Page 1 – AMA Art Media Agency Fri, 14 Sep 2018 16:26:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Japan’s best-known tiger Thu, 13 Sep 2018 08:51:36 +0000 The time is 1786… On one moonless night, Japanese artist Nagasawa Rosetsu painted a huge tiger along with a dragon on the sliding panels of Muryōji Temple in Kushimonto. Descending from a “lineage of eccentrics”, Rosetsu (1754-1799) had samurai ancestors. A dazzling artistic genius who had a taste for sake, he quickly became a sensation in the art circles of the imperial capital of Kyoto, as one of the major disciples of the famous painter Maruyama Ōkyo.
Quite a few moons later, today it’s at the Rietberg Museum in Zurich that Nagasawa Rosetsu crops up again, at a major exhibition whose title resounds like a spell: “Ferocious Brush”… Steering this vibrant show are two curators, Khanh Trinh, curator of the Japanese and Korean art department at the Rietberg Museum, here accompanied by Matthew McKelway, professor of Japanese art history at Columbia University, New York, and also director of the Mary Griggs Burke Centre for Japanese Art. And here, you have to admit that results are on a par with Rosetsu’s talent: mind-blowing. Let’s remember that it took three years to prepare the exhibition. While Rosetsu has already been shown in Japan, in 2000, 2011 and 2017, this is the first time that a monographic show on such a scale is being dedicated to him in the West. In total, 55 pieces, paintings and drawings, some of which come from one of Kyoto’s major Zen Buddhism centres, as well as German and American museums. We find kakejikus and other naturalist makimonos, paravents featuring fantastic landscapes, the famous gigantic tiger and dragon on twelve panels, executed in Indian ikon paper… Add to this the tour-de-force identical reconstruction of the spaces of the Muryōji Temple on a 1:1 scale, and you have an incredible overview of the art of Rosetu. A Rosetsu who exaggerates, who constantly reinvents motifs, whose influences are both worldly and monastic, resulting in strikingly bold works. Rosetsu the virtuoso, who pushes pictorial experience beyond limits to flirt with abstraction… In short, a liberated, irreverential brush overflowing with humour, using techniques that were unprecedented at the time, such as finger painting.
There are three good reasons for going to the Rietberg Museum this autumn. First, outside of Japan, this is a unique opportunity to enjoy Rosetu in his original architectural context. Second, 18th century Japanese painting is very much in vogue these days. So if you haven’t had the chance to be invited to the home of Joe Price, the great American collector based in Corona del Mar, California, who has gathered around 500 paintings from the Edo period (including four or five Rosetsus)… And if you missed the Parisian exhibition at the Petit Palais dedicated to another Kyoto “eccentric”, the famous Itō Jakuchū (on until 14 October)… Well you can make up for it by seeing Rosetsu. But hurry! For conservation-related reasons, the works can only be seen for eight weeks as loaners place a 60 day per year limit on exposing the paintings to light. Oh, and third, I almost forgot to mention… the Rietberg Museum is delightful!



“Rosetsu. Furious Brush”, until 4 November, Rietberg Museum, Gablerstrasse 15, Zurich, Switzerland.

Balthus or a treatise on style Thu, 13 Sep 2018 08:44:13 +0000 A young girl, a cat, a mirror… We thought that we already knew everything there was to know about Balthus. But in Riehen, Switzerland, the Beyeler Foundation is staging an enlightened show on the enigmatic work of this artist. From naked bodies to serene landscapes…

When we think of Balthus, we often think of his pale, consenting young ladies, surprised in dubious positions. But Balthus offers more than striking images of these sleeping beauties, these chrysalids who disturb as much as they enchant. Above all, Balthus is associated with the Italian countryside and the landscapes of the Morvan region, nostalgia for a tranquil world. In Arezzo, the painter’s vision was shaken up when he discovered the frescoes of Piero della Francesca, enhanced by a certain buzz in the air… Born in 1908 in Paris and of Polish descent, Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, better known as Balthus, spent part of his childhood in Switzerland. He became close to artists Bonnard and Derain, and with the encouragement of Rilke, he chose painting from an early age. Apart from perhaps Henri Michaux, an unclassifiable artist, Balthus had no equivalents this century. And yet, on a technical level, nothing seems to stand out in particular. Perhaps because style and great art ultimately consist in covering up one’s game. This withdrawal, this masterly discretion is undoubtedly what makes him one of the great 20th century masters. Singlehandedly, he encapsulates an original combination of Quattrocento painting, Japanese poetry, and the landscapes of Gustave Courbet. In short, something truly magical. But to get there, he’d have to put in time. His path wasn’t that straightforward. When Balthus was first shown in Pierre Loeb’s gallery, in 1934, the failure was excruciating: not a single work sold. It wasn’t until 1966, with the retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, that his works found their just recognition.

Wild academicism
Today, Balthus can be found in Riehen, in the countryside of Basel. The Beyeler Foundation is holding a retrospective exhibition on him, the very first exhaustive presentation of his work in German-speaking Switzerland, and the first exhibition on the painter to be organised in a Swiss museum in a decade. And yet, the connections between the artist and this country are strong: his childhood in Berne, Geneva and Beatenberg, his marriage with Swiss woman Antoinette de Watteville, numerous visits to Switzerland, and his last decades spent in Rossinière, an authentic mountain village… Balthus loved Switzerland. And as the Beyeler Foundation loves Balthus, the exhibition is a big success. No doubt because the foundation shows the painter as the great 20th century artistic master that he is. Or better yet, as one of the most unique. Because what do we see here, in Riehen? What’s this strange feeling that suddenly comes over you? There’s something disturbing about looking at this complex, faceted, timeless work that is so removed from the preoccupations of the modern avant-garde. It’s because Balthus takes a discreet, isolated path, one that’s enigmatic to say the least. If his approach had to be summed up, we’d cite his magnum opus, his monumental masterpiece, Passage du Commerce-Saint-André, painted between 1952 and 1954, today owned by the family of banker Claude Hersaint, an unswerving patron of the artist. The painting, shown in the context of a long-term loan to the Beyeler Foundation, is a key element of this retrospective. Everything starts off from it… and returns to it. Spatial dimension and temporal depth, a relationship to the world and to objects… In this paradoxical, even ambiguous painting, innocence mingles with irony, bringing irrefutable proof of the power of Balthus’ genius, his pictorial strategies, his wild academicism. In the seemingly peaceful Passage all antimonies converge, reconciling fantasy and reality, banality and eroticism. According to Raphaël Bouvier, curator at the Beyeler Foundation, the painting is “composed like a big mystery”; for deputy curator Michiko Kono, “it carries all sorts of themes, the street, dreams, theatricality, the three stages of life. Added to this, reference to the great Italian Renaissance masters, and you have an emblematic work which remains just as enigmatic when we look at it today.” A little like Balthus himself, this fascinating painter, both an aristocrat and an “artisan” – as he liked to describe himself –, a member of high society and a fierce loner.

The anti-modern movement
Top marks go to the show presentation. Everything is impeccable, luminous, without a hitch. Michiko Kono takes care to point out that it’s a retrospective that covers the period from 1920 to 1990. There’s no thematic scenography, no way-out gimmicks… No, just a clear chronological thread “which could well illustrate the anti-modern movement represented by Balthus, who renewed pictorial language across the century while staying loyal to his gestures, combining memories of Masaccio and children’s tales from Swiss popular tradition.” Naturally, the exhibition begins with works form his youth, in the 1920s. Then follow several commissioned portraits, and an encounter with the painter’s favourite model, Thérèse Blanchard, an eleven-year-old unknown, a budding beauty already conscious of her charms. In 1941, an art lover going by the name of Picasso purchased a painting from Balthus, Les Enfants Blanchard – there are some keen gazes that make no mistakes. Next came the period in Champrovent, in Savoie, France, then Fribourg, Switzerland. Naked bodies would be succeeded by serene landscapes.
Amongst the exhibition’s major pieces, we can of course single out several paintings form the late 1950s. This was the period when the painter retreated to Chassy, the era when he produced one of his most stunning works. In our mind, it was here, in the gentle light of the Morvan region, cut off from the rest of the world, that his painting would reach its heights. From1954 until the early 1960s, he thus executed paintings of an overwhelming beauty. Sixty or so paintings, portraits, nudes or landscapes in this very “local” colour – a vibrant mix of purple, pink and brown, reflecting the mood at the Château de Chassy. In 1961, the setting changed. From the Yonne Valley, the painter shifted abruptly to the eternal hills of ancient Rome. Selected by André Malraux, French minister of culture at the time, Balthus was appointed to head up the Académie de France in Rome. There he would remain for the next fifteen years. It was during his stay in Rome at the Villa Médicis, under the benevolent gaze of Bassano and Giorgione, that he would come up with some of his loveliest works, such as La Chambre turque, in which we can detect Ingres and alluring hints of Matisse…

A public scandal
To conclude, let’s say that as we face forty or so major paintings from all of the artist’s creative periods, we get a sense of his joy of painting. As we look at this art produced slowly over time, perhaps Hesiod’s poem Works and Days will come to mind: this idea that painting is a harsh, lonely path. In any case, Balthus, this “figurative artist in an abstract era”, will stand out as a singular figure. Before his death in 2001, we know that the artist lived in a chalet in Rossinière, in the Swiss Alps, with his second wife Setsuko, originally from Japan. We know of his love of Italy and the Sienese painters. And as knowledge knows no boundaries, we can also name one of his favourite books: the treatise on painting, The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting. China, Zhuangzi and Taoist thinking, the landscapes of Poussin, the frescoes of Lorenzetti… Between asceticism and worldliness, Balthus was a free spirit. Perhaps the last of the humanists.
Yet from a museum perspective, showing Balthus today is something of an odd challenge. We’ve seen that his young girls with hitched up skirts can sometimes cause visitors to feel… a little uneasy. In November 2017 in New York, the 1938 painting Thérèse rêvant created a public scandal at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A petition was even launched online to demand that the work be taken down, or at least be placed in context! A controversy from another age, awakened by a throng of sexual-abuse revelations relating to the #MeToo campaign, which is relaunching debate on the limits of artistic representation…


“Balthus, until 1 January 2019 (the exhibition will then travel to the Muceo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid). Beyeler Foundation, Baselstrasse 77, Riehen, Switzerland.

Jean-Michel Othoniel… faces himself Thu, 13 Sep 2018 08:36:04 +0000 The Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Saint-Étienne is currently giving Jean-Michel Othoniel carte blanche for his third solo exhibition at the institution. The artist’s work is also being shown at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, until 11 November. An encounter…

Just how far will Jean-Michel Othoniel go? To mark the 30th birthday of the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Saint-Étienne, the artist, a native of this mining town, is presenting an even huger “wave” than the one seen in 2017 at the CRAC de Sète. A deep, intimate meditation on the artist’s future, the exhibition “Face à l’obscurité” (Facing obscurity) resounds like the end of a cycle. An interview devoid of nostalgia, tinged with memories and heady uncertainty.


Can La Grande Vague at Saint-Étienne be seen as an extension of the one presented last year in Sète?

The two installations have little in common actually. Here, La Grande Vague presents a type of “matrix”. It’s designed like a somewhat threatening echo point, whose form is more ambiguous and in motion than the one shown in the south of France, which was more like a glass-brick monument. This one is a personal work, linked to my personal history and that of this town. A type of “artist’s folly” that corresponds to no museum logic.


So it’s a piece related to Saint-Étienne… Do you mean that this town has had an impact on your path?

Absolutely… The MAMC triggered my artistic vocation. From the age of six years, I went to introductory art lessons at the Maison de la Culture and then attended evening classes at the town’s fine-arts school. From an early age, I became familiar with the collections of this joyful, welcoming, light-filled museum, so far removed from my memories of blackened faces and sad town facades. But I assure you, I didn’t have a Zola-type childhood there!


You’re also showing two small pieces, once again related to your childhood. Could you present them to us?

There’s a video, which is a sort of testimony, and a black-and-white photograph. These are souvenirs of performances whose scope widens through their contact with the other works on display. The video is on the metamorphosis of a volcano-like slagheap, in 1994, at the Musée de la Mine. Unlike the heaps in the north of France, in Saint-Étienne these heaps could be found in the middle of the town. When I was a child, they terrified me as I was convinced that they were volcanoes ready to explode! I tried to express this anguish poetically, in 1994, through this filmed performance.


How did you go about this artistic transmutation?

Fireworks experts helped to set off Bengal flares and fireworks from the top of the heap – a scene that I filmed with a Super 8 camera. The result is a film that recounts this telluric relationship that brings out the harshness of elements – something that could already be sensed in my work with sulphur. Its form was a budding version of La Grande Vague, which I also see as an enormous mass of coal. So there’s a very strong link to my memories and childhood fantasies in these pieces.


How about the second one?

This is a small photograph which opened my retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in 2011. It comes from a performance at my artistic debut, executed during a family visit to Saint-Étienne. Dressed in a long priest’s alb, I wanted to perform in front of a grotto which my childhood memories rendered even more beautiful and miraculous. Once I got to the site, I realised that the grotto was no longer magical. So I kept going and came across a 19th century dam wall, from which water emerging from evacuation holes had completely frozen.


So what did you do?

I climbed these ice walls, endlessly falling and climbing up again until I was exhausted. I took many photos here and only kept the smallest one, printed on silver-halide paper. A prudish, discreet format, that could easily be tucked away in a book. Already, indeed, I was saying far too much about myself.


Saint-Étienne, childhood anguish about slagheaps, fantasy places, a performance that marks your artistic debut…. This exhibition undeniably marks out your imprint on this territory.

It also announces the end of a cycle, a type of end to adolescence as experienced by… an old adolescent! Now I am emerging from this “autobiographical” aspect, I’m taking a distance from my own story.


Sure, but next to La Grande Vague, don’t these obsidian “self-portraits” still talk about yourself?

That’s true… On one side of the exhibition, you have this big swell that draws and carries within it this violence of the depths. In this work set out as if against the northern lights, we can see reflections of all shades of grey, of such a type that I had never previously observed. On the other side, you find yourself facing an obsidian “army”, as if planted in the ground, somewhat austere but also sparkling, which wipes La Vague from your mind. I wanted to deal with the relationship with obscurity in a binary manner.


The obscurity you refer to is also associated with the colour black. What does the latter represent for you?

Black? It’s life, the hive, the woman’s womb. It’s also the blackness of creation, the colour of Plato’s cavern, the cosmos… But it’s not the colour that matters, it’s what we do with it! The black of my obsidian sculptures is a very incisive, solemn mirror-black. An almost pictorial black. The black in La Grande Vague is a black-reflection, made up of iridescence. The obscurity in it is full of mystery, a “disturbing marvelousness”.


Let’s get back to La Grande Vague. You say that it in no way corresponds to “museum logic”. What do you mean by this?

It’s a difficult, heavy piece that requires a long assembly and disassembly procedure [editorial note: the piece is 5 metres deep, 15 metres wide and 6 metres tall]. In order for an institution to display it at length, enormous storage capacities are required. Of course, it could find its place in a foundation wishing to protect works. But this is not a vision shared by most French establishments. Perhaps it’s up to me to create such a place? I’m thinking about it more and more.


Your Grande Vague is powerful and impressive, almost architectural. How do you define your relationship with architecture?

Undeniably attracted by the monumental, I wish to focus on the creation of “monsters” that dialogue with space, the public, outside of museums. I wish to produce strange, singular, autonomous works that resist market laws. And in my architectural desire, I also identify the violence and immediacy of my first sulphur works. In fact, I feel like I’m at a transition period in my creation. I create “engaged” works in that I exit the well-defined museum context and I wish to bring my work up against different cultures. I also feel that I need to go towards the public via installations that dialogue with architecture. This art is cultivated and in everyone’s reach!


Tell us about its technical design, which seems extremely complex…

The piece required two years of research and one year of pure technical drawings in order to position the bricks in space, in an organic form. To do so, we used cutting-edge aviation-related software such as CATIA, created by Dassault and used by Frank Gehry to make his glass sails.


Apart from Saint-Étienne, what else is happening with you?

The technical drawings behind La Grande Vague were visible at the “Coder le monde” exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, concluding on 27 August, and I now have a solo show on at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, “Motion – Émotion”, where I’m presenting my pearl tornadoes, whose forms recall those shown at the CRAC in Sète, in 2017. In Montréal, they’re mobiles that I worked on using a computer, to create otherworldly ballets between them…




“Jean-Michel Othoniel. Face à l’obscurité”, until 16 September. Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain Saint-Étienne Métropole, rue Fernand-Léger, Saint-Priest-en-Jarez.

“Jean-Michel Othoniel. Motion – Émotion”, until 11 November. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1380 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion, Montreal, Canada.


Laurent Grasso or vibrant Earth energy Thu, 13 Sep 2018 08:28:59 +0000 As autumn gets underway, Laurent Grasso is returning to the Galerie Perrotin with “OttO”, an exhibition which reveals the mysteries of Aboriginal sacred land, through objects and a film going by the same name. The artist has shared with AMA the issues underlying his practice: between the visible and the invisible, the scientific and the sacred…

A Steiner machine, sculptures in hypnotic forms, glass spheres… These are some of the different objects associated with Laurent Grasso’s new film, OttO,  now showing in France for the first time. In this work, the artist continues his work on representing the intangible, and his research on aesthetic, fictional and poetic variations on scientific mythologies, theories or utopias… Explanations follow.


Your new film OttO at the Galerie Perrotin was shot on the aboriginal sacred lands in Australia. What prompted your interest in this area?

In 2016, I was invited by Mama Kataoka to take part in the 21st Biennale of Sydney, and planned to undertake a project for it in the Australian desert. I gathered material about aboriginal culture, their relationship to the cosmos and the invisible, in the earth’s imperceptible vibrations, of which they are the guardians. I decided to make a 21-minute film which has been the starting point of my exhibition at the gallery.


Your film OttO presents deserts accompanied by quite disturbing “music”. What exactly are these sounds?

The title of this film refers to figures after whom the film and exhibition are named. “OttO” is Otto Jungarrayi Sims, a “traditional owner” (symbolic owner) of Aboriginal land in Australia, from the Yuendumu community, but also Winfried Otto Schumann, a German physicist who studied the Earth’s low-frequency resonances. As well as having the same first name, these two figures share an interest in the Earth’s magnetic energy that I tried to get with a high technology material of filming. These spheres have been created and they are a tangible emission from these sacred sites.


What do you set out to express through this new film?

As is often the case in my work, I try to bring into view what is not visible, or at least give a sense of the energy, the vibrations of a place using the tools of our era.


You managed to achieve the same effect through your film “Élysée” in 2016…

Absolutely. After I was invited to participate in the exhibition “Le Secret de L’État” organised by the French National Archives, I put forward the idea of filming the rooms of Élysée, the French presidential palace. By filming the Golden Room, I wanted to offer viewers a completely different vision, for them to sense its invisible essence and show the link between the exercice of power and its use.


