Contemporary Art

Michèle Lamy Gathers Artists to Fight for a Cause

By Martin Dean
Artist, producer and cultural maven Michèle Lamy has spent her career inspiring creativity across all genres, and bringing together the very best artistic minds in the worlds of fashion, art, film and beyond. In LAMYLAND: What are we Fighting For? she combines her passion for contemporary art and design with her love of boxing to raise funds for a charity very close to her heart, London Community Boxing. We caught up with her to discuss the origins of her idea and to take a closer look at the bespoke punchbags created for the sale, which is open now for bidding.

How long have you been boxing and why does it appeal to you as a sport?

I always say 35 years, though I think that it’s a little more. I started in at the Wild Card Boxing Club in LA and it appealed to me. It’s also good to have your head in another world. I was not thinking about fighting but it was the beginning of the time when women were training to be professional fighters. Lucia Rijker and some other women at that time were training to have regular fights, and they were training in a different way. Also, at the time I had a problem with my leg and I could not run forwards, but I could run sideways like a crab: that’s how you move in boxing. I think there is a lot of joy in it: it’s pretty fun.

How did you choose the artists to invite to be a part of the Lamyland project, and to design a punching bag?

The story started even before Selfridges. I started to do something on top of my barge in Venice four years ago and asked my daughter, the artist, Scarlett Rouge to do some bags. Then I got an invitation to do the Selfridges residency. Every time I do something it’s about the people that are around and whether we can do something together. So this time mainly the artists are from Carpenters Workshop Gallery and they asked the artists who they represent if they wanted to participate. They did, so it is what it is today. It was their artists, and also Scarlett Rouge and Giovanni Bassan that were involved from the beginning. Then we have Connor Tingley and several others too. It would be great to do more work all together because we want to continue this story together.

What about the final designs were you particularly interested in or surprised by?

There are some where I was very surprised about how they turned out because I could not say exactly how it related to their work or what it says about boxing but that’s why it’s very exciting. For example, the one from Atelier Van Lieshout. I really like that work – it’s a kind of sausage. The Director of Ca’ d’Oro in Venice where I first created the ‘WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR?’ installation for CWG earlier this year thought it was too obscene to show at the time, but then of course we are showing it here – I like to be surprised. I did it to be surprised and I was surprised!

This sale is to support the charity London Community Boxing, which makes boxing accessible and promotes its therapeutic qualities. Why is this charity important to you?

You always want to do something in life, I know that’s what boxing makes possible. It’s what we stand for, what we believe and especially at Selfridges and in all those communities we understood that boxing was still working very well for getting kids off the street. When you train you feel good in your body and it gives you the strength of mind to say, let’s stop being depressed. I think something that helps your head and your body and inspires the need to create expression from artists also has been great…and it looks good.

Do you have an all-time favourite boxer?

Of course Muhammed Ali has always been a major figure in boxing. I mean if we can take him and only him… he’s a fighter that stands trial and goes to jail for refusing to be drafted to the Vietnam war. This guy was absolutely amazing. I remember at the time, actually, at my place, Les Deux Cafes, in LA – it was during the Olympic games in Atlanta. I’d put it on the TV, with the sound down so people could see the images, then, I remember this, people started looking up from their tables because Muhammad Ali was arriving with the [Olympic] flame. We had one in our generation that represented exactly what we want to and continue to say.
Otherwise it’s Lucia Rijker who is not fighting anymore, this incredible woman who trained in LA, her mother was Dutch and her father African, and who was so beautiful and trained in another way. She was training to show the movement, and her head was so together.

What would be your ideal outfit to wear in boxing?

It’s good because you don’t have to wear too many things. I would say I would like to wear something different from a pair of shorts anyway, but at the same time you can put on your feathers – there is a lot of possibility for embellishment, people can have a lot of embroidery and stones and things on it and then you have yourself. You’re naked with a little t-shirt and a pair of shorts. That’s where you are, naked and that’s what counts at the end, to have the body you are proud of.

Your Lamyland motto is “What are we fighting for”. What are you fighting for at the moment?

Well, I’m pretty open about what we are fighting for. It’s still a question though. What we want to say at this point is that whatever it is that we believe in, we are standing strong and we will stay true to ourselves. It’s nice that we have this auction and London Community Boxing because we are giving something back, opening the world to the community of boxing.

There are so many things that we would say we are fighting for. Let’s see: women are not allowed to decide, they tell you what you can and can’t say and whether or not you can have an abortion or not and any kid can buy a gun and shoot everybody. We’re fighting for something we believe in and if somebody wants to do an event about it and we can contribute, that’s what we are fighting for. I’m trying to get everybody to take a step together to try towards where we would like to see the world be… everybody working together in one direction.

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