In the span of their nearly 20-year career, Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak of Paris-based graphic design and art direction team M/M (Paris) have worked at the intersection of fashion and culture; now the pair have launched an eponymous publishing house and are readying a multi-city public art project (pictured above) inspired by
Hans-Ulrich Obrist, director of London’s Serpentine Gallery. In addition to collaborations with Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Stella McCartney and Yohji Yamamoto, the creative masterminds have served as art directors for Vogue
Paris and Arena Homme +
, launched a fragrance with Byredo, and helped to design new hotel and brasserie Thoumieux with Thierry Costes and chef Jean-François Piège. We spoke to Amzalag and Augustyniak about the seductive power of letters and their utopian art project.
In 2001, Carine Roitfeld hired you to come on board at Vogue Paris. What was most appealing about the post?The first two books from your new publishing house were Pradalphabets, a collaboration with Prada, and Alphadicks. What’s so attractive about the alphabet?
Amzalag: For us it was an opportunity to use the brand Vogue to redefine the old idea of culture, as opposed to luxury, and incorporate the sexiness of fashion.
Augustyniak: The books relate to the encyclopedia, which has always been linked to the alphabet. When the encyclopedia was invented in the 18th century it was [considered] possible to [summate] the world. Today we know perfectly well that this can’t happen. So this is an encyclopedia at our scale and through our four eyes; we’re inviting people to share this world with us. Can you tell us about your Serpentine project?
About four years ago, we were commissioned by Hans-Ulrich Obrist to think about the website for the Serpentine Gallery. This is where we came up with the project: a sculptural snake [made of fiberglass] that has a poster stand at the end of its tail. It has an ongoing tail with simultaneous exhibitions; the serpentine can be in Chicago but also in France or
Switzerland or Japan—everyone is connected. It’s the idea of this kind of symmetry in an international world. It’s a bit of a utopia.