Getting back to OttO, this film, which is also very aesthetic, uses special techniques. Can you tell us more about them?

For this topic, I collaborated with a team of ten persons, including a photo director and a postproduction director, and it took about 2 years of work. The filming lasted around fifteen days and was pretty intense. To film the desert, these hills and the original landscapes, we used drones on which thermal and hyperspectral cameras were attached. As these cameras captured infrared and electromagnetic waves, we managed to shoot aerial-view sequences  and others very colorful in which we can make out Otto Jungarrayi Sims’ silhouette. This traditional owner was our guide who helped us get the green light to film these sacred sites.


Negotiating to get the right to film key places of power with magnetic, sacred overtones, seems to be an integral part of your creation…

That’s right, the diplomatic aspect of negotiating access to sites is part of my creative process. These negotiations have been carried out through the intermediary of professor and historian Darren Jorgensen, who put us in touch with Otto Jungarrayi Sims.


How has the Aboriginal community reacted to the film? Did you show it to them?

The Warlpiris validated the film. They’re traditional owners, in other words, they have the symbolic property and not the material one. Even if I was aware of their delicate and dramatic political situation, my wilful objective was to approach the film as an artistic collaboration with them, without any authoritarian view. This was possible because Otto himself is an artist, like his father, whose work, incidentally, was shown in the major exhibition “Les Magiciens de la Terre”, at the Centre Pompidou, organised by Jean-Hubert Martin.


Film turns out to be one of your privileged tools. What role does it hold in your work?

For me, it is an instrument of power that is part of a very diversified practice. My tools are the camera, the subject, music, sound, movement… I imagine objects, immersive setups by studying certain mechanisms – forces, frequency, radiation –, and I set out to provoke questions in the viewer. Through my pieces, I try to understand what types of stories humans need to tell in order to exist.


Tell us about these stories. In this exhibition, we find objects in all forms and materials…

I create machines, active here, in order to prevent confining myself to purely anthropological reflections. I like associating proven scientific beliefs and others that are less solid, in order to create fictions around the issues of representation, but also power and control, in our society. For this exhibition, I invented machines and objects inspired by the 20th. At the entrance of the film-projection room, “OLOM” welcomes visitors: a sculpture inspired by the Multiple Wave Oscillator (editorial note: known in French as the “Oscillateur à Longueurs d’Onde Multiples”, hence OLOM), designed by Russian engineer Georges Lakhovsky in 1930 to treat patients with frequencies. There’s also “The Owl of Minerva”, a monumental work in onyx based on a series originally designed for a commission from the Institut de France which has Minerva as emblem. It also alludes to the Dreaming, which links the owl to the Aboriginal sacred site referred to in the film…


We also see paintings and all sorts of incredibly intriguing machines.

That’s right, there are paintings including one on silver leaf showing Otto, but also “Schumann’s metal-conducting spheres” diffusing resonances, an onyx electric ray to represent this fish used from antiquity onwards for medicinal purposes, some mysterious and esoteric “radionix” machines… This exhibition is about immaterial (such as argon gaz, neon, frequencies) and material that has supposed to have a certain magnetism.


Are you something of an artistic alchemist?

I work with contemporary tools like an artist of today. There’s nothing mysterious about it! But I like stirring things up by combining scientific approaches to other more irrational ones… I try to work in areas where our rational beliefs may be tested by things far less so, and that start off by being analysed in our societies. I’m always working with History, on this hazy border between the sacred and the scientific, the visible and the intangible…




“OttO”, until 6 October. Galerie Perrotin, 76 Rue de Turenne, Paris 75003.

Alain Lombard, the new head of the Collection Lambert Sat, 07 Jul 2018 12:54:51 +0000 A graduate of the French administration school ENA, he was previously secretary general of the Villa Médicis, a cultural attaché in Budapest, but also general administrator for the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie… His name ? Alain Lombard, who this year takes over from Éric Mézil at the helm of the Collection Lambert. An encounter in Avignon.


The news was released on 5 February this year… Éric Mézil, who had directed the Collection Lambert since 2000, would be handing over his position to Alain Lombard. After working for 17 years alongside dealer Yvon Lambert, Éric Mézil has left an enduring print on the Avignon cultural landscape, marked by ambitious programming. We remember of course his big solo exhibitions: Cy Twombly in 2007, Miquel Barceló in 2010, Andres Serrano in 2016, or more surprisingly, the outside-the-walls show, in 2014, in the former Sainte-Anne prison, titled “La Disparition des lucioles”. Now at the helm, Alain Lombard has taken on the mission of bringing life to this extraordinary contemporary-art collection… Indeed, the Collection Lambert, born in 2000 in Avignon, is quite a special museum. The works owned by art dealer and collector Yvon Lambert were long stored in the Hôtel de Caumont, and the donation of over 550 works to the French State only became official in July 2012. Now housed in two eighteenth-century townhouses – after the addition of the Hôtel de Montfaucon to the project –, the Collection Lambert offers a selection of major works from the second half of the 20th century and the start of the 21st century.


Can you tell us about your background?

I had the fortune to be able to choose to join the French Ministry of Culture when I graduated from the ENA, and I’ve worked there since 1982, in the central or decentralised administration, as well as a few overseas missions. This was notably how I became secretary general of the Villa Médicis in Rome, director general of the Villa Arson in Nice, general administrator for the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie, and regional director of cultural affairs in Lyon.


Since the Collection Lambert was launched in 2000, artistic direction has been undertaken by Éric Mézil, and there has only been one external curator invited in the last 17 years. What programming changes do you plan to bring about?

My role with regard to the Collection is both administrative and artistic, but my background is very different from that of my predecessor, so I will not be doing any curating. External curators wil be contributing to our projects, such as Éric de Chassey, director of the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, for this summer’s exhibition on Ellsworth Kelly.


What project were you chosen to accomplish as director?

Strictly speaking, there wasn’t any detailed project drawn up for my appointment. Yvon Lambert accepted the proposal made by the president of the Collection, Jean-Luc Choplin, to bring changes to the association’s governance in order to ensure its longevity and development, and the board unanimously decided to appoint me.


Several times, the Collection has been in deficit. How do you anticipate improving the financial aspect?

I wish to speak about the future and not the past. Expenses need to continue to be kept in control, without any compromise on the artistic quality of propositions, and resources need to be developed. My aim is to ensure the longevity of the Collection Lambert. My background as a State administrator guarantees, a priori, that attention will be paid to the soundness, balance and good management of accounts. The development of visitor numbers is a key factor for better financial balance.


The Collection Lambert is housed in two townhouses. How will the permanent collection now be presented?

I would like the permanent collection’s works to be shown more regularly. The Hôtel de Caumont will now generally be devoted to the permanent collection, the Hôtel de Montfaucon to temporary exhibtions. The Hôtel de Caumont thus opened on 15 June with a selection from the permanent collection, including a focus on Sol LeWitt, of whom the Collection Lambert possesses around forty works. The selection and the focus will be renewed on a regular basis. We’re spoilt for choice given the number of artists represented in the collection.


With a collection that holds works by Robert Combas as well as Anselm Kiefer or Robert Mangold, how will works be selected? By genre, period, or by presenting this diversity?

The works presented will reflect this diversity. They will be chosen in close collaboration with Yvon Lambert. There will not necessarily be any direct ties with the temporary exhibitions, even if the first focus on Sol LeWitt offers a type of counterpoint to the Ellsworth Kelly show presented this summer.


What exhibitions are you holding?

Three complementary exhibitions are being presented this summer until 4 November, on top of the selection from the permanent collection. The exhibition on Ellsworth Kelly, organised by the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, offers discovery of a wide panorama by this major artist who died recently, through fifty or so prints recently donated by the artist’s studio to the INHA, accompanied by around fifty works from public and private collections – often large formats that have not previously been shown in public. We are also presenting two exhibitions as part of our partnership with two of the region’s important cultural structures: the Festival d’Avignon, with an exhibition by Claire Tabouret, a young French artist whose work has been much noticed and who lives in Los Angeles, and the Rencontres d’Arles, with an exhibition on Christian Lutz.


You wish to develop partnerships and to encourage sponsorship…

Like all structures of our type, we need to diversify our resources. Our sponsorship is already well developed. Yvon Lambert managed to persuade some of his friends and partners to support his project. But the most important source of income of our own is ticket sales, and development of visitor numbers is a major issue. For example, we are backing the wager of increasing the share of festival-goers who’ll come to visit us by signing a partnership with the festival as an off event, with half-price rates for all festival-ticket holders.


Admission fees are no longer charged in municipal museums in Avignon. You won’t be going in the same direction?

I’m not sure that free admission is the best way to develop visitor numbers, and we need this source of income, even if we would like to facilitate access to the Collection. We have developed a joint ticket with the Carré d’Art in Nîmes, the Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain for the PACA region and the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh, in Arles. There’s also a “digial pass” project that is set to gather different museums in the Vaucluse region.


The Collection Lambert is not a private museum…

That’s right, the Collection is based on a donation of 550 major contemporary-art works made to the State by Yvon Lambert, and housed in these prestigious venues made available by the Avignon town authorities. In legal terms, this is not a foundation but an association, within which all public authorities are represented. We consist of a small team of sixteen persons, excluding security staff, making up a total of 35 jobs. Our financing is mainly from public sources.


Would you like to obtain the “Musée de France” (Museum of France) label?

We haven’t ruled this out, we’re thinking about it. For now, we’re going to ask for the label as a “contemporary-art centre of national interest” by drawing up an artistic and cultural plan in this direction.


Will guest artists still have the possibility of getting their works to dialogue to the Collection’s – the way that Djamel Tatah did last winter?

This will be the case for the winter exhibition, from 4 December onwards on Francesco Vezzoli. At the same time, I wish to continue our relationship with art schools in France by staging a new edition – number three – of “Rêvez”. We’ll be showing works by young artists just out of art schools in the South of France.





The Collection Lambert is offering, from this summer onwards, a programme divided into two components, in each of its two townhouses. On the one hand, an exhibition made up of a selection of works from the Collection’s permanent collection, presented at the Hôtel de Caumont, with focuses on selected movements or artists who are particularly well represented within the Collection. On the other hand, one or more temporary exhibitions, presented twice a year at the Hôtel de Montfaucon to offer a new look at the production of well-renowned artists or to promote the work of newly spotted creators on the international art scene.


Ligne Forme Couleur. Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015) dans les collections françaises”, “Claire Tabouret”, “Christian Lutz. Anatomies du pouvoir”, until 4 November. Collection Lambert, 5 rue Violette, Avignon.


Images that come to life… Sat, 07 Jul 2018 12:46:48 +0000 Art critic, journalist and former head editor of AMA, Clément Thibault is also a curator. He is presenting, in Paris, “Rituels, Images vivantes”: an exploration of the things handed down from magic and shamanistic thought and surviving in the work of contemporary artists.  On show at H Gallery.


Why, in 2018, would anyone set up an exhibition on the permanence of images, gestures and ideas derived from magic thought and living on in contemporary art? Firstly, because spirituality, as a whole, is experiencing a resurge in interest, echoed and sometimes initiated by artists. Western societies are on the lookout for magic again, and seeking to emerge from long centuries of all-triumphant phenomenology and the excesses of rationalism. As if there were a need to rekindle ties, sometimes awkwardly, with the inexplicable. For some time now, scientific writings have had a lot to say about modified states of consciousness and timeworn religious practices. The New Zealand parliament has recognised the Whanganui River as a living entity with its own legal identity… There are countless examples of this spiritual upsurge, nurtured by ecological stances, rethinking about humans as opposed to non-humans, and the development of non-anthropocentric materialism, supported by global networking. The second reason is because the H Gallery space and layout are well suited to such an exhibition: its two rooms separated by a corridor are like two states separated by a passageway. A layout that offers an architectural metaphor of ritual.


The effects of ritual

The intention, in the first space, was to consider the way in which the iconography of ritual inspires artists, before examining the idea of living images. The fact that an image plays with its referent, and cultivates a type of haziness with it, is a classic basis of all magic thought, as Michel Melot wrote in his work Une brève histoire de l’image (Bulletin des bibliothèques de France, 2007). If one considers the notion of the ritual in particular, we very quickly observe that this is generally an act of mediation, of a rapprochement of worlds, through the use of images. To heal and protect, to consult the Elders, and also to access knowledge, practitioners make use of analogy or metonymy. Recipients of magic powers act thanks to mediators, totems, staffs, dances, chants or drumbeats, masks or effigies… Among these are Isabelle Levenez’s shaman staffs and divining rods, displayed near watercolours that she has been producing since the start of the 1990s. Watercolours in which Isabelle Levenez uses the liquidity of water-diluted pigments to superimpose forms – figures and faces, skulls, animals, objects and plants. A man’s face on which a reptile’s skull is superimposed… Suggesting the drawing together of interiorities, of souls, of two beings. An animist image. Jeanne Susplugas’ photographs also move in this direction. Mask (2009), the photo of a human lifting a mask up to their face, initially suggests an aseptic, clinical, alienating world. But there is something magical about the act being performed by this individual, immortalised while donning the mask, eyes left in darkness. The person’s identity vanishes behind that of the mask.  This photograph is displayed near a 1930s mask – a “zakpei ge”, more commonly known as a “fire-watcher mask”, used to monitor fires in villages and to punish those who stir them up too much, at the risk of creating a wildfire.

The exhibition has been structured to combine images by contemporary artists with works by classical African and art brut artists – even if the distinction between art brut / contemporary art is a question worth delving into more deeply. Melvin Way’s notes thus stand alongside Aurore Pallet’s works. The former’s notes – modest-sized talismans that Melvin Way keeps in his pocket or hidden in his books – are produced over time by sticking together pieces of paper covered with mathematical or chemical formulae, accompanied by enigmatic words and symbols, then topped with sticky tape in certain parts. In an interview with collector Bruno Decharme, Melvin Way declared that he didn’t draw but performed the “science of healing, medical science” – a science that nurtures his obsession for space and time, the links between the cosmos, the Earth and the individual. Meanwhile, Aurore Pallet has produced, for the exhibition, paper transfers glued to a canvas, which draw inspiration from “active images” – images carried for their active effects by an individual struck by an affliction. The sign in one first work refers to active effects used to reconcile an individual’s cosmic and telluric forces; the sign in a second work refers to active effects that accompany change in harmony.

One of Melvin Way’s notes, offering a definition of “tropisme”, also matches work by Ritual Inhabitual, a collective made up of two artists of Chilean origin: taxidermist Florencia Grisanti and video artist Tito González García. The artistic duo has completed a documentary and photographic project on the Mapuche – literally, the “people of the Earth”, a set of indigenous communities in the south-central zone of Chile and Argentina. Produced using the wet-collodion process (a photographic technique invented by Gustave Le Gray in the mid 19th century), their portraits of shamans and plants in the region are striking for their beauty, precision and delicate shades of grey. But the project quickly reveals a more political side. The whole ethnological tradition surrounding the Mapuche has proven erroneous as it is founded on ethnographic documents that are inaccurate: photographers using the same wet-collodion technique at the start of the 20th century, rather than taking objective portraits, projected a Western gaze on their subjects. This project thus becomes a way to soothe a historical wound… For the exhibition, Ritual Inhabitual has also produced two pieces based on a royal python: the knot of its vertebral column, and a series of cards inspired by a spider-divination ritual, the N’gam, used by the Bafias in Cameroon.


A passage to living images

Following the trail of walking artists like Hamish Fulton, Arthur Novak made two voyages to Amazonia (in 2014 and 2017), which have nourished his artistic practice. The discovery of the flora and fauna, age-old survival methods, living in the forest with the blessing of the region’s shamans… These moments spent in another world seep through his large-format charcoal drawings, his sculptures, as well as his documentary and archive work. Arthur Novak sometimes alludes to a feeling of “amazonism”, similar to a new type of orientalism. Just as Edward Saïd pointed out that 19th century artists projected their fantasies, namely a quest for origins, in North Africa, perhaps we also project our fantasies of a rediscovered union with nature and spirituality, in these territories that remain exotic to us? For the exhibition, Arthur Novak has created a large-scale wall drawing between the exhibition’s two spaces: the leaves of a palm grove invade the corridor, like those that a person pushes aside before discovering a clearing.

This wall drawing offers a passage from one exhibition space to the other, as from one state to another, peopled with living images: first the dolls of Michel Nedjar and his more recent series of drawings, infiltrated by childhood and primitivism, life and death, magic and travels. The same goes for Sandrine Elberg’s camera-less photographs. Ever since this artist acquired a studio in 2013 and constructed a darkroom, her work has focused on photographic research anchored in the exploration of images straight out of a cosmic imaginary realm and taking frequent recourse to play on scale. Are we in the micro or the macro? In matter, the cosmos, or a poetic space? Her two prints from the Corps célestes series were produced without a camera, purely from dark-room experiments using scanned Polaroids – no longer on sale and past their expiry date, the chemical composition of these Polaroids are only all the more unstable. Obtained out of sight, through an artistic process that is not unlike ritual, these images demonstrate a capacity to reveal life, a spirit beyond the visible. In some way, they recall the long-exposure shots that 19th century mediums produced to prove the existence of the spirit world.

The exhibition concludes with Caroline Le Méhauté, whose sculptural work is characterised by strong presence in space, a certain physical power. Through her frequent use of coco peat, Caroline Le Méhauté places her works in close proximity to nature. Note that a large number of her pieces are “Négociations” (negotiations), thus reflecting an artist who does not create ex nihilo in a godlike act whereby the artist acts all-powerfully over matter. Negotiation is a type of economy. In sculpture, it manifests a non-anthropocentric vision of matter, which sometimes flirts with political intentions. At first sight, Négociation 57 – Grow, grow, grow looks like a heap of the type seen elsewhere in contemporary art – think Bernard Pagès’ heap of gravel or Bernar Venet’s heap of coal, not forgetting Félix González-Torres’ pile of sweets, Yoko Ono’s stacks and even the facetious ones in Ruben Östlund’s film The Square (2017). Unlike the aforementioned heaps, Caroline Le Méhauté’s version is enlivened by delicate breathing. The Earth breathes… Beside this work is an Akan statuette (Côte d’Ivoire, circa 1930), a representation of motherhood, from which the child (originally clinging to the mother’s back) has vanished due to the vicissitudes of time. A poignant poetic absence. An allegory of maternity that is all the more eloquent.

