inside the historic le bon marché department store in paris, japanese artist chiharu shiota has suspended 150 sculptural boats from the ceiling, figuratively ‘sailing’ across the space. drawn from typologies found across a range of cultures and communities, the hollowed out metal hulls — seemingly etched with a pencil — hang from the store’s central glass roof, surrounding visitors in an all-white abyss.

 

as part of the exhibition ‘where are we going?’, shiota has sculpted a monumental mesh wave titled ‘memory of the ocean’ on the ground floor that visitors can experience by walking through as if they were under the sea. finally, the building’s façade displays 10 woven vitrines, each occupied by a complex labyrinth of interwoven white material and sculptural elements that hint at the installation hosted inside. 

 

 

chiharu shiota — where are we going
video courtesy of le bon marché rive gauche

 

 

chiharu shiota offers an immersive and multi-sensory experience inside le bon marché. the exhibition invites visitors to ‘sail towards a fresh start’ as they ponder the origin and destination of the boats, taking them on a journey of uncertainty and wonder. the installation marks the first time shiota has used white yarn in an artwork — moving away from her typical use of red. the event continues le bon marché’s collaboration with artists, following ai weiwei’s installation of bamboo and paper kite creatures last year (see more about the exhibition on designboom here).

chiharu shiota le bon marche
the installation comprises a series of boats suspended from the shopping center’s ceiling 
image by gabriel de la chapelle

 

 

shiota’s work portrays boats through her own distinct lens. when asked what ‘ships’ mean to her, she comments: when I was a child, during vacation, my family would take the ferry to go from osaka to kochi. we would spend the night there. the next day, it was like we were in a new world: the world of vacation and sea. her approach is quite varied as she is interested in their multiple shapes, their mixed cultural history and their uncertain destinations. as well as their ability to travel, to connect one point in the world to another and to carry people along with their imaginations.

chiharu shiota le bon marche
visitors are taken through a journey of uncertainty and wonder
image by gabriel de la chapelle

 

 

‘chiharu shiota is a powerful artist,’ patrice wagner, CEO of le bon marché rive gauche says. ‘her work, such as her installation at the latest venice biennale, provides a hopeful and humane perspective on the present and the future. like every exhibition, this one represents a great adventure for le bon marché. its ambition is to introduce customers to the work of an artist so that they enjoy a special experience and walk away with a piece of that magic.’

chiharu shiota le bon marche
the suspended white mesh conveys the themes of nature, snow and purity
image by gabriel de la chapelle

chiharu shiota le bon marche
the exhibition marks the first time chiharu shiota has used white yarn
image by gabriel de la chapelle

chiharu shiota le bon marche
a large-woven canopy called ‘memories of the ocean’ mimics the feeling of being underwater
image by gabriel de la chapelle

chiharu shiota le bon marche
the exhibition invites visitors to ‘sail towards a fresh start’
image by gabriel de la chapelle

chiharu shiota le bon marche
by night, the suspended boats are illuminated above visitors 
image by say who/romain mayoussier

chiharu-shiota-le-bon-marche-paris-designboom-07
with the installation, the artist aims to highlight the idea of ‘hope’
image by say who/romain mayoussier

chiharu-shiota-le-bon-marche-paris-designboom-06
shiota explores the various ties that connect us as human beings
image by say who/romain mayoussier

chiharu-shiota-le-bon-marche-paris-designboom-02
as part of the exhibition, shiota has woven ten window displays on site

chiharu-shiota-le-bon-marche-paris-designboom-03
the building’s façade displays 10 woven vitrines

chiharu-shiota-le-bon-marche-paris-designboom-04
each display is occupied by a complex labyrinth of interwoven white material 

chiharu-shiota-le-bon-marche-paris-designboom-05
sculptural elements hint at the installation hosted inside the store