitious Parisian artist partnership and the world’s preeminent museumone of the world’s largest museums, visited by 30,000 people a day—are what set this collection apart.
“Back when I was in elementary school, it was the Louvre that helped me understand what a museum is,” says Michael Amzalag (left), one half of the artist duo M/M (Paris). “It is a place where you can travel through many different eras and lands—ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, Europe, Italy, France—all in one place. It made me realize how much art and history are preserved under this one roof. That is what makes a museum.” Later, when Amzalag was in high school, his history and geography teacher took his class around different areas of Paris to teach them about the city. The purpose of the field trips was to learn urban navigation skills, but it also included a visit to the Musée du Louvre. Amzalag was given a map marked with a starting point and an end goal but was free to look at whatever exhibition he liked as he walked through the building. There are many different routes through the Louvre, so he had to figure out how to read the map as he roamed around. “I think children find it exciting to be able to wander around a museum freely, and it’s a very good and creative thing for them to become lost in that space,” says Amzalag. “I don’t know if it’s still possible to set children free like that today, but that’s how it was done in my time.”
The other member of M/M (Paris), Mathias Augustyniak (right), explains that this collection is the duo’s way of helping people lose themselves in the Louvre. “Even if you don’t have the chance to go to the Louvre yourself, our designs speak volumes about its collection,” says Augustyniak. “We hope you’ll wear these T-shirts and let yourself get lost, like Michael said, whether that’s in the city, in the woods, or in an experience.” It would be impossible for the duo’s T-shirts to encompass everything in the Louvre, but they do give entries to significant parts of its collection. Amzalag and Augustyniak did not want to create just any product; their goal was to bring the Louvre to life on a T-shirt. Instead of making designs that portray the museum in a simple manner, they created this collection of T-shirts with the aim of depicting one particular aspect of the Louvre’s collection.
First, M/M (Paris) used their unique perspectives as graphic designers to look at the Louvre in a new light. Given that typography is one of the duo’s specialities, their reexamination of the Louvre’s collection left them impressed by the sheer number of exhibited works that contain text. They decided to start by cataloguing the text-containing works, which involved photographing some 500 pieces. They visited the museum on numerous occasions, spending as much as four days walking the halls in an attempt to catalogue the collection in every room. Their hope was to discover what might catch the eye of a visitor who had already visited the Louvre twenty times. Next, Amzalag and Augustyniak applied their unique artistic process to the photos, using collages to transform them into lettering and graphics that would be visually spectacular and easy for anyone to understand. For instance, one of the designs features a collage that includes the Louvre Pyramid printed above the word “Louvre,” which is written in a typeface that the duo designed and often uses in collaborations. They describe the typeface as their personal Helvetica, for although distinctive, the font appears everywhere in their typographical art.
“We wanted the T-shirts to serve as a short journey through the collection,” Amzalag says. “Every work in every collage is credited somewhere on the T-shirt so that people who buy the shirt can figure out where they need to go if they want to see the artwork in person. It’s like a game or treasure hunt.
To tie the designs to the Louvre even more, we also created a character who explores the museum. The character, whom we call the Agent, is of our own design. We printed the Mona Lisa inside the body of the Agent to make it clear this is someone who is inside the museum. And if you look closely, you can see that the painting is actually a mirror image, as if the Mona Lisa is being reflected on the surface of the Agent while he’s looking at the painting. We tried to sneak in a lot of clues to help people learn about the history of the museum, like a treasure hunt on a T-shirt. The designs may be intricate, but we knew that the T-shirts had to be as gorgeous and wonderful as the Louvre itself. Ultimately, these are the designs we ended up with.”
We hope that you will lose yourself in the dizzying collection of the Louvre through Amzalag and Augustyniak’s artwork and enjoy the chance to encounter some of the lesser-known works in the Louvre’s collection.
M/M (Paris) through the eyes of the Louvre
M/M (Paris) offers a new lens for viewing the massive collection of the Louvre. What does the Louvre think of the duo, and what is the meaning behind the designs in this T-shirt collaboration?
M/M (Paris) is immersed not only in the world of art but also in the worlds of fashion, music, design, theater, and literature. The pair of creators known for their love of contemporary culture and for occupying the space where all of these areas intersect. They have designed numerous album covers in collaboration with pop greats such as Madonna and Björk and have also made a name for themselves in the world of fashion, teaming up with a number of brands to create conceptual designs. “This project is both a creative collaboration and an attempt to present the Louvre collection to as many people as possible in some very unique ways,” says Donatien Grau, Head of Contemporary Programs at the Louvre.