In 1971, Mircea Eliade published La Nostalgie des origines, a work gathering different articles on methodology and the history of religions, from which emerged a project, one might say a fantasy: that this historian specialising in religion, in a desacralized society, might contribute towards elaborating a new spirituality, a “new humanism”, by bringing the West face to face with the worlds foreign to it, both in time and space. Artists too, by drawing inspiration from these living images, these gestures and ideas from other worlds, by combining their culture with other ones, prepare the ground for the emergence of new ways of seeing the world, new spiritualities. The exhibition Rituels, Images vivantes unveils these images. Just as it does the permanence of other functions of art… and the permanence of art itself.




“Rituels, Images vivantes”, until 21 July. H Gallery, 90 rue de la Folie-Méricourt, Paris 75011.


Hicham Berrada or the world of potentials Sat, 07 Jul 2018 12:39:33 +0000 He’s a “chemical-reaction manager” who explores scientific protocols. Through his revisited Land Art, Hicham Berrada mingles with living things, but often on a molecular scale. An artist with a yen for chemistry, he reinvents a number of natural processes to create highly original landscapes. Situated somewhere between nature and artifice…


Have you ever seen a field of dandelions releasing white haloes in the middle of the night? Or a blue cloud forming in a matter of seconds, like a turbulent sky painted by eighteenth-century French artist François Boucher? Or else timeless landscapes materialising from fragile aquatic gardens, or abstract galaxies being born before your eyes? What, you might ask, is the key to this magic? Yet Hicham Berrada is not a magician but a virtuoso in physics experiments. An alchemist-artist, he orchestrates chemical combinations in the way that a painter will play with the colours on his palette. In his studio, there are no canvases but little boxes stacked up on top of one another. Waiting to be activated to express their magic and to unfurl dreamlike landscapes.


I discovered your work in 2013 at a collective exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo. How has your practice evolved since?

In 2013, I spent a year at the Villa Medici. This is where I started off a number of research projects. The experience allowed me to go on to produce Mesk-Ellil (2015), and Masse et martyr (2017), artificial bronze creations that I presented at the Abbaye de Maubuisson until April. Creation is often a very long process. The time factor is a key component of my work. These objects evolve, I have to keep them in my studio for one or even two years before I can show them.


Do you mean that you don’t know the visual outcome of your works in advance?

No, I don’t know the results of this time-space combination. No one does, not even scientists. For example, how long can a piece of salt last in an oversaturated environment?


What role do you play in the creative process that emerges from these physical phenomena?

My artistic role is to select the conditions, namely of the boxes, whether they be aquariums or terrariums, so that the form can be born by itself. The main idea being that I don’t touch the objects. It’s a matter of staging these bits of nature. None of the images I produce represents a vision. They are real elements, reflected by the series’ names such as Présage, containing the idea of experimentation, of portents, suggesting what oceans might look like in this ecosystem in a few million years. With no more life as we know it, but other forms, namely mineral ones. To achieve this, I set up protocols, recipes in the scientific sense of the term. They are very precise and need to guarantee the perfect reproducibility of the experiment, as many times as necessary.


What role does chance play in your work?

Chance is present in the studio. I allow myself to consciously carry out unmeasured trials. I leave room for intuition. But in museums, in my performances, I apply recipes that have been tested 30, sometimes 50 times in the studio. For example, when I was at the Villa Medici, I carried out trials with dandelions dissolved in acid, which gradually made up a galaxy. I tried this out hundreds of times, but never managed to reproduce the same effect.

I even asked scientist friends to help me… There’s no doubt that there was a parameter that eluded me. This is where the unforeseen comes in. So I content myself with showing the video that captures the first trial.


Is performance your main means of expression?

Not necessarily. Photography is also very present. I often use it at the end of a performance. For example, in the work called Un serpent dans le ciel, photography features in the performance’s final sequence. Meanwhile, my videos show actions carried out without a public, that end up on photographs. Ultimately, what remains of action is a narrated story. Videos and photos are tools for recording reality. I never fiddle with photos, colours or duration. It’s extremely important for me to remain grounded in reality, but through images that don’t resemble it. What comes out through this is a bit like the hallucinatory mechanism: seeing the unexpected emerge in a real space.


Unlike the tools that fix them in time, aquariums are landscapes that constantly evolve…

What actually happens is that they follow an evolutionary curve before settling. For certain compositions, I manage to get evolutions that last up to six months. Next, they reach a state of equilibrium: all reactions are completed and the landscape remains relatively unchanged. But I see them more like a music score that we play over and over again. For when the works become part of an institution or collection, it’s the protocol that is sold. In reality, they’re paintings with a time factor. So it’s important for me not to leave them more than six or 12 months as they are. I like the idea of being able to reactivate them at different times and seeing the landscapes evolve all the time, like a fragment of real landscape. However, with the bronze landscapes, the temporalities are longer. In this case, they could continue to exist until the bronze itself vanishes. According to corrosion experts, this would take 15,000 years in air, 5-6,000 years in water.


Why have you made chemistry the base of your artistic work?

At first, I was fascinated by morphogenesis. All special natural forms such as crystals, plants, sea grass beds and the principles governing them. This is the repertoire of forms that primarily interests me. Namely those forms with far greater complexity than stone and which have the power to regenerate. These are forms that don’t undergo erosion. They’re inalterable, unlike living things. In my performances, Rapport de lois universelles (2012) and Fleurs (2015), I examine the movement of iron nanoparticles. One is exposed to a magnetic field produced by two poles that each tries to draw the highest number of nanoparticles; the other is exposed to a single pole, attacked by a high-pressure air jet. I was fascinated by this form that can re-form identically. I also like the idea of finding metaphors for human feelings in real-life phenomena. This notion existing between abstraction and reality, where we have nothing to hold onto except for our own feelings.


Why don’t you work more with plants?

They’re infinitely more complex to manage whereas I’m driven by the desire to control matter. Living things are always more complicated; chemistry and minerals are more stable. I carried out trials with dandelions during the Bloom project in 2012. This is not a chemical but a physical procedure: photonasty – the fact that certain plants respond to light stimuli, both by day or by night. If we provide enough light, the plant can even bloom in the middle of the night. Obviously, this is quite difficult to control because we’re dependent on seasons and flowering cycles.


Do your test results live up to your expectations?

Generally, I’m neither disappointed nor amazed by them. I approach things more as an observer, so in the end I don’t really judge them. I don’t necessarily have expectations about the outcomes of experiments. What’s important is for there to be a visible outcome.


Do you sometimes work with scientists?

Some pieces are works created by teaming up with scientists. This is the case of the work called Galvaniser, at the École Nationale Supérieur des Ingénieurs en Arts Chimiques et Technologiques (ENSIACET) in Toulouse. For this project, I worked with a corrosion expert. The work is made up of columns that house different metals together. When they’re placed in contact with one another, an electrical potential is created and the less noble metal oxidises more quickly. Together, we gathered these metals with aesthetics in mind, but also their electrical potential. The goal was to end up with a work that can last for 400 years while also evolving. In concrete terms, the columns shrink and can lose up to one millimetre per year, while others may disappear.


You describe yourself as an “energy manager”. Is there a spiritual dimension to this term?

The answer is much colder; it’s in terms of physics. Heat, cold, electricity, pressure and physical forces… If we take the example of Présage, this is a video recorded during performances, inside a jar that I see as a blank canvas, where I try to activate different chemical reactions so that their cohabitation leads to the creation of a landscape in a matter of minutes. Here we touch on the idea of an ecosystem. But I find it interesting that we can see things this way, that the experiments can be understood as being mystical.


In your current or future research, are there discoveries that you anticipate and are yet to reach?

Yes, absolutely. I’m always searching, I base myself a great deal on my intuition. At the moment, I’d like to try to work with large quantities of water. There are some reactions that only come about under the pressure of one metre of water. From July onwards, I’ll be in Lens, in the Pinault Collection residence. I’ll be able to think about the issue over there because the studio there is higher-performance than this one. I’ll be able to work with larger aquariums, which will allow new forms to appear. A new writing repertoire of sorts.




Hicham Berrada is represented by the Galerie Kamel Mennour in Paris, the Wentrup Gallery in Berlin and CulturesInterface in Casablanca.

Klein continues to conquer Sat, 07 Jul 2018 12:33:44 +0000 After the immersive installation featuring Gustav Klimt at the Atelier des Lumières in Paris, it’s Yves Klein’s turn to get the augmented-reality treatment. See you this summer in Nice for a digital dive into the “blue Revolution”. A real eyeful!


Yves Klein was born in Nice… in 1928. So it comes as no surprise that the 90th year since his birth is being celebrated this year on the French Riviera. Where things get a bit more unforeseen is that the exhibition-homage in his honour is being held… in the middle of a shopping centre: Nicetoile, in other words 19,600 m² wholly devoted to blatantly consumerist desires. But the most hair-raising detail about the venture is the hanging: an immersive installation that flirts with augmented reality! In short, from the art of shopping to the art market, Yves Klein, the eternal apostle of the intangible, returns in a digital version. Here, original works have been digitised and transformed into 3D ultra-HD format by the company LEXPO Augmentée, in collaboration with Artcurial Culture. Titled “La vibration de la couleur” (The vibration of colour), this first module of a digital retrospective set to travel around for a period of ten years is an absolute wonder. But let’s first take a step back in time…


We’re at the start of the 1960s. Castro has just come into power in Cuba, while in New York, economist John Kenneth Galbraith is on the verge of publishing The Affluent Society. Against this backdrop, in Europe, the Nouveaux Réalistes (New Realists), led by art critic Pierre Restany, offer their take on seeing objects. As distant cousins of the American Pop Art movement, the members of this somewhat hazy collective set to work in earnest. Exaltation of the object, a sense of performance, appropriation of reality… The preoccupations of New Realism are complex. The series of works began with Martial Raysse’s plastic objects, flamboyant icons of consumer society, and finished off with the compressed car wrecks dear to César, the ultimate figures of entropy. To put a little order into this collective rush of fever, Pierre Restany threw on board one of the postulates to which he alone held the secret: “New realism = new perceptive approaches to reality.” The die was cast. On Thursday 27 October 1960, the New Realists signed, at the Parisian home of Yves Klein on Rue Campagne-Première, a founding declaration for the movement. Drafted by Restany in nine copies, the manifesto was “the indispensable prelude to the Blue Revolution”. Thereon followed ten years of creation that spawned astonishing sculptures, smashed pianos, sundry accumulations and barricades made of rusty petrol barrels. On 27 November 1970, the group was dissolved with great pomp and circumstance, upon the tenth anniversary of New Realism in Milan. Everything had been said. But let’s get back to Klein.


When the “Void Exhibition” filled up

Paris, 28 April 1958. It was in a bare-walled gallery that Yves Klein showed “le Vide”, the void. Iris Clert’s gallery was entirely repainted in white for the occasion. On the picture rails, not a single painting, nothing but “le Vide”. No more, no less. To create a bit more atmosphere, roadside windows were covered in the famous “Klein blue”, which added a surreal touch to the scene. It was within this blue girdle that everything would be played out. At number 3 on the Rue des Beaux-Arts, French Republican Guards welcomed visitors invited to an atypical opening. At the entrance, blue cocktails were served to lovers of new sensations. The only off note in this colourful scene was that the French Prefecture took exception to the bluish illumination of the Obelisk on the Place de la Concorde. But no big deal – this “Exposition du Vide” pulled in the crowds, each soaking in the venue’s feel. There was talk of cosmic energy and universal ideals… With his knack for moulding passions, Klein was at the summit of his art at the time. Both bold and lyrical, he would declare that “in the heart of the void as well as the heart of man, there are fires that burn.” This was it: the intangible claimed its victory.


Act two: the pressure goes up a notch

Klein had glimpsed these “fires that burn” early on. As of his first monochrome canvases at the start of the 1950s, he had perceived the intensity of pure colour. Following in the trail of Malevich and his White Square on White painted in 1918, Klein valiantly continued to explore limits. Using a paint roller to cover canvases in the one colour, his Propositions mononchromes would open the way to a new “pictorial sensibility”. From 1957 onwards, his fascination with powdered pigments prompted Klein to kick off his “blue period”. An original dark blue, picked up from the depths of the colour spectrum. A blue verging on ultramarine, so unthinkable that in the absence of an apt existing name, a new name was invented for it: IKB, for International Klein Blue. The famous “Klein blue”, carved out from the skies of Nice, lifted off the edges of Giotto’s paintings, would become the artist’s signature. So much so that it would, from then on, crop up everywhere. In his paintings of course, but also his reliefs, his little Winged Victory figures and his globes, his sponges soaking in this colour, this “concentrated poetic energy”.

But Klein didn’t stop there. The “Blue Revolution” was underway. In November 1959, the artist made his first sale of a “zone of intangible pictorial sensibility”. Say what? In short, Klein sold air. The air of Paris, several squre cubes of Vide, a bit of blue sky? One thing is certain in any case: in exchange for an invoice, the lucky buyer handed over 160 grammes of fine gold – which Klein immediately threw into the Seine!


Blue sponge forests

Klein was a big fan of this type of ritual. Practising both judo and Rosicrucianism, the visionary Klein, a knight of the medieval order of St. Sebastian, cultivated a taste for performance. Which he proved once again on 9 March 1960 with his stunt in public, in collaboration with three naked women. These women became “live paintbrushes” after they applied their bodies, smeared with blue paint, on sheets of white paper to leave their prints… For good measure, Klein played, before the entranced audience, his Symphonie monoton: one single continuous note held for 20 minutes by an orchestra of 20 musicians. It was in this climate of worldly eroticism, tinged with a vague spirituality, that the master of ceremonies, dressed in a tux and white gloves, signed his famous Anthropométries.

And that’s not all. On 27 November, from the top of a suburban house, Klein made his “leap into the void”. Several months later, he produced, using a flamethrower, his first Peintures de feu in a Gaz de France (French gas company) test facility. He created forests of blue sponges, gold monochromes, worked on his Architecture de l’air project, started his Portraits-reliefs series of blue-painted body casts… A creator of utopias and the last great mystic, Yves Klein died on 6 June 1962, suddenly plunging into the “infinite expansion of the universe”, struck down by a heart attack at the age of 34 years.


The digital exhibition

Today, nearly 60 years after his death, Klein continues to fascinate us. The relationships between emptiness and fullness, the bridges between the material and the spiritual… Everything works a spell on viewers. The organisers of the new exhibition obviously understand this appeal, and in close collaboration with the Archives Yves Klein, they have set up an exhibition designed for the general public. Klein is back in a big way, thumbing his nose at conventionalism, in this visual and sound immersion in blue. For this is no less than a new concept in contemporary-art exhibitions as it revolutionises the rules of the genre and pushes back the borders of classic art shows. The idea? To augment the viewer’s experience, in the vein of the immersive installation around the work of Gustav Klimt, held by the Atelier des Lumières, the Parisian digital-art centre managed by Culturespaces. Meanwhile, the project in Nice, dedicated to Yves Klein, is being staged by the company LEXPO Augmentée, specialised in reinterpreting artistic heritage through pop-up exhibitions, digital ephemeral shows outside your run-of-the-mill venue. Founded by Isabelle de Montfumat, the exhibition curator, LEXPO Augmentée chose the Nicetoile shopping centre to celebrate the inventor of the IKB blue. “La Vibration de la couleur” is therefore the first of four works scheduled to travel the world in the next ten years before returning to Europe in 2028, the year marking the centenary of Yves Klein’s birth.

Need we specify that here, the scenography is synced with the visitors’ movements? All part of the touch, visual and acoustic procedures that allow them to interact with Klein’s work. Interaction amplified by Leap Motion, a hand-movement recognition system whose sensors enable viewers to pivot Klein’s sculptures and Reliefs while manipulating the void! Ears are also in for an experience with the Symphonie monoton, diffused in an “octophonic” version… So get ready for your senses to be tickled, and plunge into the deep blue of augmented reality!




The app

This augmented-reality exhibition is enhanced by an additional development: a digital application. Let’s note that in 1957, the Galerie Iris Clert organised, for the opening of the exhibition “Yves le Monochrome”, the release of a thousand-and-one balloons in the sky over the Parisian district of Saint Germain-des-Prés. The performance, baptised Sculpture aérostatique, will be re-enacted this summer… in cyberspace! To mark 90 years since Yves Klein’s birth, visitors can download a special app and activate, in augmented reality, 101 blue and white balloons on their smartphones and tablet devices…




“L’expo augmentée Yves Klein. La vibration de la couleur”, until 30 September. Centre Nicetoile, first floor, 30 avenue Jean-Médecin, Nice.


Jan Fabre or the big Belgian blowout Thu, 07 Jun 2018 12:59:12 +0000 In the last few weeks, a breeze of eroticism and festivity has been blowing through number 28 Rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare, where Daniel Templon recently set up his latest Parisian quarters. To launch his new address, the gallerist is presenting an artist as Belgian as he is inspired: Jan Fabre.


Who better than this protean, corrosive artist to celebrate this new birth, his beguiling and subversively inclined art here tinged with folklore and gaudiness? Yet behind this glitzy burlesque show hides deep reflection on Belgian identity, which the artist, Flemish in origin, continually defends against all extremist stances. An interview accompanied with chocolates (Belgian of course), hovering between religious kitsch and mirthful sacrilege.


How did you design this exhibition “Folklore Sexuel Belge, Mer du Nord Sexuelle Belge”, which rings out like a celebration of life?

You know, Daniel Templon and I met at least 20 years ago. Daniel gave me carte blanche to inaugurate his new Parisian space on Rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare. So I wanted to celebrate the birth my own way! I visited and studied the premises, then partly designed this exhibition in response to the environment.


So you produced some works specifically for the site?

I’m showing some big sculptures produced for the occasion, but also some of my drawings produced between 2017 and 2018, which are small reinvented chromos.


Can you explain what is meant by “chromos”?

In fact, my exhibition is titled “Folklore Sexuel Belge (2017-2018), Mer du Nord Sexuelle Belge (2018), Édité et Offert par Jan Fabre, le Bon Artiste Belge” (Belgian Sexual Folklore (2017-2018), Belgian Sexual North Sea (2018), Edited and Donated by Jan Fabre, the Good Belgian Artist). Part of my inspiration came from our national folklore, but also from those small vignettes found on chocolate bars produced by the Côte d’Or brand, the famous “good Belgian chocolate” of my childhood… I hijacked these chromos by touching them up with irony and humour, bringing some changes that are a little bit suggestive! Framed in a very bourgeois style with red-velvet mounts and gilded cartels marked with “Edited and Donated by Jan Fabre, the Good Belgian Artist”, they contain – if you look carefully – a few subversive bombs. The Nonne au béguinage (Nun from the Beguine convent) waters pots of flowers where phalluses grow; the woman farmer feeding her hens swears like a trooper…


So you play with incongruencies. Is there also, in your work, a desire to combine the popular arts with major arts to allude to the flaws of your country?

