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Vicky Tiel Headshot

Art Is Whatever the Artist Has to Say

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"Art is whatever the artist has to say," is a quote given to me personally by Tom Sachs at his Space Program: Mars exhibit at the Park Avenue Armory last spring.

Graffiti art, or "whatever art," has become the foremost art of our times, made world-famous by Keith Haring's subway work in the late '70s and continues even stronger today. From the poor South African townships to the chic Parisian Rive Gauche, artists worldwide are always expressing themselves however they want with the whole planet as their personal art gallery.

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As a young woman in Paris, I danced in Chez Castel nightly (I lived upstairs in the penthouse). My husband and I were frequently found dancing the Bostella at Castel's on the small dance floor next to Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, who also loved to dirty dance. Jane and I (both not French) danced with more abandon than our French girlfriends. Serge and Jane broke up, and Serge later died. We never saw Jane swing her hair and her hips in circles again. The '60s had passed.

Their home on the Rue de Verneuil, near my dress shop on the Rue Bonaparte, became a French historical monument and tourist attraction known for the graffiti art on the walls, doors and grills. It is an "homage to Serge," France's most popular balladeer and creator of the infamous song; "Je T'aime Moi N'en Plus," (the singing orgasm) that he sang first with his paramour Brigitte Bardot, and later with his wife, Jane Birkin, was the art theme of the graffiti-covered home.

Slowly over the years, the streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés became the most expensive square footage in Paris (20,000 Euros per square foot for 200- to 400-year-old apartments) that have become art galleries with local graffiti artists expressing whatever they have to say on the ancient stone walls.

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The preferred dance club of Gainsbourg and Birkin, Chez Castel, is, funnily enough, graffiti-free. Chez Castel, at 15 rue Princesse, has no name outside and is totally chic inside. Ah, the memories!

I was once at the door way in 1965, leaving in a see-through, beaded minidress, when a car raced by and two Arab men in djellabas tried to pull me into a big car (kidnapping girls for harems in the '60s). But, one of Elizabeth Taylor's Paris bodyguards, Roscoe Stallworth, ran to my rescue and pulled me out of the car. The Arab prince I was going to would have thrown me out of his harem, as I wasn't good harem material. I would have convinced the other women to revolt; no veils, no sex without equal pay, our own Swiss bank accounts and the right to have gorgeous young lovers as gifts!

Vicky Tiel began designing clothes 40 years ago in Paris and still owns a boutique there. See Vicky and her NEW Collection on HSN and online. Her couture is available at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, and her perfumes are carried in Perfumania. Her memoir, It's All About the Dress: What I Learned in 40 Years About Men, Women, Sex, and Fashion, was published by St. Martin's Press in August 2011.