Viviane Sassen the MEP

Viviane Sassen’s new show blurs the line between art and fashion

A major new retrospective at the MEP in Paris sees the Dutch artist delve into her three-decade archive of photography, collage, painting, and more

Known for her distinctive aesthetic that plays with light and shadow, hyper-saturated colours, and portrayals of the human body, Viviane Sassen is one of those rare imagemakers who truly resonates across both the art and commercial worlds.

Born in Amsterdam in the 70s, Sassen originally pursued fashion design before turning to a career in photography. After studying at the Utrecht School of the Arts, her mix of personal projects and advertising work quickly saw her become one of the industry’s most in-demand imagemakers.

Viviane Sassen the MEP
Top: Adidas x Pharrell, 2017; Above: In Bloom for Dazed Magazine, 2011; All images © Viviane Sassen and Stevenson
Viviane Sassen the MEP
DNA, from the series Lexicon, 2007

Her three-decade body of work spans everything from creative fashion imagery for publications such as Dazed and AnOther, to photo series like Roxanne, which takes the form of a visual diary exploring the relationship between the artist and her muse, to bold campaigns for the likes of adidas and Louis Vuitton.

Sassen’s extensive archive is now the subject of a major new show at the MEP in Paris – the photographer’s first retrospective in France. Titled Phosphor, it brings together more than 200 artworks including unseen archives, mixed-media works, painting, collage, video, and fashion photography.

Viviane Sassen the MEP
Athalia’s Eye, 2022
Viviane Sassen the MEP
Inhale, from the series Parasomnia, 2011

Spread across two floors of the museum, the show opens with a series of images taken during various trips to Africa (the artist grew up in Kenya until she was five) before moving onto her more recent work, which has become increasingly experimental and surreal over the years.

An accompanying 400-page book is being published by Prestel in collaboration with the MEP, featuring several essays and design by Dutch graphic artist Irma Boom. The hope with both the book and exhibition is to shine a light on Sassen’s fascinating creative process and one of the core themes of her work: an incessant search for new photographic forms.

Viviane Sassen the MEP
Amanita Fulva, from the series Of Mud and Lotus, 2017
Viviane Sassen the MEP
Axiom B01, from the series Umbra, 2014

Phosphor: Art & Fashion 1990-2023 is at MEP Paris until February 11;