Yes, my sculptures on the ground floor – as on the basement floor where the Mer du Nord Sexuelle Belge series is displayed – are works inspired by my country’s popular traditions, its very festive processions and carnivals. But if you look closely, all the sacred objects are distorted. The sculpture La Vierge Marie belge sexy jouant avec le mal shows a dolled-up Madonna with a type of bible bearing an inscription that reads “Je suis Belge” (I am Belgian) in reverse while her left hand pulls the strings of a devil marionette whose outfit is in the colours of our flag. You know, Belgian is a Catholic country with different communities [editorial note: French-speaking Walloons, German-speakers and Dutch-speaking Flemish] and increasingly exacerbated nationalist positions. There are far-right movements that wish to divide our country. Carnival figures like Gilles of Binche or the Blancs-Moussis of Stavelot help rally these identities.


You also referred to this idea of rallying in your last creation for the stage, Belgian Rules/Belgium Rules

Exactly! This exhibition at the gallery was designed along the same lines. It’s a subversive, surrealist, burlesque and carnival-like criticism of Belgium.


Going back to L’Arbre de vie du carnaval belge displayed under the glass roof, what can you tell us about it?

My allusions to sexuality are subversive, granted, but handled in a blithe and lively manner! In these procession pieces, there is constant toing-and-froing between the sacred and the profane. The accessories I use are like metamorphoses somewhere between male organs and carnival masks, pointed hats and female organs. I play on the phenomenon of appearance-disappearance. At the carnival of Alost, all men dress up as women and vice-versa. More generally, when you wear a mask, you hide behind it, and so you can do anything. Ordinary people thus become kings and may engage in subversive behaviour. There are no more limits, borders…


So this is about transgression?

Yes, I transgress codes by referring to the popular and folkloric universe… All in such a way as to celebrate life in all its aspects.


How did you go about creating these elegant, impressive sculptures?

All these works were created from wooden objects that I picked up from second-hand markets, antique stores, carnival associations. I then covered them with glitter in different colours, which gives them this burlesque and kitsch aspect.


Had you already used this medium? Their shininess brings to mind the elytra of beetles…

Yes, that’s true. This sparkling aspect was already present in my previous work on beetle wings. Here was the first time I used this fun, popular, very festive material which I applied on old toys as well as a barrel organ… which is still in working order!


In the gallery’s basement, you show your series on the sea. We see strange shellfish… What does the marine universe mean to you?

The sea – which we can also understand as the nurturing mother [editorial note: in French, mer, “sea”, is a homophone of mere, “mother”] – is the place of birth of all life on Earth. My work is generally on metamorphosis, transmutation. I’m also very interested in the relationship between the arts and science. Every crustacean here reflects the colours of the different communities in Belgium. These shells that I collected have phalluses sprouting from them… This erotic allusion can also be understood in an organic sense. On this note, did you know that Marvin Gaye composed his biggest hit, Sexual Healing, beside the North Sea in Ostend?


You’re an artist, illustrator, performer who uses marble, blood, ink pens, insect elytra… How do you define yourself?

I’m first and foremost a Belgian visual artist, a man of the stage and a writer. In Antwerp, I set up a company in which dance plays an important role.


After Paris what mischief will you be up to next?

My next French exhibition will be at the Fondation Maeght and be called “Ma nation: l’imagination”. I’m showing my Carrera marble works from a more spiritual and fictional perspective…




“Folklore Sexuel Belge (2017-2018), Mer du Nord Sexuelle Belge (2018), Édité et Offert par Jan Fabre, le Bon Artiste Belge”, until 21 July. Galerie Templon, 28 rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare, Paris 75003.

“Ma nation: l’imagination”, from 30 June to 11 November. Fondation Maeght, 623 chemin des Gardettes, Saint-Paul-de-Vence.


The Fondation Martell or the art of self-invention Thu, 07 Jun 2018 12:46:51 +0000 Established at the heart of Cognac’s historic centre, the Fondation d’Entreprise Martell has transformed the Gâtebourse building into a site dedicated to experimentation in savoir-faire: a combination of art, architecture, handicrafts and design. Open and multidisciplinary…

A key architectural feature of the town of Cognac, this former cognac-bottling plant, constructed in 1929 as part of the rise of the International Style, is in the midst of being revamped. By 2021, the building’s 5,000 m2 over five floors will gather exhibition spaces, production workshops, a digital platform, a resource centre, a restaurant and a panoramic café. On the strength of its three-century-long history, Martell is commencing a new chapter stretching towards creativity, research and diverse professions. The Fondation Martell, in the words of César Giron, CEO of the Martell, Mumm, Perrier-Jouët group, is “open to the town, the region, the international sphere, with a multidisciplinary vocation.” Nor has it suffered any shortage of funds since its launch in October 2016, as illustrated by its ambitious programme and an endowment of 5 million euros over 5 years. We meet Nathalie Viot, its very dynamic director…


You are behind the Fondation d’Entreprise Martell’s forerunner programme, and since 1 January 2017, you have been the foundation’s director. How did you envisage its cultural identity?

I proposed a multidisciplinary foundation without a collection. Firstly, I wanted to avoid conservation, maintenance and insurance issues. The other thing is that if you buy art, you have to follow its market, and it was important for us to stay independent. I come from the world of contemporary art; I was previously artistic advisor for the City of Paris and co-director of the Galerie Chantal Crousel, so I’m very familiar with its ins and outs. Instead, we decided to commission designers and craftspersons to create the foundation’s furnishings, objects and lighting, in order to create a usable collection. In some way, the foundation goes back to the idea that was very popular in the 1930s of industrial design as an integral part of our everyday environment.


How did Martell come to set up this corporate foundation?

The family history doesn’t indicate any particular links between Jean Martell or his wife and artists. The company called on illustrators to design its billboards or labels, and followed packaging innovations. In 2001, Martell was taken over by the Pernod Ricard group, and this was ultimately how the cultural path opened up. My role is to commission architects, designers, artists, musicians, choreographers, craftspersons, installations, intangible works, events, etc. I start off by asking them to come to Cognac so that they can soak in the place, the memories, the family history and the House to create links. In 1715, Jean Martell initiated the practice of archiving of everything, and Martell has archives that stretch out over 5 km: from billboards to drawings via travel accounts, different promotion objects and accounting books. This rich documentation constitutes an extraordinary collection of memories and a source of inspiration for guest artists. Of course, the artists are also free to produce creations based on the wider environment – the light, the building, the people – and their own artistic universe.


What is your mission? To endow the brand with a cultural image?

Cognac is one of those towns that has lived for centuries on the reputation of a particular product – Martell has existed since the 18th century. Today, Cognac and its trading houses need to find an identity that is coherent with contemporary society and the rules imposed by legislation. As a result of France’s Évin law, we cannot promote alcohol, and it’s important for us to protect the public, especially young people. Therefore our mission is to promote the territory and its knowhow, to offer exceptional projects designed for our site, and finally, to make Cognac into a new cultural destination.


Do you place great importance on artistic professions?

Indeed, artistic professions are an important pillar of our programme. When I made this suggestion to the chairman of the Pernod Ricard group, who is also chairman of the foundation, he saw the obvious connection with the house’s history and knowhow. Wood, nature, olfaction, glass, basketwork, assembly are all elements that inspire me for the foundation’s programme. If for example we take the example of the Fondation Ricard, which defends emerging French creation, our history is different due to the age of the house and its establishment locally. Let’s not forget that the Martell foundation is set up in a building that was Martell’s former bottling plant. We belong to this territory, and it is through this anchorage in the territory, with an international vision, that I construct the foundation’s identity. We are setting up partnerships with cultural institutions and associations in Cognac and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region – for example the Domaine de Boisbuchet or the Abbaye aux Dames, in Saintes, which since 1974 has played host to one of the biggest ancient-music festivals. In this context, we’ve welcomed choreographer Catherine Contour and sound designers Blue Yéti as residents, and they produced a sensorial and corporal creation paying homage to the Gâtebourse building and its bottling activity. There are also the unique moments orchestrated by Avant-Scène, a theatre in Cognac, or the Chahuts festival in Bordeaux.


You commissioned a temporary pavilion from the Madrid-based architectural agency SelgasCano, inaugurated in June 2017, in which you started off your programme pending the end of construction works…

Before the building’s internal renovations, we asked artist Vincent Lamouroux, in October 2016, to fill 1,000 m2 of the building’s ground floor. He created an immersive work called Par nature, which plunged us into a mineral and vegetal landscape fixed by a white-chalk covering. As we had to close the building for 18 months of works at the end of this exhibition, César Giron, chairman of the foundation, asked me to fill the paved courtyard, in other words, 2,300 m2. It was in this context that I asked the Madrid architects to design a 1,300 m2 space that has been our programme space since June 2017 while giving the whole site a very special character: an innovative futuristic image in the middle of architectures from past centuries. These installations also allow us to establish an ethic in our way of approaching production, through the re-use of materials in the interests of recycling. Once Vincent Lamouroux’s exhibition finished, we threw nothing away: we gave 12 tonnes of sand to the company Verallia, replanted 60 plants on sites of the Martell company, and re-used the wood in the Pavillon Martell by SelgasCano, which itself will find a second life after it is dismounted in October 2018.


The Pavillon was set up in summer 2017 on the Martell premises, in the paved courtyard of the former bottling plant…

Before the foundation’s opening, we wanted to offer an active forerunner of our future activities. The pavilion designed by the Spanish agency SelgasCano allowed the creation of a space open to the town, that is free and accessible by all. This is the first work in France to be completed by these internationally renowned architects. It is quite an organic structure made from polyester and fiberglass rolls by the French brand Onduline, in which we set up spaces with flexible inflatable elements. The indoor itinerary of this structure is punctuated with works and installations by guest artisans. SelgasCano designed a real working tool that each artisan can become a part of, like the two fascinating young basket makers from L’Oseraie de l’Île, who created site-specific works.


Can you describe the development stages of your future venue?

After two years of works carried out by the Bordeaux architecture firm Brochet, Lajus and Pueyo – which notably undertook the renovation of the new Musée de l’Homme in Paris –, with which we are working closely together to develop every floor, we will inaugurate, at the end of June, the ground floor and its 900 m2 of exhibition space, as well as the roof-terrace which has a panoramic café entirely designed by Parisian designers Premices and co along with local craftspersons. In 2019, the first floor will welcome the production workshops, to be followed year after year by the immersive and olfactory universe and its “consultation bubbles”, the restaurant, and finally our offices. The manufacturing workshop is a dedicated space in the form of a residence for artisans and other creators who will be given access to 3D printers (namely for ceramics), ovens for glasswork, laser cutters for wood and dedicated workshops (for fabric, paper, music…), all supervised by a workshop head.


Why is there a space reserved for the digital sphere?

To stay in line with the future and innovation. Digital technology also lets us approach a young public born with these technologies. Getting them to come is also a way for us to adapt to their generation’s tools.


Which artists did you ask to the inaugural exhibition?

The Adrien M & Claire B company has designed a work called L’ombre de la vapeur, using video projectors and presence sensors. Against a continuum of images generated and animated in real time by synchronised computers, infrared computers will detect the presence of spectators who will become protagonists in the work. This poetic digital and interactive installation owes its origins to the Torula, a fungus native to the Cognac region, which mushroomed all over the building before the renovations!



Fondation d’Entreprise Martell. 16 avenue Paul Firino Martell, Cognac.


David Nash, time and nature Thu, 07 Jun 2018 12:38:05 +0000 Wood, erosion and seasons… David Nash’s art is rooted in our planet Earth. We met him in his home in Wales, where he’s hidden himself away in a former chapel. This is where he sculpts his life-size works with the help of a chainsaw and welding torch, watched by an audience of trees. “They look at me…”

David Nash was born in 1945 in Surrey, England. Today acknowledged as one of the most illustrious British exponents of Land Art, he works relentlessly with his material of choice, wood, to create installations or sculptures. While his creations are exhibited in museums all over the world, his largest formats have been created for the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield, or his own home, in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Wales. Here, Nash resides in a former chapel, impressive in its dimensions and brightness. It houses some of his oldest pieces, which Nash is fond of reworking, attesting to a cyclical approach to time. This summer, David Nash’s work is being shown at the Fondation Fernet-Branca near Basel, while another exhibition has recently wrapped up at the Museum Lothar Fisher in Neumarkt, Germany. The Galerie Lelong which represents him in Paris is also unveiling his new works on paper until 13 July.


After you finished your studies, you decided to settle here, in this former church in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Why?

I bought it in 1968 for 200 pounds and as I didn’t have to work to earn money, I was able to devote myself to my art. But I taught in different schools from 1970 onwards, working with students experimenting with all types of mediums. For me, creativity is one and the same whatever the medium, and what I’d teach them in particular was to develop confidence in themselves, whether in painting, sculpture or video art.


You once said that if you’d been an artist in an earlier century, you’d have been a landscape artist. Is this because you’re deeply rooted to this land of Wales?

Even if I experimented with many materials like glass, metal or plastic at the Chelsea School of Art, I found my path using wood, which I already put together as a child after picking pieces up during walks. My grandparents spent most of their lives here in Wales, and my father was born here. He felt very attached to this land. The language is different here, with its own syntax, grammar, and another way of thinking. When this chapel was still operating, it was Calvinistic Methodist, which was quite rare in the midst of many other Baptist, Canonist, Presbyterian congregations… but it also drew many people. In the 19th century, the town developed through the trade of slate, exported all over the British Empire. Before there were only a few farms, but when the factories opened, many workers came to live here. You could count up to 26 chapels in this little town! But even if my roots are here, I nonetheless like how I always feel a bit isolated here in Wales because I didn’t come here to be with people but to be an artist on retreat.


You’re surrounded by hills, forests and clearings. How has this environment fashioned your work?

After two years – the time needed for a space to become part of your body in an almost unconscious manner –, my practice really evolved. My working method is empirical; in other words, I start off from the wood, its form and nature, rather than trying to find a piece from a given idea. Wood is therefore my favoured material even if I started working with bronze ten years ago because I can afford to. This is also a reaction to climatic conditions – having produced sculptures to stand outside –, as my works haven’t always been made in the material best suited to staying outdoors for a very long time… I am keen on experimenting and like being surprised by the results of my own work. I observe the surfaces and reactions of wood. For example, I’ve wondered whether or not to stain it but staining didn’t work for me. So I restrict the use of colour – which I love – to drawings.


So your pieces are often produced in the middle of nature?

Yes, most of my work is done outdoors because it’s not possible to manipulate the materials this way in a studio. And then trees, which are my primary materials, are very heavy, so I’ve taken up the habit of creating sculptures wherever they’ve fallen. Which allows me to take some of the weight off and to move it around already cut. When I take part in overseas exhibitions, namely in Japan, I go and look for resources directly on the spot. For Ash Dome, found a few kilometres from here, and made up of 22 huge ash trees in a circle, I wanted to create a sculpture while constructing a space to mark the new millennium. The idea of time is very important because for on-site works, I commit to having my work stay around for several years. This is what sets me a little apart from Land Art, namely from the 1970s, that consisted of a gesture performed by artists before they moved onto something else. I like to return to my works.


That was also the great era of Arte Povera… Do you see, in your use of raw materials and your return to its essence, a link between this movement and your own work?

At first, I thought that the name of this movement came from the fact that the artists were poor and could only use inexpensive materials. And perhaps that was the initial reason… Then there was an art critic who backed the movement up with philosophical reasoning even if for me this wasn’t the root of the issue. I even met Mario Merz qnd Piero Manzoni, but also Yves Klein, who wasn’t directly part of the movement, but could be associated with it. You know, I’ve never been an assiduous reader of art criticism. When I was a teacher, I had access to many art journals in schools but I only looked at the photographs because I feared being too easily influenced and I prefer staying a little bit isolated.


What was your own education at the Chelsea School of Art like? The last avant-garde movements were underway in those years…

It’s true that we were in the middle of reform in the 1960s. Our art school wasn’t a university and we weren’t obliged to get good results in exams. We focused on practice, so I started off with painting before deciding that I wanted my work to take hold of space rather than existing on a single plane. Artists would come and see us. We were nonetheless taught art, and I had a very good teacher for the period from the pre-Renaissance to the latest in contemporary art.


So you discovered Paul Cézanne…

Yes, his geometry and the way he understood it, like a reconstruction, were very important to me. I was taught to draw in a fairly minimalist way, using cones and cylinders. Constantin Brancusi’s work was also fundamental for me, and also learning that he lived in permanent contact with his works. This enabled me to become aware that I wanted to reside where I worked. At the same time, I really appreciate ancient Chinese painting and the speed with which it’s executed. My temperament pushes me to execute my pieces quickly. Because either I know where I want to go, or else I realise that I’m lost and I simply start something else. So I have many pieces underway, and as you can see in my studio, many pieces of wood that aren’t completed.


It’s really fascinating to discover this superb installation of works – we feel like we’re inside a museum. Probably the biggest museum devoted to your work…

Yes, I’ve wanted to keep many pieces that seemed important to me, since the start of the 1970s. You can see that I always deliberately let myself be dominated by the material to create a form. I don’t imagine, from the outset, making something specific, but it’s as if I seek to get rid of whatever’s superfluous. I’ve used circles and triangles ever since I’ve been really young, just as I discovered Japanese calligraphy very early on. The circle represents the spiritual world whereas the triangle conjures up action, and combining the two we get a cube. Other works result from processes, like bringing together a piece of fresh wood and a lathe, then letting it create a texture and observing the material react… I did this as an exercise even if I knew nothing about conceptual art at the time.


Your methods could be seen as leading to quasi-primitive gestures. Has this been intentional on your part?

This was especially the case of my burnt wood pieces because I wanted to get back to basics or return to the four elements. Wood leads to the idea of the tree, whose strength comes from minerals in the soil and oxygen in the air, whereas fire brings to mind light and heat. Through an association of ideas, the telluric force of the tree is present… Burnt wood is frightening and attractive at the same time. It turns the spectator’s experience towards other deeper, more organic surfaces. When I burn something, its size changes, but also its distance, as well as its sense of time because we no longer know if it’s an old or new piece. Critics have sometimes mentioned the word “truth” in relation to my work, and I think that this is to do with the fact that it’s based on simple materials and tools. We can sense if something is invented or overly sophisticated. But I don’t invent anything and I like thinking that I simply “find” things. Richard Long has also said that squares, triangles and circles are universal forms that haven’t been composed, so they belong to no one. No one can make claims to them, and I admire this idea.


Some critics have defined your work in terms of Buddhism or shamanism…

No, that’s not my approach at all, and on the contrary, I’m very attached to the act of producing. I expect to obtain results from a creation, not in commercial terms but in terms of the pleasure of producing new forms. My prime motivations are very basic, and after that I can think about philosophy and what I am, but through my activity. I’m really a practising artist and I don’t spend much time speaking with other artists.


Even Andy Goldsworthy who you met when you were very young?

