Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
Wilder Mann at Hermès
Charles Fréger, "Wilder Mann" Certi, Czech Republic. Courtesy of the artist.

Charles Fréger, “Wilder Mann” Certi, Czech Republic. Courtesy of the artist.


Wilder Mann opened in New York on Thursday at the fourth floor gallery of La Maison Hermès on Madison Avenue. The show consists of a series of photographs that document folk costumes of traditions that have survived in several European countries (Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Greece, Bulgaria, Italy to name just a few). It is a depiction of  “wild man” costumes that were developed independent from each other but expressed a similar idea: a man (or several men depending on the community) dressed in animal skin (goat, bear, yak etc.) and invokes the wild spirits as an equal, ready for confrontation, and ultimately, victory.

While Charles Fréger, the artist, has photographed the costumes out of context, outside of rituals or relevant ceremonies, his work exemplifies one of the primordial needs of man: to address the world of spirits, to stand against it as an equal, to become a hero for the tribe which he represents but to also speak on behalf of the tribe vis à vis the spirits. Fréger de-contextualizes the costumes in order to document them for their aesthetic merit and not their anthropological value.

In cultures where these ritualistic performances expressed the tribe’s view on the spiritual world, or, otherwise put, the tribe’s view on religion, it was clear that man’s desire to partake in the spiritual world was achieved through mimesis (i.e. imitation). This brings to mind French American cultural critic René Girard and his fascinating work on culture and the sacred. For Girard, contemporary culture continues on its mimetic trajectory especially in the demarcation of new “tribes,” derivatives of social stratification and consumption—consuption of luxury goods in particular. How ironic then and, in fact, how acutely intelligent for Hermès, catalyst of social stratification, to showcase Fréger’s project. The exhibition will be on view through June.

© Thomaï Serdari