Balenciaga blows up with an art installation in the store that turns its autumn collection into inflatable dolls

Inflatable air puppets are no longer relegated to waving passers-by into roadside gas stations and car washes. Thanks to Balenciaga, the floppy fun bags have entered the luxury realm. The brand omitted smart, dysfunctional mannequins and chose explosive kinetic sculptures of its fall models from 2022 for the windows of the flagship of Midtown Manhattan.

“To me, the thrill is that you have no idea how they come out,” Rosie McGinn said. the 28-year-old artist in charge of the undulating tableaux. “They always look a little weirder than you could imagine.”

See 44 of Balenciaga's autumn collection 2022. Lent by Balenciaga.

Model Wulfran Merly sports denim with neon in the autumn 2022 lookbook. Lent by Balenciaga.

McGinn is the latest artist-in-residence for the brand’s “Art in Stores” initiative (previous attendees have included Anna Uddenberg and Tejo Remy), and Balenciaga’s creative director, Demna, hand-picks the collaborators. Given Demna’s ability to elevate everyday life into her fashion vision, its little wonder made an impression on McGinn’s quirky and playful worldview.

“Honestly, when I first got the email from them, I had to send it to my boyfriend to confirm that it was real,” says McGinn, who is employed as a gallery technician when he is not in his own London study in Lewisham. “It was a new experience working with fashion rather than in the art world,” she said. “It took a lot of back and forth and editing, but it was pretty straightforward.”

The poses of the dolls range from standing on attention with triumphantly outstretched arms to collapsing, shapeless masses accumulated on the floor (an hour triggers them). The fascinating transition from cheerful flowing to slack grotesque and back again is one of the reasons McGinn was attracted to this quaint medium. “It’s like ten seconds of joy and then two minutes of deflation afterwards,” she says. “The work talks about people always wanting to chase their high and then the reality of comedown.”

Rosie McGinn's kinetic sculptures adorn Madison Avenue's flagship windows.  Lent by Balenciaga.

They can blow up, but they will not pop: Rosie McGinn’s kinetic sculptures adorn the windows of the Madison Avenue flagship. Lent by Balenciaga.

After the initial installation earlier this summer, there is only one fashion controllable left at the Madison Avenue site (it will be on display until October). It will then travel to Los Angeles, followed by Toronto. The other sculptures are currently touring stores in Europe and Asia.

McGinn’s first participation with aerial puppets was in her 2018 Wimbledon College of Arts master project. “Full Howse” depicted a giant woman in a leopard blouse whose sublime bingo-winning victory collapses into a pile of exhausted corporeality. “I wanted a company to do it for me,” Rosie says, “but obviously I was skinny because I was a student.”

So, the artist developed his own process of making the balloon sculptures by hand. “I take pictures of the front and back and all the details about hands and stuff like that,” she says. “Then I edit them and get them printed on ripstop nylon, which is parachute material. Then I cut and sew it all together. That is basically the premise, but of course there are a lot of technical things. ” In addition, the same inflation mechanism that drives bouncy castles, a lot of air and participation from friends and family.

The artist poses with the puppet of a bingo enthusiast / her grandmother.  Courtesy of the artist.

Rosie McGinn poses with her bingo enthusiast grandmother’s air puppet. Courtesy of the artist.

McGinn’s grandmother was the model for her bingo game. Rosie’s house party guests inspired impromptu photographs. She then turned them into a DJ and ravers into a solo show, SNOB, at Birmingham’s latest activity. She has also shown a series based on sports. “I looked at how people go about these rituals and events where they seek to win,” McGinn said, “all of these situations where you put yourself around people in communities to feel alive.”

A multimedia artist, sculpture is McGinn’s main focus, but she has just packed “Cosmic Dancer”, a show of puppets and paintings. While further group exhibitions are being confirmed, she is involved in an upcoming video project loosely based on the “overview effect” – “which is how astronauts feel when they see the earth floating in space for the first time,” McGinn explained. “It wants this psychological aspect mixed with my sculptures.”

Rosie McGinns 2019 blow-up rave installation.  Courtesy of the artist.

Raise your hands! An installation screening of Rosie McGinn’s “Ravers” (2019). Courtesy of the artist.

McGinn said she was inspired by William Shatner’s post-space jaunt interview from his Blue Origin rocket mission. “It’s this surreal moment,” she says. “Champagne pops up in the background and William Shatner is clearly so influenced by what he just saw and he’s really trying to explain it. It’s pretty beautiful and raw, and then Jeff Bezos stands next to him like a robot trying to absorb his humanity. Basically, it is this idea that humans want to go out into space, and how wrong it is that we want to leave Earth when we have left it in a bit of a mess. “Yet the artist sees a common thread:” It is constant search for something that explores all corners of the universe. We are pretty restless creatures. “

Rosie McGinn's handmade lycra air doll "Billy" (2022).  Courtesy of the artist.

A detail of Rosie McGinn’s handmade puppet Billy (2022), shown in Newcastle upon Tynes Slugtown Gallery. Courtesy of the artist.

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