It’s true that I spent time with him before he became very famous, and I can say that there’s still a big misunderstanding regarding his work because he isn’t a photographer. He creates pieces, and only for the sake of revealing them does he photograph them. Like Richard Long, for whom performance practice is in the action and not the image, whose goal is simply to leave a trace of it. Richard Long is a very important artist in my mind, and we’re the same age, even if he became known earlier than me… Going back to philosophy, let’s say that I’ve learned from Oriental thought and Taoism that we can’t grow by ourselves. So I can’t deny that there’s a certain philosophy in my work. I don’t want to shut myself up in theory though, but prefer to apply it to daily life. The architect Buckminster Fuller once wrote: “God is a verb”. I love this phrase, which means a lot to me.




“David Nash. First the tree, then the form”, until 3 June. Museum Lothar Fischer, Weiherstraße 7a, Neumarkt (Germany).

“David Nash. New Editions”, until 13 July. Galerie Lelong & Co, 13 rue de Téhéran, Paris 75008 (France).

“David Nash. Nature to nature”, until 30 September. Exhibition with Lelong & Co. Gallery and Annely Juda Fine Art. Fondation Fernet-Branca, 2 rue du Ballon, 68300 Saint-Louis (France).


Centre Pompidou Malaga: three years down the track Thu, 07 Jun 2018 12:26:39 +0000 On the strength of its success, the Centre Pompidou Malaga, inaugurated in March 2015 and initially set up for a five-year period, recently had its stay in Spain extended until 2025. A progress report on its first three years and a review of a pilot project in favour of cultural decentralisation.

Rumours had been flying around the streets of the Andalusian city for several weeks, but it was on 20 February that they were confirmed by Serge Lasvignes, president of the Centre Pompidou, and Francisco de la Torre, the mayor of Malaga. The inaugural planting of the Parisian museum overseas was an experiment. And after three years of operations, the assessment of the Centre Pompidou Malaga is highly satisfactory, resulting in an extension of the project and the prospect of new ones. Two branches will shortly emerge in Brussels and Shanghai.

Museums proliferate in Malaga… Home to 570,000 inhabitants, the city contains no less than 36 museums, including the Museo Picasso, the Museo Carmen Thyssen and the first branch of the Russian Art Museum of Saint Petersburg, inaugurated in the same week as the Centre Pompidou’s Spanish site. This multiplication of art institutions is partially explained by the mayor’s policy, making access to culture a priority. By taking this stand, Francisco de la Torre hopes to boost tourism and bring economic vitality back to Malaga, a city heavily affected by the crisis. To finance the Centre Pompidou project, the municipality paid over 7 millions euros and committed to pay 1.5 million euros every year to the Parisian institution, for use of its image and exhibition design. Museum strategy as a cultural and economic springboard is an appealing idea in itself, but not always adapted to every spot. In the case of Malaga, it seems realistic. As Picasso’s city of birth, endowed with rich archaeological heritage, Malaga is a place where artistic tradition is deeply entrenched in the minds of inhabitants, and represents a major tourist draw. Malaga, a cultural capital? What might seem like a bold policy actually appears to be on track. According to Francisco de la Torre, “the Centre Pompidou gave a big boost to Malaga by upgrading and filling out its offer, while reinforcing its status as a cultural capital on the Spanish, European and global scale.” Meanwhile, Serge Lasvignes made the following declaration to AFP: “The Centre Pompidou Malaga experiment is a success. […] But we can’t fall asleep on our laurels. It’s an adventure that we need to keep pursuing at all times. We need to be creative, to understand our partners’ expectations, and to be attentive to the publics.” The Andalusian city, Spain’s number-four tourist destination, has witnessed a rise in museum visitor rates in the last three years. While the Museo Picasso opening in 2003 remains the most highly visited, the Centre Pompidou comes in second in terms of attractiveness. Between its opening in March 2015 and December 2017, it welcomed 500,000 visitors, 57 % of whom live in Spain. In terms of these Spanish visitors, half come from Malaga. According to Nathalie Vaguer-Verdier, project manager at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, “the future aim in the years to come is to win the local public’s loyalty and to encourage it to return to the different activities on offer.” Jaime Mena de Torres, head of mediation for the Spanish team, seems more confident, and declared in February this year: “We’ve noticed that the events we organise around exhibitions are very successful with Malaga’s inhabitants. They come in the largest numbers on Sundays. They’ve taken up the habit of spending time at the Centre with their families, for a workshop.” Topping a large glass cube that accounts for its nickname “El Cubo”, the Centre Pompidou is found on Quay No. 1 of Malaga’s port: a strategic location frequented by tourists when they get off cruise ships and ferries. Renovated several years ago, Las Ramblas has seen a multiplication of its shops, thus attracting many locals who come by to sip a drink in the sun. From the city’s heights, the site stands out thanks to the squares of colour installed by Daniel Buren on the glass structure. El Cubo is now to Malaga what the Louvre pyramid is to Paris: the city’s symbol, highly prized by photographers and just-married couples… The public was quick to embrace it.

A mini Beaubourg?

Constructed in 2013 by the architecture agency L35, the museum offers 6,000 m² in surface area, corresponding to one floor of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Resembling a pint-sized Beaubourg, the venue holds a temporary space, an auditorium and workshops. Serge Lasvignes recounts: “We had an aim, which was to work out how to choose works that could bring together a Malaga public and a foreign international public. What we needed was to find a balance while refusing facileness.” The Centre Pompidou’s president sought to draw visitors via “headline” artists while also revealing others. The first exhibition, presented since 2015 and featuring works on the theme of the body, was renewed in December 2017 and retitled “Modern Utopias”. Presented by Brigitte Léal, the itinerary retraces historic events that impacted society and artists in the 20th and 21st centuries. Protagonists, witnesses or victims of History, modern artists have, over time, resuscitated symbolic shapes and figures that support or denounce the dreams and ideals of humanity. During the exhibition’s opening, Serge Lasvignes and Francisco de la Torre presented it in the following way: “At a time when, in a globalised world subject to new and unforeseeable tensions, it is important to preserve our values and undertake deep-reaching transformations, utopia – this myth that rhymes with both promise and nostalgia – is becoming a topic that deserves our attention. […] This endless, age-old yearning for a new life and society finds its best means of expression in contemporary art when the decision is made to reunite creation and life. These are the modern utopias that bring meaning to this new exhibition of the Centre Pompidou’s collections in Malaga – which is also a manifestation of the utopian vision shared by the cities of Paris and Malaga. The avant-gardes gave free rein to their dreams at a time when a chimerical wall of protection was raised against different forms of totalitarianism. The collective trauma of World War II led to a necessary rebirth, from ashes, of the ideals of fraternity, pointing to social relationships founded on democratic bases – a notion which fashioned architecture in particular, given the need for reconstruction after the devastation.” Presenting 63 works by 60 artists, the exhibition is divided into six parts: The Great Utopia, The End of Illusions, Together, The Radiant City, Imagining the Future, and The Golden Age. Artists from around the world are represented, including Wassily Kandinsky, Robert Delaunay, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso and Frank Stella. Parallel to this exhibition, scheduled to run until March 2020, numerous events have been planned, namely the Hors Pistes festival partnering the local and Parisian teams. Although the mother institution and the branch collaborate on the programme, no decisions can be confirmed without the agreement of the French institution, owner of the name and the collections being presented: in other wores, the Spanish can put forward propositions, but remain dependent on the Parisian team. However, in the interests of fitting into the local scene, the Parisians remain open to propositions to promote Spanish artists: a strategy for drawing more local visitors. So even if the Centre Pompidou Malaga’s facilities and programme have turned it into something like a mini Beaubourg, in the long run it may well evolve towards developing its very own identity.

Malaga, an experimental project

Following Malaga, the Centre Pompidou is continuing on the same path and will open another branch in Shanghai in 2019, then another in Brussels sometime in 2022-2023. The Belgian branch will be taking over a former Citroën garage, built in 1933, on the edge of a canal. The building will be renovated by whichever architecture agency wins the competition – the winner’s name will shortly be revealed. To keep the public happy in the meantime and to win its loyalty, the Brussels-Capital region has asked the Parisian team to offer a preview before the renovation works commence. So over thirteen months, from 5 May to June 2019, the garage will be running a programme, featuring live performance in particular, curated by Bernard Blistène, director of the Musée National d’Art Moderne. Nearly six times larger than El Cubo, the 35,000 m² space in Brussels is set to offer a modern- and contemporary-art collection, an architecture centre, an auditorium… Unlike Malaga, the project will not be exclusive, and loans from other institutions can also be presented. According to Nathalie Vaguer-Verdier, “the Belgian scene is very rich, namely in the area of live performance. The whole programme will be defined in collaboration with local cultural institutions, which will help us to insert ourselves in a milieu that is already extremely vibrant and of high quality. We are supporting the Brussels-Capital region in the construction of its cultural project, but with the aim of helping it towards autonomy and to the construction of a collection, while offering our expertise. This is a very different scene from Malaga, which resembles the one in Paris far more.” Exciting projects ahead. In the meantime… see you on the Costa del Sol!




Conquering the world

According to Serge Lasvignes, the brand will continue to expand overseas without pursuing a decentralisation policy within France. The president of the Centre Pompidou made the following declaration in a press release published to mark the institution’s 40th birthday: “We have 120,000 works. This is one of the two biggest contemporary-art collections in the world, along with the MoMA in New York. We only exhibit 5 % of these works. We make many loans, we hand many works over to French museums obviously, but the idea is also to bring this collection overseas, to get it seen internationally. […] The idea of setting up little Centre Pompidous a little all over France bothers me as there are already magnificent museums and art centres, both public and private, all over our country. To celebrate our 40th birthday, we organised the Kandinsky exhibition with the Musée de Grenoble – they don’t need a Centre and they drew 135,000 visitors. However, they needed our works, and of course we loaned them. I really believe in the mutual enrichment between the Centre, its collections and multiple existing venues. I don’t believe in a Centre with multiple branches. Overseas, things are different: it’s a question of the brand’s presence, of France’s renown, of diffusion of the Centre Pompidou model. This is a way for us to get to know the foreign artistic scene and to enrich our collections. Given the current financial situation, this type of contribution is very important. One-third of our own resources comes from sponsorship and this type of contract for using our brand.” From what the Pompidou’s president says, the Centre Pompidou Metz will certainly remain the museum’s only branch to be developed in France as the institution has its eyes set further afield. According to the Spanish newspaper El País, when the Centre Pompidou Malaga’s semi-permanent exhibition was renewed, Serge Lasvignes is said to have announced that Colombia may well be the next destination for a new branch. “It’s a country that’s exiting a very difficult situation, and where artists are very committed. For now, there’s reciprocal interest, and we’ve started a few informal discussions.” After Malaga, Shanghai and Brussels, a Centre Pompidou in Colombia? Stay tuned for this possible new step towards the French institution’s international renown.



“Modern Utopias”, new permanent exhibition, until March 2020. Centre Pompidou Malaga. Pasaje Doctor Carrillo Casaux, Malaga, Spain.


Exploring Frame, Art Basel’s newest satellite fair Tue, 29 May 2018 09:52:15 +0000 Art Basel is the behemoth of the art world, with 290 galleries exhibiting 4,000 artists. Can satellite fairs benefit from the influx of collectors, channelling a different value proposition? Of the seven 2018 satellite events, some specialize in a topic (books, photography) and other seek to offer a whole new experience for collectors: such is the ambition of newcomer Frame.

Defined as a collective art space, the fair relies on the collaboration of thirteen international galleries, pooling resources and expertise to offer an event catering to their business needs – and for the benefit of curious collectors.

“We are currently witnessing the end of an era” advocates Bertrand Scholler, French gallerist and co-founder of Frame. “Big fairs spend most of their resources selling ever more expensive space to galleries instead of focusing on content and quality. At the same time, fairs are like drugs to galleries: they need them, even though they are destroying them. Satellite fairs are barely scrapping by, and often inconsistent.”

Frame is looking to reverse the trend, one city at a time. Instead of addressing all sectors, it focuses on young galleries showing emerging artists. Frame is hardly alone in this segment however, as at least three satellite salons (Liste, Volta and Scope) make similar claims.

Frame bets on several strategic choices to stand out. The 800 m2 of the fair are located in Basel Art Center, where all exhibitors will occupy similar booths, giving collectors breathing space. This “less is more” philosophy is translated in the VIP events program and solo shows offered by the organizers. Will this complementary experience attract visitors and locals? This first edition will tell.

Germaine Krull, from industry to aesthetics Tue, 08 May 2018 13:50:31 +0000 The German photographer Germaine Krull owes her reputation as an avant-garde artist to her work Metal. Until 10 June, Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne is devoting a huge exhibition to her. An interview with Simone Förster, curator for the Ann and Jürgen Wilde Foundation behind this exhibition.


Over her life, almost 90 years long, Germaine Krull lived on four continents. Could you retrace the different stages of her life?

Germaine Krull was born in Poznan, Poland, in 1897, and moved many times during her childhood. Her family lived in Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria. She arrived in Germany when she was a teenager, where she studied photography, and then she opened a studio in Munich. Because of her political stance during the Bavarian revolution, she was expelled from Germany in 1920. After, she went to Russia, where she stood up alongside the Communists. But she was deemed a counter-revolutionary there, and was imprisoned and expelled from the USSR. After stints in Berlin and Amsterdam, she settled in Paris, where she opened a portrait and fashion photography studio. It was also during this period that she produced her work Metal. Next, she worked as a war reporter, declared her opposition to the Vichy regime, and became a journalist-photographer in Congo-Brazzaville. Germaine Krull then left for Thailand where she managed a hotel for around twenty years. When she was already getting on in years, she moved to India to support Tibetan refugees, before returning to be with her sister in Germany, where she died in 1985.


What role did France play in this artist’s career?

It was in Paris that Germaine Krull made a name for herself as an avant-garde artist and photographer, with her Metal portfolio, produced in 1928. The part of her work for which she is appreciated today was executed in France. It was also in France that she published a number of books. This in fact was her artistic centre. In Germany, the publication of the Metal portfolio earned her a reputation as THE Parisian photographer. She thus scored a few contracts this way, for example to work on a photography book on Paris for a Berlin publisher, and also from French electricity plants and companies. It was the starting point of her professional photography career.


What subjects does Germaine Krull tackle in her work?

She pored over cities and industry. She produced some very fine portraits, fashion photographs, as well as publicity photos for different companies, for example a tie company, which demonstrate an original artistic approach. But she also produced some very beautiful documentary series that reflect her social criticism, for example a series on the prostitution ring in Marseille, or a very impressive series on homeless people in Paris. So there is abstract artistic work as well as work committed to social documentation.


The current exhibition at the Pinokathek der Moderne in Munich is based on the first edition of her famous portfolio. Metallic constructions weren’t that common as a theme in the 1920s. To what extent did Germaine Krull’s work influence photography of the time?

Documentary photography on industrial prowess has existed since the 19th century. But Germaine Krull’s work, and above all Metal, contributed to showing industrial installations, machines, or industrial architecture as aesthetic images. She was one of the first to turn towards constructivism, photographic experimentation, and to produce free artistic work. In this exhibition, we also show the mutual influence and inspiration of photography and film in this era, by screening the film De Brug (The Bridge) by Joris Ivens, a Dutch filmmaker and Germaine Krull’s partner. In this film on a lift bridge in Rotterdam, he uses photographic angles and cuts. Germaine Krull, in her portfolio, through the way she presents the 64 leaves one by one, uses a range of montage and cutting techniques similar to those in the film.


What fascinated Germaine Krull so much about these metallic installations?

It was a time when people had faith in industrial progress, or if we think about the Bauhaus, a time when art and technology were inseparable. But it was Germaine Krull who brought this theme and artistic approach to the foreground. Metallic constructions, like the Eiffel Tower, were icons of the industrial era. Since the second half of the 19th century, they represented modernity. It wasn’t Germaine Krull who invented this with her work, but what was innovative was that she, as a woman, climbed up the cranes and onto industrial installations. Not only did she document, but she also captured dynamic perspectives, detailed views, dramatic cuts to create an artistic image completely disconnected from the object’s identity. For her, it didn’t matter which the city the object was located in, which machine it was, or which architectural feature. This wasn’t important: it was just a matter of expressing oneself freely through art.


How would you define Germaine Krull’s personality?

She was an extremely independent person who believed entirely in her own positions and visions, not only regarding art, but also politics. A courageous person who exposed herself, time after time, to situations which were unusual, especially for a woman. A woman who, also in her sex life, had a very libertarian conduct. A free spirit who defined her frontiers independently.


When Man Ray and Germaine Krull met in Paris in the 1920s, he apparently said that she and he were the best photographers of their era. Why did Germaine Krull fall into oblivion after 1945?

On the one hand, it’s probably to do with her leaving Europe. She first went to Congo-Brazzaville, via Brazil. She then returned briefly to Paris, before moving to Thailand, and finally India. In Asia, she exercised a completely different profession: she was general manager of The Oriental hotel in Bangkok, and she turned it into one of the most renowned hotels there. She continued photography over there, shooting Buddhist temples and statues, but photography was only a secondary occupation. The many stages in her life mean that today, her work has largely disappeared. In addition, Metal, which Germaine Krull herself saw as one of her major works, only exists in very few copies today. In the last six years, I’ve regularly researched auction houses, antique dealers and art dealers, but it no longer comes up. Even in the large exhibition on Germaine Krull, organised in 2015 by the Jeu de Paume in Paris, Metal was represented by two leaves only.


The exhibition was organised thanks to Ann and Jürgen Wilde’s collection. Could you tell us more about the relationship between Germaine Krull and this couple of collectors?

The Wilde couple started collecting art in 1968, by acquiring part of the legacy of German art historian Franz Roh who, in the 1920s, strongly supported avant-garde photography. The couple started to research art from the 1920s and 1930s, but Germaine Krull’s work had completely vanished in Germany. Via old acquaintances of Krull in Europe, they finally got hold of her address in India, and began, in 1974, an intense correspondence with her. The Wilde couple managed to gather around a hundred of Krull’s works, which were completely dispersed. In 1976, Germaine Krull met Ann and Jürgen Wilde for the first time, and from that point they developed a very close relationship. In 1977, the couple staged a big first retrospective on her work in Bonn. This marked the start of a rediscovery of Germaine Krull’s work by the general public. Her work was then shown at Documenta 6, and ever since, has constituted a major component of the history of photography. It was also the Wildes who, in 2003, initiated a re-edition of Metal. The current exhibition at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, marking Jürgen Wilde’s 80th birthday, presents all 64 leaves of one copy of Metal, which Krull gave the Wildes in 1977, supplemented by original photos from the couple’s collection.



“Germaine Krull. Metal”, until 10 June. Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Barer Straße 40, Munich, Germany.