“Once you enter the Louvre, you discover that its sheer size means that you simply never know what you will see. Maybe you came to see the Mona Lisa, or maybe you wanted to see Veronese’s Wedding at Cana. The M/M (Paris) collaboration is about using the T-shirt as a medium for conveying our ability to have visitors discover, feel, and act. Their designs are direct yet very enigmatic.” The etymology of the museum’s name is not well understood to this day. Many theorize that it relates to the wolves (loups in French) that may have lived in the forest on the far side of the Seine in centuries past. While the name “Louvre” is recognized all over the world, its uncertain origin also gives it a deeply mysterious quality.
“Both clarity and mystery—that is exactly what the typography of M/M (Paris) conveys,” says Grau. “Just like the existence of the name itself, they have deconstructed and reconstructed typography through the art of collage. They walked across the museum, finding inspiration in the writings in the Louvre’s collection, photographing texts in the works of various civilizations and eras. They found works that were meaningful to them, and then we worked together on retrieving the labels of their initial feelings. That is to say, it was a real collaborative effort! To wear these T-shirts is to carry the existence of the Louvre with you, to carry a small piece of these civilizations with you, and to be part of the history of this museum.”
In the words of Paul Cézanne, “The Louvre is the book from which we learn to read.” The accessibility of the Louvre is due to the fact that it can be read in many different ways; and it is the museum’s mission to develop new reading methods. These T-shirts provide one such method, acting as ambassadors to a multitude of wonderful creations.
Partnership with the Louvre
The Mini-Discovery Tour is part of a four-year partnership between UNIQLO and the Louvre, which began in 2021. Operating daily whenever the museum is open, the program offers museum tours on nine different themes, as well as art workshops, storytelling sessions, educational materials, six guided tours per day in six exhibition zones, and painting demonstrations in six different areas.
The graphic for this T-shirt was created in recognition of the fact that the architecture and interior spaces of the Louvre are as spectacular as the works of art in its collection. Images of the Mona Lisa and the prismatic Louvre Pyramid combine into a fractal depiction of the museum, below which is the word “Louvre” written in M/M (Paris)’s own typeface.
The left chest of this design features Agent, the character created by M/M (Paris), whose body contains a mirror image of the Mona Lisa. On the back is a collage in the shape of the Louvre’s L, featuring Agent along with works from the museum’s collection. The works that make up the collage, all of which contain text, are listed at the lower left.
To create this artwork—a collage of photographs shaped into letters—M/M (Paris) located and photographed works in the Louvre’s collection that contain writing. Each letter in the word “Louvre” contains of two such photos. The featured artworks are listed on the back of the shirt near the bottom hem, and the character Agent can be seen on the left sleeve.
The E-shaped collage on the left chest of this T-shirt is made up of works from the Louvre’s collection, which are listed at the lower right. It may seem as though the back is blank, but in fact a tiny image of the character Agent appears near the bottom hem.
M/M (Paris)｜The Paris-based creative partnership M/M (Paris) was founded in 1992 by Mathias Augustyniak, a native of Provence, France, and Michael Amzalag, who grew up in Paris. For over 30 years, the duo’s use of typography in their art and design—much of it relating to fashion and music—has enchanted people all over the world. A collection of the typefaces they have produced over the past 30 years is slated for publication later this year.
Donatien Grau｜Head of Advisor for Contemporary Programs | Donatien Grau is a scholar, writer, and museum executive. He previously served as guest curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), advisor to fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa, and head of contemporary programs at the Musée d’Orsay. In 2014, he was selected as one of Apollo Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Europe.
Musse du Louvre｜First constructed in the 12th century to defend the city of Paris, the Louvre Palace was repeatedly renovated and expanded under a succession of French kings. It was converted into a national museum during the French Revolution, opening to the public in 1793. The sprawling palace is home to one of the largest museum collections in the world, and is widely considered the world’s most popular museum. Since 1989, the glass Louvre Pyramid has served as the main entrance to the museum, whose rooms contain a wide assortment of works including paintings, sculptures, and crafts dating from ancient times to the early 19th century, as well as works of art from ancient civilizations in Asia, Egypt, and Greece. Currently, the Louvre is developing a residency for musicians, allowing them to perform in the museum’s rooms. It also invited 20 young artists from diverse backgrounds to create short films as part of the digital program Regards du Louvre (Louvre Looks).
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