Marc Camille Chaimowicz – ‘Jean Cocteau’

Rooms are autobiographies written by their inhabitants – they hint (in their bookshelves, in their laundry baskets, in their stained carpets) at how and why a particular life took on its particular form. The heritage industry is well aware of this, painstakingly preserving the homes of the famous dead, hoping to trap their phantoms in the aspic of historical accuracy. Marc Camille Chaimowicz’ show ‘Jean Cocteau’ at the Norwich Gallery took a somewhat different tack. Here Chaimowicz fashioned a fantasy study-cum-bedroom for the French poet, playwright, librettist, novelist, artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau (1889-1963)



Chaimowicz studied at Camberwell School of Art under Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews, and then went to study at the Slade School in the early 1970s.

The idea of performance and film in his own work encouraged his romance with the work of Jean Cocteau.

He liked the radical spirit of Cocteau and also Cocteau’s film and his sense of the theatrical and his multidisciplinary spirit.


In Chaimowicz’ words, ‘a furnished interior that obliquely references [Cocteau’s] poetics’.


Dual chair day beds and some of his ceramics. Bed ends from France, a bedspread, Eric Franc Glass Table from Geneva and Chaimowicz’s fairground horse, wall drawings paying homage to Cocteau.The work that Chaimowicz has made for the exhibition includes a two-speed staircase, a 1979 painted folding screen and a wood marquetry screen.

The walls of the gallery will be painted and stencilled and the floor carpeted by Chaimowicz.

Hanging on the wall, his malevolent coat hanger introduces us to his ‘ambiguity’.

He has a sense of discreet historical references to a French couturier’s house for the exhibition and he decided to paint the metalwork outside the Norwich Gallery eau de Nile, the colour of the bronze dome on Norwich School of Art.

He has been looking at photographs of Cocteau’s interiors, his bedroom and the bedcovers.

He went to the Museé Jean Cocteau in Menton as part of the preparation for this exhibition.

Marcel Duchamp curated an exhibition by Jean Cocteau at Guggenheim Jeune in London in the 1930s.

The surrealists tended to treat Cocteau as a dilettante. Cocteau broke taboos. He was queer but he was also an important establishment figure.

He was a friend of Rudolf Nureyev, and he made drawings in the French Church in Soho for the wedding of Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong Jones.

Chaimowicz brings Cocteau right up to date reminding us that Phil Glass wrote a score for Cocteau’s La Belle et le Bete. Beauty and the Beast, the fairy story of the female and male parts of us all.

This room for Jean Cocteau will reflect Chaimowicz’s own interiors in Approach Road, Camberwell and Dijon, and the room he made for the exhibition with Hodgkin, Caro and Hamilton at Liberty’s in 1984.

Marc’s room was a place for people, two people, a place of romance.


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