Miguel Chevalier: bits & cells Tue, 08 May 2018 13:39:45 +0000 He’s one of the pioneers in virtual and digital art. He tackles the question of intangibility and computer-led logic. Hybridity, generativeness and networking are at the heart of his research… An hour in the company of Miguel Chevalier, an observer of the flows dear to our contemporary society.


It’s at La Fabrika, his big studio in Ivry-sur-Seine (and so named in homage to another famous studio), that Miguel Chevalier designs his works. All around, you’ll see prototypes, 3D prints, projectors and projections…  This spring, his studio is a hive of activity as he gets set for several solo shows (at the submarine base in Bordeaux and a double event in London, at the Mayor and Wilmotte Galleries). Miguel Chevalier is also taking part in major group exhibitions, namely “Artistes & Robots” at the Grand Palais, and “AI Musiqa” at the Philharmonie de Paris.


The exhibition “Digital Abysses”, recently launched at the submarine base in Bordeaux, with ten installations and a hundred or so works spread out over 3500 square metres, is one of your largest to date…

That’s right, this is my biggest exhibition to date. The submarine base is an unusual site, constructed at the end of World War II. I didn’t want to illustrate the memories of the place, but rather, work on the relationship with water and the great depths and abysses in which U-boats plunged. The large printed fabric Atlantide (25 x 9 metres) opens the exhibition, emerging as the floor of the base’s first pool. Then, we arrive at the bunker’s entrance – a spot that’s all the more interesting as it immerses visitors in darkness and comprises numerous spaces on different scales. I drew inspiration from plankton and all sorts of aquatic microorganisms, such as radiolarians and protozoa that are observable under microscopes, as well as strange bioluminescent creatures. When we observe them, we realise that they’re an untold source of wealth, which really inspired me.


Certain pieces are seen here for the first time, others are updates of earlier works such as L’Origine du Monde.

My installations change every time they’re presented. Firstly because they adjust to the scale of every new venue. I also integrate new textures to the software, which allow the generation of new visuals. These works get richer and more complex as I show them.


For this exhibition, you’ve signed a partnership with Surfrider Foundation Europe, an association that supports the safeguarding of oceans. Your work has an organic aspect because growth is one of your key concepts… Can we detect an ecological bent in your work?

I’m not a diehard ecologist, but we’re all conscious that we’re heading towards irreversible catastrophe if we don’t change our modes of production and consumption. The NGO Surfrider Foundation Europe works on preserving oceans at a time when a plastic continent is floating in the Pacific. As an artist, it’s my duty to point out these flagrant realities, and art has the power to forge consciences. Even if I work on artificiality, nature is a fundamental source of inspiration for me, as well as for many other creators.


The polarity between nature and artifice plays a key role in your work, namely in Fractal Flowers and your virtual seeds – programmes that generate imaginary gardens whose size and number can be controlled by adjusting parameters. Chance is an element that contributes to the growth of nature, just as it does to that of your programme.

The process of life, or rather its simulation, interests me for several reasons. We live in a world which increasingly simulates all types of phenomena. These simulations are supported by the development of artificial intelligence, which is very advanced in certain specific domains of application, but not yet intelligent in the primary sense of the term. Artificial intelligence is intelligent when it is fed with data. The same goes for my software: the larger the database, the more graphically richer the work, the more subtle the effects of growth.


It’s true that over time, your images have become more complex…

This is due to the expansion of my software’s databases, but also due to the work of my team, with computer specialists like Cyrille Henry, Claude Micheli and Nicolas Gaudelet, thanks to their technical skills and technological watch – on graphics cards, new sensors, etc. Their ongoing watch allows me to stay in sync with technological evolutions and to carry out projects that exit from the norm, like the Origin of the World Bubble 2018 on Oxford Circus, London, projected onto an eleven-meter-diameter sphere. Without this watch and the use of cutting-edge tools, there was no way we could have accomplished the project. This is one of the interesting aspects of my practice: finding solutions for the implementation of concepts and ideas.


Do you see yourself as an artist with a studio?

What I’m responsible for is the origins of projects, their design, their artistic aspect and their translation into space.


The history of digital art is crossed by a collaborative spirit, a consequence of its high degree of technicality, from the Experiments in Art and Technologies in the 1960s to collectives of net artists… Today, a collective vision continues with open-source technology. Do you use the latter?

Yes, we use open-source software such as Claude Micheli’s Unity or Cyrille Henry’s Pure Data. It sometimes takes between one to two years of development to create such software. Many tests are run at the studio to optimise and present the works to the public. Behind this open-source software there is a community of specialists who help to make things advance more quickly thanks to the sharing of data…


The digital world, composed of files and programmes, has a modularity that confers an “arborescent” aspect to your work: a 3D file can exist in different forms (such as a sculpture, a screen, a projection…); a programme grows every time it’s updated…

All the projects echo with and penetrate one another. When Cyrille Henry and I worked on Fractal Flowers – that is, creating 3D models on a 2D screen –, we realised that we could stop the growth of one of the Fractal Flowers seeds and extract the corresponding 3D file. It was then possible to give this file a material form, with the help of a 3D printer. All this opens up new perspectives, a coming and going between the real and the virtual. This is also what contributes to the expressive richness of the digital medium.


The digital world is fascinating in that it prolongs the history of images without referents, after abstract painting or sculpture. It goes even further, via generativeness or interactivity that induce a probable modification in the status of the image, which doesn’t represent so much as it presents, with an existence of its own…

We’re no longer in a linear universe like that of a film or recorded video, where reading goes from point A to Z, before going back to the start again. With the digital world, we can enter into artificial life processes like my virtual gardens that self-generate, change, and act, depending on the visitor’s movements… None of this is possible with the other artistic mediums that we already know.


So this is what’s special about the digital medium?

Yes, but that’s not all. There are also scaling effects: digital technology can be deployed on smartphones just as they can take on the urban scale.


Your work started off at the end of the 1980s with the appearance of the desktop computer and the improvement of graphics cards, while the calculation capacities of machines from the 2000s allowed your works to change in scale… What’s the next step?

There are several interesting things to point out. The calculation capacities of today’s computers allow the creation of animations in real time, which also increase interactivity possibilities. Laser projectors, with upgraded endurance, definition and colorimetry, are also very promising. Today, a whole range of scales can be explored, from 4K screens to multiple large-format projections. All this urges me to go further and further into immersion. We’re still limited by costs, but creating a multisensory space has become entirely possible, for example the In-Out / Paradis artificiels installation that I presented in 2017 at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire.


What do you seek from immersiveness?

An experience that can rouse emotions. Let’s take the example of Monet, a true great in my mind on several levels, for his relationship to time, variation and light. Monet also opened the way towards immersiveness with his Water Lilies, now at the Orangerie. This desire to bring the spectator into the painting is what I continue with images and light, following on from artists like James Turrell or Julio Le Parc.


You see yourself less as breaking off with than continuing the history of art, which is also an important source of images and motifs in your work…

At the end of the 1970s, when I started my career, we witnessed the end of the avant-gardes, the logic of painting deconstruction, and we gradually reached its zero point. After that, in my opinion, it became necessary to explore new territories. No one was interested in the digital field in the 1980s; instead, the spirit of the times was more about a return to painting with “bad painting”, free figuration, the Italian Trans-avant-garde and German neo-expressionism… Digital artists like me were completely counterculture, but I chose to commit myself to this path. Time has proven me right.


In the 1980s, resistance was strong.

Yes, very strong, but as for the case of any new medium. Before the digital field, there were photos, then videos, that met the same opposition. Today, the digital medium is more widely accepted as a creation tool. It is becoming a medium like any other, complementary to others. And it has a transversal character that allows it to embrace all of them.


Today, does the digital medium enjoy the recognition that it deserves in art?

No, there’s still a lot to be done. The digital is still marginalised. But it’s part of our environment and should be better integrated into the art market. This requires more openness from everyone – curators, critics, gallerists, and also artists. Digital art needs to exit the field in which it’s confined, such as festivals, and be developed more in museums, galleries and public spaces. The exhibition “Artistes & Robots”, on at the Grand Palais until July, is a new stage in recognition by a wider public. The exhibition was organised in Paris following its great success in Astana, Kazakhstan, and it’s been expanded, with double the space, but above all new artists and approaches, such as artificial intelligence and the augmented body… The general public needs to bear in mind that what’s happening isn’t new, but that digital art has a genealogy that dates back to the end of the 1950s – an era when artists kicked off the first reflections without knowing the role that computers would take up one day. Pioneers like Nicolas Schöffer, Nam June Paik, Vera Molnar and many others.


Your work deepens certain upheavals. I’m thinking of the changing status of the artist (with the issue of paternity and generativeness), that of the work (indefinite) and the visitor (transitioning from contemplation to play)…

As far as generativeness goes, the work creates itself infinitely and surpasses its creator, who is nonetheless the originator of the protocol that allows it to develop without ever returning to its original state. A completely open work, in the sense understood by Umberto Eco. I also create finite works, namely 3D models. The digital offers new potentialities beyond interactivity.




“Digital Abysses”, until 20 May. Submarine base, Boulevard Alfred-Daney, Bordeaux.

“Artistes & Robots”, until 9 July. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, 3 avenue du Général Eisenhower, Paris 75008.

“Al Musiqa”, until 19 August. Cité de la Musique – Philharmonie de Paris, 221 avenue Jean-Jaurès, Paris 75019.

“Ubiquity 1”, until 1 June. The Mayor Gallery, 21 Cork Street, London.

“Ubiquity 2”, until 15 June. The Wilmotte Gallery at Lichfield Studios, 133 Oxford Gardens, London.


Africa and its diaspora: convergences Tue, 08 May 2018 13:30:46 +0000 It’s not that easy to put a finger on the relationship between African artists and those from the African diaspora. In a globalised world in which African centres are increasingly dynamic, couldn’t it be said that we are currently witnessing a convergence of forms and sources of inspiration?

When referring to African artistic creation, Sudanese painter Ibrahim el-Salahi – who, along with Ahmed Shibrain and Kamala Ishag, founded the Khartoum School – uses the image of the tree. A tree has roots, a trunk and branches. And in his view, many artists from Africa or the African diaspora experiment with global issues and forms (branches), but also feel the need to bear in mind where they come from and relate their work to their origins (roots)… Defining “contemporary African art” and distinguishing it from (or likening it to) that of the continent’s diaspora potentially opens up a can of worms. The risk is to oversimplify it, or else to put everything into the one box. “We can only use this expression if we don’t claim that there’s only one way to make art, and if we avoid speaking about African art and African identity in the singular,” explains Rocco Orlacchio, director of the Voice Gallery, in Marrakech, which he founded in 2011 and whose objective is to stifle the resurgence of orientalist tendencies. According to curator Marie-Ann Yemsi, who headed up the 11th edition of the Bamako Encounters, “one of the major issues today is to de-exoticise gazes, to debunk misconceptions and unravel them in order to show Africa as it is. Stripped of fantasies.”

Indeed, Africa comprises 54 countries and a wide range of increasingly numerous artistic centres, historically Niger, Senegal, Morocco and South Africa. And beyond the generalities that gloss over reality, the question of origins is also a risky notion. Focus on the artists’ origins amounts to seeing them in terms of what we expect from them; in other words, a series of preconceptions, a return of the colonial impulse and also its corollary, latching onto the victim identity. All this, without taking into account clichés surrounding handicraft production (starring wax-print fabrics) – production which cannot be said to be conceptual (or not that much at least). “Relating the notion of identity to geography seems obsolete to me,” continues Marie-Ann Yemsi. “Multi-affiliations reflect today’s world.” That said, for many artists, the tree metaphor still applies. Ousmane Sow, considered by many of his peers as a father of contemporary African art, once declared: “Because of their history, Africans don’t make sculptures like non-Africans. But this Africanness stops there because our desire is to be inserted into universal contemporary art.”

Poetics and politics

All the same. Between artists from Africa and those from the diaspora, we can still identify a number of shared ideas and stances: the issues of integration and identity, with works tinged by political nuances in particular. On the African continent, postcolonial vestiges and the youthfulness of democracies are two common themes. Political and identity-related issues come up frequently among South African artists, explains Cape Town-based curator Jana Terblanche, who collaborates regularly with Smith Studio. “Identity politics is continuously a prevalent in South Africa art, as we are still a fairly new democracy in the process of re-evaluating our history and place in the world.  There has also been an increase in artists experimenting with installation and performance-based art forms. Furthermore, artists are beginning to explore the digital space, and experimenting with how that space fits in with traditional object making.”

Outside the African continent – the African diaspora is a complex phenomenon, nourished by the triangular trading system that came into place several centuries ago, then decolonisation, and now globalisation –, artists often hold minority positions, with all the challenges that this implies, compounded by poor integration or even, at times, outright xenophobia. One striking example is seen in the United States. Carrying on the work of intellectuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois, one particular group of artists, ranging from Jacob Lawrence to David Hammons, passing through Aaron Douglas and more recently Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Keith + Mendi Obadike, and Glenn Ligon, has developed a strain of art to combat segregation and its ongoing effects in the United States – its pertinence recently sadly proved by the unjust killing of African-Africans by policemen, sometimes with the victims’ backs turned. The United States offers a particularly salient example of the struggle that African-American artists are still engaged in to stand up for their recognition and history, but diaspora artists all over are involved in this movement of examining their history, the triangular economy, colonialism and its legacy.

In this respect, conceptual artist Glenn Ligon, along with Thelma Golden, are drivers of the “post-blackness” concept that sheds light on the ambiguity of the situation. As Thelma Golden wrote in the catalogue of the “Freestyle” exhibition (Studio Museum, Harlem, 2001), artists are “adamant about not being labelled ‘black’ artists, though their work was steeped, in fact deeply interested, in redefining complex notions of blackness.” In his book Who’s Afraid of Post Blackness? What it Means to be Black Now (2011), journalist and critic Touré believes that a new generation of artists and citizens, born outside the direct context of segregation, is using the idea of “blackness” to construct its identity and acting as a group – even if Touré acknowledges the impossibility of giving the concept a clear-cut definition.

From aesthetics to ethics

Another common point between artists from the African continent and those in the diaspora is that their work is not merely based on aesthetics but also ethics. A phenomenon that isn’t new. When Léopold Sédar Senghor launched the Festival des Arts Nègres in 1966, his aim wasn’t merely to support aesthetics but was founded on deeper reasoning to do with social responsibility. On top of creation, artists in African societies (or their diaspora) have occupied roles that step beyond artistic practice. This was the case of Abdoulaye Konaté in Mali, who, as an established artist, was given the task of heading up the Palais de la Culture in Bamako. This was also the case of other artists, namely Bartélémy Toguo, who founded, in 2000, the Bandjoun Station Cameroon, a centre not restricted to art (with a collection of over 1,000 pieces and residency projects, but also educational and agricultural focuses). “As Africans from the diaspora, we should give something back to our continent. We have a duty, and it is to help Africa. She needs the elites from its diaspora just as it needs those who stayed on the continent. Together, we can pull the continent out of the difficulties it is suffering from today. All Africans, whatever their field – agriculture, sport, science, culture – with knowledge, should give back part of this knowledge, this knowhow, to Africa.” He goes on to say: “I don’t want to create a contemporary African art ghetto; this is why we also invite artists from all over the world. We want to make Bandjoun Station a place of creation where artists without borders can come and conceive projects, in a residence, but with links to the local community.”

Sadikou Oukpedjo has taken a similar approach. “I used to sculpt in my family home, but this caused a few problems. So I bought land fifteen kilometres from Lomé, where I felt a bit isolated. I wanted to turn it into a type of residence. I invited artist friends, and we created a studio together. I bought equipment for those who didn’t have the means to do so. This encouraged many artists to come. I consider that art isn’t something we experience, but undergo. It’s torture to be an artist without having the materials to work.” And this isn’t the only example: take Sammy Baloji who set up, in 2008, the Rencontres de l’Image de Lubumbashi Picha (the latter, “image” in Swahili), or Aida Muluneh, creator of the Addis Foto Fest.

A time of convergences

Thanks to globalisation, Internet and the increasing openness of Africa, many commentators observe a shrinkage of formal gaps between the continent and its diaspora. “We’re no longer in an era when there’s no access to what’s happening everywhere in the world, in terms of politics and art,” explains Rocco Orlacchio. “Often, artists who haven’t had the chance to travel haven’t had the opportunity to get to know, learn and face up to diverging viewpoints, as much on issues surrounding art as on the issue of what art should be. If we focus on visual language, this is the difference that essentially comes up in practice, production, aesthetics.” Similar views crop up, from Marrakech to Cape Town. “I think artists of the diaspora respond to their circumstances, oftentimes probing the duality of their identities,” notes Jana Terblanche. “In an increasingly global world, I think the differences in the work of artists local to Africa and the diaspora is narrowing.”

In short, it seems that we’ve turned a page since the era when gallerist André Magnin would travel all over Africa on behalf of collector Jean Pigozzi, scanning the continent to discover artists whose production was well established, but who were absent from circuits legitimising them outside of their own territories – artists like Seydou Keïta, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Chéri Samba, Romuald Hazoumè, JP Mika or Malick Sidibé. Over time, things are smoothing out…

A continent opening up

“The African diaspora plays an important role in the creation of contemporary African art, and elevating its visibility outside of Africa,” suggests Jana Terblanche. “I don’t necessarily differentiate between artists of the diaspora and contemporary African artists. They’re two sides of the same coin.” However, amongst the most prominent artists with African origins, many live outside the continent. Julie Mehretu works in New York, Marlène Dumas in the Netherlands, Kader Attia and Adel Abdessemed in France… According to Hassan Hajjaj, who lives between London and Morocco, “when you’re an artist from a third-world country, you need a connection with the West to be taken seriously, as if your career couldn’t exist independently except as a variation of something already existing in Europe.”

“As the art system is international today, it’s difficult to progress if there’s no structure within a country,” observes Rocco Orlacchio. “In theory, each country should set up a small system for this to be possible. There are several ways for an artist residing in Africa to enjoy international recognition: by participating in exhibitions in public institutions, having their work acquired by public collections, but also private ones. Art schools need to be set up and, naturally, be supported by collectors, both local and international. All this corresponds to the creation of an art system.”

South Africa, one of the most dynamic scenes on the continent, was revealed to the world in the 1990s, with artists including David Goldblatt, Roger Ballen, Kendell Geers and Tracey Rose… This scene notably owes its strength to the emergence of a new ecosystem, including very active institutions and galleries, as well as the involvement of universities.  “Many prominent South Africa artists continue to live and work from their home country, while receiving acclaim abroad,” explains Jana Terblanche. “I think with the increased presence of South African galleries and artists on the international art fair circuit, local artists will reach new audiences and the local art market will benefit.” On a continent whose cultural power is on the rise (through the opening of a myriad of foundations, museums and art centres, including the Mohammed VI Museum (Morocco), the Fondation Zinsou (Benin), the Zeitz Museum (South Africa)), the South African example seems to have already found followers.

