Interview by Jeffrey Felner
It is a rare occasion when I am taken aback by how one of my subjects replies to my questions; each interview is pretty much tailored to meet a criteria for the purpose of the interview but in rare moments such as today, Matthias Vriens-McGrath has given me a gift and in return has given all of you a gift and that is unbridled unvarnished honesty.
I recently stated that life as we knew it has significantly changed and not necessarily for the better. Actions that have never been considered acceptable on any level have suddenly become not only acceptable but commonplace. Then there is the issue of what is politically correct coupled with the “me too” era that has opened a Pandora’s Box of whoop ass as well speaking of open secrets as fact. Lastly, we live in the age of Instagram where anyone who stands in front of a camera is suddenly a model and anyone who holds a camera is suddenly a photographer and they will all (most) work for free!
The trickle down has entered the world fashion in terms of media of every kind as well as its content and those who work within what was once a thriving industry that fostered creativity and individuality. For the most part, printed media has taken on all the charm and aspiration of a Lord & Taylor catalog at its pedestrian best.
Consider this an interview about going backwards to go forward or a tale of re-invention which is what makes this a fashion story. Most of us, who have survived the glory days of great fashion, great editors, stylists, visionaries and great printed media, have been forced in one way or another to reinvent ourselves for any number of reasons.
Given this “exchange” between Matthias and I, it is my honor, my privilege and frankly I am humbled by this man’s faith in me to be the purveyor of his words as I feel he speaks for many of us who love fashion and the joys that it has provided for us during your lives.
Jeffrey Felner: What prompted this life changing event? Why add retail to your resumé?
Matthias Vriens-McGrath: As life changing as it might sound, it is actually more like returning to an old friend. I was an antiques dealer back in Amsterdam at age 23.
JF: Explain the modus operandi of Atelier MVM? What are you bringing to the table to when it comes to home décor? Inspirations?
MVM: I’ve always said “if all goes down, at the end of the day I can always glue shells” Meaning that when I had my antique store in Amsterdam, in order to escape the boredom of sitting in a store all day long, I bought antique mirrors and covered them in shells. Later, when I moved to Paris, I sold them in established galleries and that paid the rent. Long story short …. And something nobody really talks about much … but commercial fashion photography is circling the drain. Magazines do not make a lot of sense nor turn profit anymore, due to a variety of things that make them barely as relevant as Instagram…. anything else that provides immediate information etc. … With that that said, magazines can largely blame themselves, since they have become nothing short of boring. Same celebs, same tongues that lick the same asses over and over again … no matter how much you love pussy, ass, or tomato soup for that matter, variety sells … the constant change attracts an audience.
So, I decided not to complain about it and return to the future by going back into design and antiques, starting with gluing some more shells on frames … and it felt good, being in charge and not having to deal with inept editors or stylists that clearly cannot style themselves out of a brown paper bag, or a sitting, let alone support or inspire me to collaborate on making a memorable image that stretches beyond the pedestrian. Surely I have worked with incredibly inspiring, sweet and talented people, but you’d be amazed to see what the majority of today’s editors carry around IQ wise and creatively
JF: How do you source your pieces and merchandise since you have everything classification from an ashtray to an armoire? What makes these pieces unique?
MVM: I only do what I like, possibly not only for commercial purposes but within this stretch of my imagination lays the store’s success. My shop looks nothing like any other store. Subsequently it is not for everybody, but it has a small group of fans and I am a happy boy. The pieces are my most personal items like my shells mirrors and chandeliers, all hand made by me and then I’d also mention my ‘Mientje’ vase, named after my grandmother Wilhelmina. It is a tramp art head vase that I have had for 30 years and now produce variations of it in assorted shapes and colors… I love textiles and there is a great collection of antique textiles and vintage pieces that I can pull from for interiors.
JF: Who is your target customer and why did wait until now to open a shop which will certainly increase your workload given your already busy schedule?
MVM: Absolutely anybody with a wallet I’d say makes a perfect customer. As much as I would like to say I am a busy photographer, truth to be told, I am not. I have not had a paying job in several years since people are intimidated by sex. My work contains a fair amount of that as you might agree and the me-too movement has not exactly been a friend to me. Anything blatantly sexual is seen as ‘mauvais gout’ and objectifying. My point, as a photographer, has always been to push the envelope (if you like) of both sexes; to explore both sides. Masculine versus feminine and the reverse at times, so as not to lens what is expected but what is what some might label disturbing. For example, shoot a woman in charge and powerful, legs open and willing AND in charge; a man fragile, head off center, back and ass arched, etc. … in the case of my men, this is conceived as HOMO EROTIC, GAY, effeminate, etc. … Homophobia is rampant at publishers like Conde Nast and Hearst and I am quite frankly no longer interested defending myself. I take a very honest picture … Take it or leave it. I love shooting women and men equally, I have never treated anyone of them disrespectfully or exploited them. Sexually prowled on them? Yes, of course! I am a photographer, I portray my vision on my subject matter and this is what makes my picture MY image…but all of that is done intellectually. Most people think I am an absolute SLUT but truth be told I happen to not be black listed by anyone for sexual inappropriateness. Anybody that truly knows me knows I am far too shy to bother anyone. I might have my fantasies, but they remain just that.
That said, I am still working in 2018 on the Taschen Big Penis Book and as complicated it is to ‘cock hound’ these guys around, the book is going to be a shocker and simultaneously extraordinary on many planes!
JF: If you could choose any items that you wanted to display and sell in the shop, what would they be and why?
MVM: The entire Trump family on liquidation sale. Nuff said!
Atelier MVM Los Angeles 8055 Beverly blvd. Los Angeles ca 90048