“A work of art is only a success if it sparks an emotion.
And emotion is what touches our innermost being, tapping into our memories.”
Patrick Rubinstein was born in Paris in 1960, the year the Beatles got together in England, when Brigitte Bardot and Jackie Kennedy’s America were all the rage in France. This was true for the Rubinsteins as well, but as part of a much larger picture. The family had a voracious appetite for everything happening around the world, savoring each instant and living life to the fullest. Art offered an outlet, while day-to-day life was immersed in tenderness. This was the context of Patrick’s upbringing, framed by his mother’s passion for film and his father’s successful knack for experimenting with a range of pursuits. At the age of five, Patrick was introduced to gouache, and at eight to Super 8 film.
Optical illusions held an important place in the family’s creative output. “Head towards the tree and stop when you’re standing behind it.” Once the child’s movements were captured on film, a cut would be made with another actor taking his place, and the shooting would begin again. Patrick’s father was constantly dreaming up little vignettes. The whole family played along, expanding the story, making suggestions, in a whirl of creativity.
Soon, the family began breathing life into still images. “If you fold a photo neatly, along parallel lines, you’ll obtain an interesting visual effect, depending on whether you look at it from the right, straight on, or from the left.” First with his father, then alone, Patrick thus discovered a new aesthetic language. For him, it held a magical fascination that he found instantly appealing. Playing with two portraits in this way allowed him to see sometimes one, sometimes the other, and sometimes both of them superimposed.
In theory, the process seemed simple; in practice, it proved to be complex. Even the smallest project of this type turned out to be very time consuming. But Patrick stayed the course. He refined his technique. Word spread quickly. Requests for portraits flooded in from family members, friends and acquaintances. And initial encouragements were followed by the first sales. Patrick was only 18 at the time. He took pride in his success, but he wasn’t one for standing still. Whenever he had time on his hands, he would rush off to help out with the family business. There he knew he could see tomorrow’s fashion trends taking shape, and fashion was something that spoke to him personally. He saw it as a continual process of self-exploration. He loved taking on challenges and his head was filled with ideas. After his baccalauréat and business studies, he thus plunged with relish into all aspects of the family profession: fabric selection, trend analysis, customer relations, etc. He picked up skills on the fly, becoming nearly obsessional at times.
Inspired by movement, form, structure and materials, he unraveled the mysteries of each haute couture opus spotted in a runway show, studied competitors’ window displays, avidly drank in everything he saw and heard. He became a sponge.
And he was successful at everything he put his hand to. Why not create his own brand? At 25, he took the bull by the horns with Energy, targeting a young demographic. He selected a white fabric, printed it with a flower, then dyed it to order. “In green or pink, I love colors, and contrasts, too!”
Little by little, Patrick Rubinstein established his signature style, juxtaposing vibrant colors with black and white, and continued on his ceaseless quest to remain at the cutting edge. And the world took notice. Soon he was exporting to the United States, Scandinavia, throughout Europe and the Middle East. In France, however, the market was changing. Breakout brands would only partner with designers offering unsigned creations. He bent to their will initially, but the steamroller of globalization started to flatten everything in its wake. The time had come to turn the page, to take a step back.
The year was 2005. In 2006, Patrick lost his father, a watershed experience for him that instantly brought to mind the work of Yaacov Agam, a leading pioneer of kinetic art. Grabbing a photo, Patrick folded it carefully, showing his own daughters the visual effect thus created. Memories bubbled to the surface. “Op art, short for optical art, is an art in movement.” He began thinking of the portraits he wanted to recast, the pop art that had always inspired him, and the digital age that was opening up new opportunities. He spoke of his plans with an engineer….
The technical challenges of 3D were not negligible, but if he could surmount them, he could rediscover the infinite freedom of creation, and with it reawaken interest in the work he had done as a young man. He began his quest. His wife’s confidence in him was absolute, she knew he would follow his concept through to its realization, laying waste to any obstacles encountered along the way. After three years of dogged perseverance, at times passing through what seemed like nothing less than the twelve labors of Hercules, victory was at hand. Patrick Rubinstein was now able to work in any format whatsoever, even monumental ones. He surrounded himself with assistants whom he trained in his art. All that was left was to create.
Two words may best sum up Patrick’s career to date in optical art: courage and talent. His faith in himself has never been shaken and today the art world seems to be proving him right. In 2013, only five years after selling his first work at Drouot, he was ranked 89th among the top 100 French artists by auction revenue.* His patrons include a Formula One team owner, a South Korean rock star, a discreet French husband and wife team of avid collectors, and a Saudi businessman. Could his father have hoped for a more beautiful tribute?
* “Top 100 des leaders des ventes aux enchères », Art Actuel, December 2013.