What’s more, whether they’re from the continent or not, the international recognition of artists from Africa or of African origin is increasing. Two African cultural bigwigs featured amongst the five winners of the Prix Praemium Imperiale in 2017. Ghana’s El Anatsui, distinguished in the field of sculpture, and Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour, singled out in the music category. We can also mention Lubaina Himid, winner of the prestigious Turner Prize 2017. Originally from Tanzania, the 63-year-old artist pores over the identity of the African diaspora and its invisibility in the social, political and artistic fields…. Let’s note that the Musée Régional d’Art Contemporain Occitanie / Pyrénées-Méditerranée, in Sérignan, is organising the artist’s first solo exhibition in Europe, until 16 September, showing her work on the representation of Africans in the history of European painting, while also exploring the issue of slavery and colonialism through art history. “Africa is becoming its own centre,” enthuses Marie-Ann Yemsi.


Dakar in the red hour Tue, 08 May 2018 13:19:45 +0000 Until 2 June, the 13th edition of the Biennial of Dakar – Dak’art – is being held in Senegal. Over one month, dozens of artists and curators are getting the African capital to swing to the rhythm of contemporary art. An international-scale event reflecting growing interest in contemporary art on the African continent.

Two years ago, the Biennial of Dakar paid homage to Léopold Sédar Senghor by choosing the theme “The City in the Blue Day”. In 2018, a new look at négritude is on the programme, with a change in colour to boot… This year, Dak’art is paying homage to Aimé Césaire and shifting to “the Red Hour”. The formula is poetic and socially aware: it is an invitation to evasion and anger. But could things be otherwise with Césaire? “The red hour” is an expression drawn from the play Et les chiens se taisaient, written in 1946. A text that broaches themes dear to the African author, such as emancipation, freedom and responsibility.

A key event in African cultural life, Dak’art 2018 is placed under the dual banner of cultural and political affirmation. The event is being organised under the high patronage of the president of the Republic of Senegal, Macky Sall. In addition, the Biennale is being supported, at a rate of 75 %, by the country’s Ministry of Culture, headed up by Abdou Latif Coulibaly. A rate of State commitment that may well leave some in Europe or America wistful. Senegalese authorities have understood the importance of the cultural field in handling the issue of identity. Not so long ago, the Minister of Culture commented that the 2018 edition of Dak’art would be placed “under the double banner of consolidating achievements and innovation”. Its promotion of African creativity on an international scale thus allows the Biennial of Dakar to be a showcase, every two years, of the African continent’s dynamism.

This 13th edition presents a selection of the continent’s top artists, gathered by the event’s artistic director, Cameroonian writer and art critic Simon Njami. The latter is assisted by a steering committee composed of sixteen representatives of Dakar’s political and cultural life, chaired by Baïdy Agne (chairman of the Conseil National du Patronat or national council of employers). The committee has three main missions: defining the theme of the Biennial; assisting the general secretary in artistic programming; and finally validating the event’s compliance with its aims, in conjunction with the technical committee. Among the committee’s public members, we can note the presence of Lamine Sarr (director of the Minister of Culture’s cabinet), Khalifa Ababacar Dia (director of the Minister of Tourism’s cabinet), Moussa Ndiaye (representing the Mayor of Dakar) and Marième Bâ Diop (the Biennial’s general secretary). Meanwhile, its artistic figures include artists Adama Boye and El Hadj Sy, gallerist Aissa Dionne, curator El Hadj Malick Ndiaye (curator at the Musée Théodore Monod) and art critic Massamba Mbaye.

At the crossroads of African art

A total of 75 artists from 33 countries have been selected to take part in this edition, with the programme dominated by African artists. Out of the 33 countries represented, 24 belong to the continent: Angola, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia or Zimbabwe. Out of the 75 artists selected, thirteen come from ten countries outside Africa: Brazil, Belgium, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, France, Iran, Jamaica, Haiti, Martinique and the United States. Finally, Senegal is well-placed this year, with five artists representing the country: Amadou Kane Sy, Alioune Badara Sarr, Cheikh Ndiaye, Ibrahima Kébé and Félicité Codjo Ségnan.

Over a period of one month, numerous events are scheduled (exhibitions, concerts, meetings, conversations…). The events will be held in seven key spots in Dakar’s cultural life, namely the former Palace of Justice, the Musée des Civilisations Noires, the Musée Théodore Monod d’Art Africain, the Musée Léopold Sédar Senghor, the Place du Souvenir Africain, the Galerie Nationale d’Art and the Musée des Anciens Combattants. Places where homage will be duly paid to the poetic spirit of Aimé Césaire, hovering over the event. According to the general secretary Marième Bâ Diop, the “red hour” is synonymous with “the transformative energy” of humans and the arts. According to artistic director Simon Njami, it is more a matter of pointing out “the crossroads between the past and the future which we name the present”. Generally speaking, we can see this colour as symbolic of action as engendered at the heart of the process of artistic creation. But let’s bear in mind Aimé Césaire’s words in their original context: “I am the red hour, the unwound red hour”.

Stepping back into a wider context, this new edition of Dak’art shows the African continent’s growing interest in contemporary art. In recent years, we’ve lost count of the number of structures that have been set up in various African countries, whether we’re talking about museums, cultural centres or artistic hubs. In this way, we can cite the success of the 1:54 fair, created in 2013, the opening of the Fondation Zinsou in Benin in 2013, the inauguration of the Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town in 2017, under the aegis of collector Jochen Zeitz, the opening of the Fondation Donwahi in Abidjan in 2008, the upcoming creation of a Sculpture Biennial in Ouagadougou… Or else the soon-to-be-launched Musée des Civilisations Noires in Dakar, scheduled to open its doors 2018. Without mentioning initiatives surrounding key artists. In this way, the biennial kicked off with the inauguration, on 5 May, of the Ousmane Sow House-Museum. Works by the artist are now shown in this edifice designed by the sculptor himself, who considered his residence as a creation in its own right. A symbolic initiative among others, proving the new upsurge of the contemporary African scene.

Five guest curators

This year, Dak’art’s organisers have invited five curators to share their viewpoints with the public. The chosen angle is to present a vision of the contemporary world, as seen from Dakar – a theme that includes discovery of today’s creation on an international scale. By inviting each curator to organise a group show, the organisers are opening the Biennial up to a myriad of possibilities, breaking with the classic vision of the perpetual North-South divide. Curator Cosmin Costinas, from Asia, is also executive director of Para Site in Hong Kong, one of the most avant-garde cultural hubs in the Chinese city. This year, he is presenting the exhibition “The Dakar Confucius”, co-conceived with Sumesh Sharma. “This exhibition,” declares Cosmin Costinas “intends to examine the connections between China, India and Africa in the era of colonial power, and see how the vestiges of non-aligned solidarity are caught in the grip of the ambivalence of such developments.” Referring to Aimé Césaire’s refusal, in 2005, of the utmost French State honour of being buried in the Panthéon, Cosmin Costinas explores the power contained in the right to say “no”. Let’s bear in mind that Africa, China and India are regions still marked by the weight of colonialism. Here, emancipation was achieved thanks to the emergence of figures supporting new values. Ten artists show works inspired by this subject: Belkis Ayón, Uchay Joel Chima, Iswanto Hartono, Nicholás Guillén Landrián, Sanggar Seka Dendang, Jihan El Tahri, Hamedine Kane, Saleh Lo, Ayesha Hameed and Tejswini Sonawane.

Meanwhile, curator Bonaventure Ndikung (Cameroon), director of the Berlin art centre SAVVY, is presenting “The Sonic Cosmologies of Halim El-Dabh”. The exhibition is designed as a retrospective around the work of the famous Egyptian composer. A musician and convinced pan-Africanist, Halim El-Dabh was one of the pioneers of electronic music in the first half of the 20th century, along with John Cage, Johanna Beyer and Lev Termen. The exhibition presents work by Halim El-Dabh, Younes Baba Ali, Leo Asemota, Satch Hoyt, Tegene Kunbi, Memory Biwa, Robert Machiri, Ibrahim Mahama, Nyakallo Maleke, Elsa Mbala, Yara Mekawei, Emeka Ogboh, Sunette Viljoen, Ima-Abasi Okon and Junior Boakye-Yiadom.

And then there’s “ZAM-ZAM”, presented by curator Marisol Rodriguez (Mexico): an exhibition backed up with collaborative encounters in a series of screenings and conferences, held at the Institut Français de Dakar. The general theme is understanding the history of Senegal and the weight of colonialism on contemporary society. Guest artists include Moisés Martínez, Vania Sosa, Omar Said, Fabián Arriola, Pedro Castro, Alex Castilla, Miguel Pérez, Caryana Castillo, Lizzet Ortiz, Sara Martínez, Ingrith León and Joan Duran.

Then, the “Invisible” show, proposed by Moroccan curator Alya Sebti (Ifa Gallery, Berlin) raises the issue of the cohabitation of different religions in Senegal where Christian, Muslim, Sufi and animist communities live side by side… How does this multi-faith society face the daily exigencies of capitalist lifestyles? The exhibition presents works by Hicham Berrada, Younes Baba Ali, Anna Raimondo, Leila Sadel, Zainab Andalibe, Mohammed Laouli, Abdessamad El Montassir, Anike Joyce Sadiq and Kenza Benamour.

And finally, Sweden’s Marianne Hultman (Oslo Kunstforening) is proposing “L’heure bleue” (The Blue Hour), bouncing off the fair’s general theme to offer a poetic description of the time of day between twilight and nightfall. The melancholic atmosphere opens up, like a door, towards the transformation from one level of consciousness to another. The curator has invited artists Martin Gustavsson, Gavin Jantjes, Toril Johannessen, Tori Wrånes, Ayodeji Adewale Oluwatunmise et Sanusi Taofik Ayomide to take part in this event.

The International Exhibition

Along with the exhibitions staged by the five guest curators, the Biennale’s other big event is, naturally, the International Exhibition. Held in the former Palace of Justice, the event gathers the 75 artists selected by the Coimmittee. Its title, “A New Humanity”, refers to a text authored by psychiatrist Frantz Fanon from Martinique. In this text, this authority on Third World issues presents the decolonised person as a “new man”. At the International Exhibition, the presence of many artists from all over the continent offers another chance to appreciate the growing effervescence surrounding contemporary art.

Presenting nine creators, Morocco is one of the nations that enjoys prime visibility at the event. The 2018 selection allows the public to get acquainted with the memorial art of Mounir Fatmi, luminescent paintings by Yassine Balbzioui, Mohssin Harraki’s multimedia meditations on current social and political issues, or else Yasmina Alaoui’s visual universe at the junction of all extremes. South Africa is also well represented by eight artists: an opportunity to discover the outrageous pop universe of Frances Goodman, Amita Makan’s delicate embroideries or Moshekwa Langa’s reflections on the evolution of identities and societies in contemporary Africa. Meanwhile, Egypt is presenting six artists: Ibrahim Ahmed, delivering aesthetic ponderings on the issue of national identity, Rana Ashraf, showing emotionally-charged works… Ethiopia can also boast of a remarkable selection with five artists. We particularly like Kara Walker’s silhouette cave art, Loulou Cherinet’s short films, and Ermias Kifleyesus’ fragmented colour tints. From Senegal, finally, it’s worth looking out for Ibrahima Kébé’s naïve art, Cheikh Ndiaye’s singular perspective, or creations by Alioune Badara Sarr, Félicité Codjo and Amadou Kane Sy. And don’t forget the Senegal Pavilion, open for visits in parallel to the International Exhibition – a pavilion that helps to inscribe national artistic creativity into the heart of the event. Works here are presented by curator Viyé Diba, an artist and winner of the Grand Prix Léopold Sédar Senghor.

In order to distinguish the artists’ works, four awards will be handed out throughout the Biennial’s duration. The just-mentioned Grand Prix, awarded by the president of the Republic and considered a major distinction in the country’s visual arts, offers an endowment of 10 million CFA francs (around 15,000 euros). The following prizes will also be awarded: the Prix de l’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (10 million CFA francs), the Prix du Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication (5 million CFA francs) and the Prix de l’Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (5 million CFA francs).

Two African nations in the spotlight

In 2018, the Dakar Biennial’s organisers have decided to honour two guest countries: Tunisia and Rwanda. A decision that is both timely and coherent, given the situations in which the two nations find themselves. The Tunisian delegation is presenting an exhibition titled “Keeping the Road”. Fifteen male and female artists are taking part in the event, whose very title resounds like a demand. How to stay on the track of freedom of creation and expression in a country where democracy is in the midst of mutation, and where much is yet to be accomplished? This is a theme that applies to a number of other African countries aside from Tunisia or Rwanda.  Art is a way to gain consciousness, a civic act, and the exhibition presents socially-aware, lucidly critical or militant works. “The show at the Dakar Biennial is very important,” comments the exhibition’s Rachida Triki. “The Biennial is a space for encounters and visibility. But it also shows how artists can contribute to this movement towards autonomy and maturity.” “Keeping the Road” thus sets out to be an initiative in favour of mutation, enabling artists to become social, economic and political players. Note that the invitation of Tunisia coincides with the opening of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Tunis on 7 June.

Off events and multiculturalism

As is the case at every edition, the Biennial is filled out by a significant offer of off events. Thanks to its Urbi programme, driven by a genuine desire to reach out to the Senegalese population, art is invading the city through a number of cultural initiatives. The chosen theme is multiculturalism, seen through the concept of the city. Paris, Dakar, Tokyo and New York have become true free zones, xenopoleis. However, these capitals also remain reference sites in terms of national identity. The city is therefore a symbol that is neutral while also standing for something. We are reminded of the principle of the city-discourse dear to Roland Barthes: according to the French philosopher, the city is a language whose polysemous meaning reveals its conceptual evolution. How does this language develop over the centuries?  What are the codes of the modern city? Between preconceived visions and cultural realities, the theme brings out a few hidden aspects of the city of Dakar, far beyond stereotypes. With the idea of appropriating this language-city, the organisers have overseen the setting up of baraks all over Dakar – stands allowing the public to exhibit what it considers as art.

Alongside the Urbi programme, let’s note that this year, Dak’art is also paying homage to two Senegalese artists who recently passed away: Ndary Lo and Ousmane Sow. A Ndary Lo retrospective is being presented by curator Sylvain Sankalé while the Ousmane Sow House-Museum will receive its first visitors. And those who haven’t yet had their fill can find more still at hundreds of exhibitions and events that are also being organised throughout Senegal to mark the Biennial. All opportunities for the country’s citizens to demonstrate their legendary tradition of hospitality, Senegalese téranga




Dak’art, Biennial of Dakar, until 2 June. International exhibition in the former Palace of Justice. Partner venues: Musée des Civilisations Noires, Musée Théodore Monod d’Art Africain, Musée Léopold Sédar Senghor, Place du Souvenir Africain, Galerie Nationale d’Art, Musée des Anciens Combattants. Dakar, Senegal.




“Encounters and Exchanges”

As a supplement to the artistic programme, the Biennial of Dakar is organising numerous roundtables and presentations this year, taking the form of debates between professionals. The general theme is contemporary African art and transformations in intellectual and normative frameworks. Conversations will namely deal with literary and artistic copyright attached to works and their exploitation. In addition, the acts of the “Encounters and Exchanges” will be published in the magazine Afrik’arts, soon to be launched.

Naomi Beckwith, a curator to watch Tue, 10 Apr 2018 11:39:44 +0000 At barely 41 years old, Naomi Beckwith is an African-American curator who is taking the other side of the Atlantic by storm thanks to her refreshing, all-embracing vision of today’s art. In Chicago, an interview with a woman whose social awareness underlines her inspiring take on her profession.


When the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago recently celebrated its 50th year, Naomi Beckwith was part of the team that organised its three-part “We are Here” birthday exhibition. A jury member of the 2015 Venice Biennale, this young curator at the MCA Chicago since 2011 is the inaugural winner of the VIA Art Fund Curatorial Fellowship grant, aimed at promoting promising artistic projects. And let’s not forget that in March 2017, she chaired the first curatorial leadership summit at New York’s Armory Show. An opportunity for AMA to shed light on her current role at the MCA and to discover her singular perspective on curatorship.


Naomi Beckwith, what did you do before becoming curator at the MCA Chicago?

I was in New York, at the Studio Museum in Harlem. I managed the artist-residency programme and I worked on cultural projects relating to African-American identity, aesthetic minorities, but also current practices on a global scale.


The MCA Chicago is considered to be one of the most influential museums in the United States, with an extensive “historic” collection of contemporary art, ever since its creation in 1967.  What were your goals when you arrived there in 2011?

I was coming home so to speak, because I was born and raised in the Windy City! I wanted to develop solo shows with established artists, but above all, to set up exhibitions on young emerging artists who have never been shown. But my current exhibition, “Howardena Pindell: What remains to be seen”, co-curated with Valerie Cassel Oliver, modern- and contemporary-art curator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, highlights the first African-American artist to become a curator at the MoMA. It focuses on five decades, from modernism to today’s practices. This artist-teacher consistently produced political and poetic works, real critiques of sexism, racism and discrimination in the widest sense of these terms.


So you’re sensitive to the feminist cause… On this note, US art historian Linda Nochlin recently passed away. Reputed as a pioneer of feminist art, she pointed her finger at the “white, Western and male” vision that has prevailed in art. Did she play a special role along your path?

She left a deep impression on me. I should have listened to her when she offered to supervise my PhD! This woman who lent her ear to others and who never judged, overturned the history of art and the way we look at female artists.


You’re also interested in the “Black Lives Matter” movement. At Harlem Studio, you turned your attention to the role of coloured women in art. What conclusions have you drawn on the matter?

That there’s still a long way to go! As a female curator of colour, I’m interested in everything to do with women and artists of colour. What is the concept of négritude in art? The exhibitions that I’ve set up in the last seven years attempt to find answers to this question. And then, there are some things that really exasperate me. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is an artist born in Britain, whom I defend passionately. But people always refer to her Ghanaian origins. Why don’t they consider her as a British artist?


Does Europe show artistic ethnocentrism?

Absolutely! Just like the United States, Europe seems to cast a somewhat self-centred gaze on creation. The history of art was born from their powerful discourse, but they aren’t the only ones around in the world. My projects question the dominant views in today’s art and convey relevant and transversal messages by showing art that isn’t necessarily American or European.


Let’s talk about your latest projects. You chaired the first curators’ summit at the Armory Show in New York. What was discussed here?

