May 24: Claude Cahun

The gender-bending photographic self-portraits of French artist, Claude Cahun, go on view at the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris.


Before Cindy Sherman, Tilda Swinton, and Lady Gaga, there was French artist and provocateur Claude Cahun, who in the 1920s was already exploring ideas about role-playing and shifting masculine and feminine identities in her photographic self-portraits, photomontages, and diaries—many of which go on view this month in the retrospective “Claude Cahun,” at Paris’s Jeu de Paume museum (May 24 to September 25). Designer du jour Haider Ackermann, for one, sees in Cahun’s androgynous self-portraits “an absolute, otherworldly elegance.” Like a latter-day Isabella Blow—the late eccentric English fashion muse with whom she shares an uncanny physical resemblance—Cahun was known for her theatrical entrances in extravagant costumes. Her hair dyed pink, gold, and green and her head, eyebrows, and eyelashes shaved, she flaunted her sexuality and brilliantly blurred the lines between art, performance, and life.

24th: Courtesy of Jeu de Paume, Paris.