This summit invited 60 international curators from major museums to seminars and roundtables with artists and the directors of leading institutions. Olga Viso, director of the Walker Art Center, and Coco Fusco, exhibition curator and artist, launched the first day of discussions with debates on sensitivity, identity and censorship in the art world. Then, curator and art critic Hans Ulrich Obrist presented his personal vision of the issue, and the way he envisages cultural practices in his curating work. What’s more, in this age of globalisation, curators increasingly collaborate with artists from diverse cultures. We have to stay awake!


What were the underlying objectives of the summit?

You know, there’ve never been so many visitors in museums, who scrutinise and comment on exhibition choices, or the language used to speak about our projects. I wanted this summit to be inspiring for each curator, including myself. For it to question the way we select the artists we show and the way we design exhibitions.


Whose idea was this summit?

Over here, conferences are organised for curators at every edition of Expo Chicago. The Armory Show most certainly drew inspiration from this, but I personally wanted to add slots for discussions on the key issues we face in our work.


Do you, like the directors of some French contemporary-art centres, believe that some curators place more importance on their reflections about artists than on the artists themselves? In this light, artists aren’t considered for what they do or what they are…

I agree entirely! A curator should not content himself or herself with simply presenting an artist’s work; the curator should collaborate with the artist while taking into account the artist’s ideas and concepts. Why? Because a good artist is, in my opinion, a good art historian, from whom we have much to learn. In addition, the artist has the potential and imagination to create radical new forms and new objects that are very instructive for the public.


You’re a young contemporary-art curator. What major difficulties do you regularly face in your work?

It’s sometimes difficult for the public to differentiate between an artist’s creative value, their commercial value, and their renown – the latter being correlated with the art market. I set myself the mission of setting up projects on artists or themes that aren’t presented the way they ought to be. My aim isn’t to be seduced by projects that are easy to market or finance. I want to put forward persuasive statements.


On this note, how do you design your exhibitions? Do you start off with an idea or do you feed on your relationship with the artists?

Above all I try to never theorise too much. I spend time talking with the artists. These moments of sharing really foster my thinking.


Let’s go back to the MCA in Chicago, which recently celebrated its 50th birthday. How has the museum changed since it was established in 1967?

It’s been changed by the globalisation of art and its market… The exhibition “Takashi Murakami: The octopus eats its own leg” set a new attendance record by drawing 205,000 visitors. And then, like many institutions, the museum has become a living space where people come to see exhibitions but also to have lunch at the brand new restaurant, the Marisol, to listen to talks, to attend concerts and to see performances. A space for experiences combining architecture, design, art, live performance and cuisine…


What is the museum’s acquisition policy?

Every work demonstrates a significant moment in the history of art, from the 1960s up to the present day, from a political, historical and prospective perspective. As a museum set up in Chicago, the city that is home to many artists, we own a remarkable collection of works by local artists.


Can you name a few pieces that you consider to be especially significant in your collection?

Six Women, created in 1965-1966 by the sculptress Marisol. This piece was our first acquisition. But also Small Hybrid by local sculptor Richard Hunt, dating from 1964. Jeff Koons’ famous iconic work, Rabbit, is up there with our important series of photographs by Cindy Sherman. Finally, perhaps May the Arrogant Not Prevail by Michael Rokowitz, an Iraqi-American artist based in Chicago, on whom we held a first major exhibition, and whose social and political reach corresponds with the institution’s spirit. But there are so many others!


You were awarded the VIA Art Fund’s fellowship grant. How will you use this award?

I’m going to make a field trip to Dakar, to see the Dak’Art biennale in June, but I’ll also be going to Lagos and Marrakech, among other destinations. Africa, like every region of the globe, has so many stories to tell about culture and contemporary art!




“Howardena Pindell: What remains to be seen”, until 20 May. Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, USA.


The Modern, the Classic and the Indian Tue, 10 Apr 2018 08:41:04 +0000 In Paris this spring, tribute is being paid to Gérard Garouste by three exhibitions. At the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, at the Beaux-Arts, and at the Galerie Templon… The chosen theme, “Zeugma”, creates a bridge between the collective and the individual, myth and its commentary. Find out more…

In the 1980s, Alain Pacadis, the punk dandy behind the Palace nightclub described Gérard Garouste as “the artist who paints his wife and his dog”. The artist hadn’t yet evolved into the giant he would become – a top-notch status that was confirmed in December 2017 when the Académie des Beaux-Arts voted him in as an academy member, succeeding Georges Mathieu. In the 1980s, the young artist was just emerging from a few shady twists and turns of existence, and was painting to survive, possibly less for financial reasons than in an urgent response to life. Over 30 years later, things haven’t changed much. It is still Élizabeth who we find as Garouste’s Diana at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature. This time, Garouste himself plays the role of Actaeon. The theme of Diana and Actaeon is one that has cropped up on many a canvas, notably handled by Titian, Luca Giordano, François Boucher and Cavaliere d’Arpino. All variations on a myth recounted in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Actaeon surprises the goddess Diana while she is taking a bath in the company of her attendants. Failing to keep herself from the man’s sight, she blushes and throws water in his face, transforming him into a stag, whose fate is to be hunted and devoured by dogs. Gérard Garouste has taken a few liberties with the myth. His Actaeon is a wild zoophile who violates the animals before he is transformed and dies in their vengeful jaws. Scenes of penetration, fellatio, metamorphoses, emasculation, hurling two-headed creatures… Garouste paints a perverse Actaeon, who, above all, is responsible for his actions. His work is not spared of tumultuous violence. To such an extent that Claude d’Anthenaise, the museum director, wondered during the exhibition’s opening, his jesting tinged with concern: “Shouldn’t we refuse entry to young children?”

Zeugma, an elegy of transitions

This exhibition is one of three paying homage to the painter in Paris as spring gets underway. As well as the Musée de la Chasse, Garouste is holding shows at the Galerie Templon (“Zeugma”, meaning “bridge” in Greek, where he develops the notions of passages and transmission), and at the Beaux-Arts (“Zeugma, le grand œuvre drolatique”, a series of monumental installations and theatrical setups). Blatant homage that it’s possible to see as a new wave in figurative painting – but a wave that Garouste takes with a grain of salt. “I’ve been fashionable before, I’ve also been a loser. For the same reasons. It’s a swinging pendulum game. In terms of art history, the hand in the Chauvet grotto is closer to a Matisse than an 18th century painting. The relationship between modernity and classicism doesn’t matter.” Gérard Garouste makes this comment while sitting on a couch in the Stag and Wolf Room at the Musée de la Chasse, a room decorated with conspicuous woodwork, tapestries and stuffed animals. A room that he loves. His voice is deep, slightly rusty. His gaze is simultaneously searching and absent; gilded rings circle his fingers. With these hands, there was a time when Garouste prepared his own colours, crushed his own pigments, tested his oils, working with a chemist and restorers. All this to increase his knowledge, to learn. To acquire technique, then to forget it while focusing on his subject. Because that, in the end, is what matters to him.

Garouste combines, and has always combined, different levels of reading in his often cryptic paintings. He represents literary or mythological themes (from a corpus that he deepens rather than widens, namely including the Talmud, Cervantes, Rabelais, Dante, and Barthes). These are themes that he twists while peopling his works with figures from his entourage, filling out his paintings with symbolic animals – donkeys and geese are omnipresent in his show at the Galerie Templon. Garouste directly paints his life onto the canvas, through the vehicle of myths. There’s nothing suppressed about his work – his self-allusions are entirely conscious. His work abounds with gaps and rapprochements in meaning, associations of ideas, hence the gathering of these exhibitions under the banner of the zeugma or “bridge” – another recurring element in his work. In L’Intranquille, a superb self-portrait in words that sketches out his literary life, we read: “I like the idea that we represent one thing and that we talk about something else.”

“Over time, I’m getting closer to the centre”

The subject as an alibi… It’s impossible to write about Garouste without mentioning his relationship with Hebrew, a language he has used since the end of the 1990s – and that has left an influence on his reading and paintings. Hebrew is a question of interpretation. As Garouste is fond of often pointing out, “the same three-letter root can result in different words”. The painter offers an example: “Desert, word and bee have the same root.”

Gérard Garouste is obsessed by the origins of our culture and the rereading of myths, and especially interpretation. “The words in the Bible are a bit like flint that we strike and that gives off sparks.” But not everything falls in the domain of truth, like History, but becomes a matter of interpretation, like mythology. In short, in the way that Hebrew opens up the meanings of words, Garouste opens up his painting as he operates what he calls the “disassembly of words and images”. “A good painting places all responsibility on the person who looks at it,” he adds, citing Roland Barthes’ La Mort de l’auteur. “It’s the reader who finds meaning from a work. I don’t create paintings that answer questions, but that raises them.” Gérard Garouste is a man of mystery who embeds his paintings with keys to reading them, clues. For those looking at them to notice and interpret themselves. This way, meaning opens up…

In L’Intranquille, Garouste alludes to his growing interest in Cervantes and Rabelais – a passion nourished by images from his childhood and visits to his beloved Uncle  Casso. For Garouste, personal history, the history of the world, and the history of art can only be understood through their relationships with one another. “I dance around the core issue. Like a spiral, but with a centripetal rather than a centrifugal force. Over time, I’m getting closer to the centre. From my own depths, I touch the depths of others. This is where dialogue begins.” The zeugma is the bridge between the collective and the individual, the past and the present, myth and its commentary.

Style serves discourse… “The realism of observation and the banality of classicism,” Garouste said to Hortense Lyon in 2015. Even when he hides behind the neutrality of his method (sketches, glazing…), Garouste is identifiable through the expressionist handling of subjects, his great talent as a colourist, and his stretched-out, whirling impastos. There are also his frequent plays on anamorphosis – because “an anamorphosis is an erection”. Something that fits in well with his Diane et Actéon series. “Style is the residue of influences,” notes the artist who looks to Spain in particular, drawing inspiration from Le Greco, Velasquez and Goya. “Painting penetrates the artist, he doesn’t invent it.”

The Classic and the Indian

Gérard Garouste was born in 1946. After a childhood marked with hatred and fear, he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1965 to 1972. “As a student, I soon realised, while reading De Chirico, that the quarrel between traditional and modern artists has erupted in every era. Anything you do will be challenged by the next generation. I didn’t want to be taken in by this.” In the 1970s, Garouste created frescoes at the Palace, where he presented Le Classique et l’Indien, a performance of which he was the author, director and decorator. The two title characters offer the painter an axiology, described in L’Intranquille. The Classic is “the man puffed up with norms”; the Indian, “someone intuitive, rebellious, creative” on the verge of madness. So does it come as any surprise to see, at the Beaux-Arts de Paris, amongst his huge painted fabric architectures, a unit resembling an inverted tepee? Architectures baptised Indiennes. “In Bordeaux, the term “Indiennes” refers to painted fabrics from Indian trading posts. The first time I showed these works was in 1987. At the time, the CAPC (Bordeaux’s museum of contemporary art) was largely supported by the mayor Chaban-Delmas. The CAPC is a windowless cathedral. In these gloomy cells, I created enormous canvases, some of them sixteen metres tall by seven metres wide.” Architectural forms that were entirely painted, with themes drawn from Dante’s Divine Comedy. “The canvas of an oil painting is stretched over a frame; the object is all you need. Tapestries are different. They can dress up whole walls; we can create architectural forms with them. I incidentally change the way they’re arranged for every exhibition. At the Fondation Cartier, they stood two and a half metres high. At the Stedelijk Museum, they made up a frieze.”

Between the late 1970s and late 1980s, Garouste’s renown was established. The artist often says that he is positioned “as a breakaway from the breakaway”. Moving against the flow, he was the only French artist to take part in the “Zeitgeist” exhibition (at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, in 1982) – an exhibition which, as its name indicates, set out to present the air du temps. Garouste was also supported by Leo Castelli, “a man of great openness”. Ever since, with his exhibitions at the Fondation Cartier (2001), the Villa Médicis (2009) and the Fondation Maeght (2015), his election to the Académie des Beaux-Arts and this springtime homage only seal a destiny already placing him in History.




“Zeugma”, three Gérard Garouste exhibitions. In Paris: at the Beaux-Arts until 15 April (14 rue Bonaparte), at the Galerie Templon until 12 May (30 rue Beaubourg), at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature until 1 July (62 rue des Archives).




La Source, when art serves society

Gérard Garouste’s work is not confined to art. In 1991, he set up La Source, an association aiming to support society and education via artistic expression, namely geared at children and young people in difficult circumstances and their families. The association has developed in recent years, and today, is established in seven French departments, both in rural and urban areas. In concrete terms, the association organises workshops run by professional artists and community workers. It is active in a wide range of artistic fields, including painting, engraving, sculpture, photography, video, installations, performance arts and writing. “Art is crucial for a child’s balance, and the way that it’s practised at La Source, it helps to boost citizenship. Helping children to blossom and introducing them to art is a way to cultivate their sensitivity, imagination, intelligence, with the hope of making them beings with desire” (


Through the wormhole Sat, 07 Apr 2018 14:56:27 +0000 Journalist, art critic and former head editor of AMA, Clément Thibault is also an exhibition curator, currently presenting “Wormholes”… In other words, a two-part exhibition, jointly curated with Mathieu Weiler. Showing in Paris, at the Galerie Laure Roynette and at La Ruche.


After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR, our ideological system believed itself, for a time, to be victorious. The fact that some thinkers including Francis Fukuyama conceived that History had reached its end is a symptom of this stance. Of course, events would continue to occur, but the world’s march towards liberal and democratic consensus was underway and nothing more could stop it. It was the end of the dialectic of History, survived by a single immortal system. The new millennium on the horizon could only become a continuum.

Nearly 30 years later, things have changed a great deal. Democratic systems are quivering, trembling, troubled by internal or external threats. Shaken by doubts that either produce inwardness (as incarnated by the virulent debate between nationalists and globalists) or openness. Critical openness, a questioning of values. Post-modernism had already started this task of re-examining History and art history, but with regard to modernism alone. Today, all hegemonic foundations of our culture are being challenged, some of them centuries old. Foundations of a culture that is Western in its focus, namely historical, capitalistic in its economy, bourgeois in its social character, white in terms of race, masculine in terms of its dominant sex.

The artists at this double-exhibition, “Wormholes” (the first part at the Galerie Laure Roynette, the second at La Ruche), operate in this context. First things first: a wormhole, in physics, is a hypothetical object that links two distinct regions of space-time, a sort of shortcut between two dimensions. Poetically, this concept can be applied to the work of artists who consciously blend, either tangibly or symbolically, different space-times in their work, creating shortcuts between two distinct regions or eras in art – or rather, human representations. The wormhole concept also wields the iconography of the cosmos. An iconography that is heavily called on these days, in fiction (namely in film) as well as reality, as we have embarked on a new era of space conquests, this time headed for Mars. In short, this is an exhibition designed as an experience of time and space by Mathieu Weiler and myself.

The connections between art and history are rich, obviously. An artist emerges from centuries of submerged creations. Traditions, inspirations and the game of references have woven subtle links which crisscross the history of forms, and artists have long seized hold of the question of time. The Renaissance turned its eyes towards Antiquity, pre-Raphaelites gazed at the Italian primitives, Derain, Picasso and Matisse looked at African art, and the surrealists contemplated Oceanic art, before postmodernism triggered critical reflection on History. In this way, artists have long found ways to allude to time in a space that is either two-dimensional (the canvas) or three-dimensional (sculpture), whether we’re talking about History (the ideologization of time) or duration (the perception of time). However, the desire to blend – or even bring head-on against one another – different time-spaces is recent – the desire to create wormholes… In artistic terms, this gesture has two grandparents: Hannah Höch’s collages (the selection and reorganization of pre-existing, re-contextualised cultural items), and Duchamp’s ready-mades (which led artists to more searchingly question the symbolism of the objects they use). Wormholes can take the form of a fairly wide range of gestures. Some artists create collages or montages, like Tim Stokes, who matches African masks picked up from flea markets with the moulds of Roman busts. Others recycle old objects: this is the case of Jean-Marc Cérino, who takes old 19th century drawings that he covers with supremacist motifs, or Léo Dorfner who touches up old engravings with tattoos, often the emblems of rock and rap groups. Gabriel Léger’s mirror, Nicolas Tourte’s brick pierced with a delicate staircase, and Pascal Convert’s books embedded in glass, also re-use objects for their symbolic and historical import. Finally, other artists – for example Hughes Dubois, Laurent Grasso, Hyppolite Hentgen or Mathieu Weiler – make use of the illusions of drawing, painting or photography to play with modes of representation, or to re-employ fragments of the past or of pop culture.

While such gestures are becoming more common these days, it’s not accurate to label them as a novelty hot off the press either. We can credit Aby Warburg as the first artist to develop “tunnel”-like thought in the first half of the 20th century. Few, before him, had the boldness to bring together realities as remote from one another (in time and space) as the Indian Hopi snake ritual and the flower bearer in Ghirlandaio’s Birth of St. John the Baptist at the Santa Maria Novella (Florence). Not forgetting bas-reliefs of the Maenads in Rome. Carrying on the rapprochement he initiated, Aby Warburg went on to produce the Mnemosyne Atlas, in which he discerned the survival of forms of pathos from Antiquity in the Renaissance. A type of memorial mapping… Later, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Venus of the Rags (1967) – a pile of colourful clothing and a cement statue moulded after the ancient work depicting Venus – would offer a primitive example of a wormhole.

In a wormhole, the image plays with its model. It gives access to an absent reality, to which it alludes symbolically, while veiling awareness of this reality. It is an image of images. The rapprochements between symbols of an elsewhere, a past or future time, are often operated to shed light on the present. Without taking any risks, we can presume that this relatively recent desire to join up different regions is encouraged by the globalisation of exchanges, the multiplication of images, and their wider diffusion. These wormholes bear witness to a world in the state of becoming, where identity is turning liquid and plural, where history is a rhizome rather than a root, where hierarchies (of culture, gender or otherwise) are abolished.

Through Wormholes, the Galerie Laure Roynette and La Ruche are welcoming an experience of time and our present in the light of a recomposed past or a premonitory future. The space aspect of the wormhole isn’t overlooked either: there are the large space-related paintings by Emmanuel Régent, Caroline Le Méhauté’s delicately wrinkled cosmos, Fabien Léaustic’s utopian maps, or Brankica Zilovic’s glitched fabric universes. These artists represent – in other words, they make present – the cosmos as well as utopian or non-existent spaces that lie outside of time. In this way, Wormholes opens up to a relativity that is all the wider: that of the place of our history, of our present, and of time itself. In short, the place of humans in reality… and the mystery of the latter. A mystery as great as a passage through a wormhole.




“Wormholes #1”, curated by Clément Thibault & Mathieu Weiler, until 21 April. Galerie Laure Roynette, 20 rue de Thorigny, Paris 75003.

“Wormholes #2”, curated by Clément Thibault & Mathieu Weiler, from 27 April to 6 May. La Ruche, 2 passage de Dantzig, Paris 75015.