February 3, 2017
Okay, there’s a lot of red… some nice white strokes, a hint of yellow, and… now they’ve all blended into orange and pink dripping endlessly down the canvas. And then there’s the black lines and swirls. Are they supposed to be scratches? What’s written in that corner? It’s all so big, I can’t quite make out the top…
I’m not sure I know what I’m looking at but, I can feel it. And that’s what makes the works of American artist Cy Twombly (1928-2011) so significant. His energy can be as subtle as the breath of a mark on a cream-colored canvas, or as animated as the manic blood red loops of Bacchus (2005). No matter the intensity of his energy, one element remains coherent —the unpredictability of where his emotions will take him.
The Centre Pompidou presents an in-depth retrospective of the artist’s long career, beginning in the 1950s and right up until his death in 2011. The show revolves around three major cycles —Nine Discourses on Commodus (1963), Fifty Days at Iliam (1978), and Coronation of Sesostris (2000). The exhibition, organized chronologically, includes some 140 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photographs featuring well-known works such as Blooming (2001-08), as well as others never previously exhibited in France.
The journey begins with a step into the bare landscape of cream washes, imperfect whites, and clumsy scribbles. The first gallery encompasses Twombly’s early works from the 1950s. During this period he was still in his hometown of Lexington, Virginia and he also began his travels to Europe and North Africa accompanied by his friend Robert Rauschenberg. Often characterized as graffiti (a label which Twombly rejected), his erratic, aggressive lines fill the entire surface, almost as if someone was trying to claw their way out from behind the canvas.
Moving further into this strange new world we discover Twombly’s life-long muse —the Mediterranean. The artist was fascinated by it since his first visits to Rome in the ’50s, and this fascination intensified during the periods that he lived in Italy. The iconography, metaphors, and myths of ancient civilizations left a strong mark on his works. From Egyptians to Greeks, Romans, and Persians, Twombly acts as an archaeologist, layering references from the classical past while drawing connections to contemporary figures and painting practices such as abstraction and minimalism.
The subject matter of Twombly’s oeuvre suggests a vast literary knowledge and a deep understanding of the human psyche. He reinvigorates the ancient myths and histories of Achilles, Eros, Venus, Apollo, Mars, and Commodus with an instinctual understanding of not only their narratives but also their spirits, their dramas and traumas. We can feel the rage of Commodus, the cruel Roman tyrant, as he unleashes terror and chaos in Nine Discourses on Commodus (1963). With each successive canvas the battle between white (innocence and victims) and red (power and oppression) grows more aggressive. Textured paint is thrown back and forth until at last a fresh reddish-orange glistens with victory.
Perhaps the most intriguing and complex element of Twombly’s artistic approach is his use of language. He creates visual poetry by merging the principles of abstract expressionism and the lyricism of words. Coming off as difficult and rather unclear, his script is largely incomprehensible. A mishmash of singular words or illegible phrases float throughout his compositions neglecting any true syntax or logic. The words are activated and energized by the dynamic forms, expressive lines, and bold colors that accompany them. The ten-part series Coronation of Sesostris (2000) perfectly demonstrates how Twombly blends language and image so that each complements and fulfills the other. Referencing Egyptian sun god Ra, Egyptian king Sesostris I, ancient Greek poets Sappho and Alcman, and contemporary poet Patricia Waters, the series shows the artist’s unrelenting dedication to narrative and ancient civilizations.
Twombly is a modern poet. His work can most easily be understood as an emotional and intellectual reaction to an understanding of the past, expressed through the language of color, form, and writing. It possesses an archaic energy that surpasses traditional and one-dimensional representations of history and instead strives to express a universal essence. His work is as sensual and sensitive as it is intellectual and independent. Cy Twombly, a true maverick, interpreting humanity across time and space.
“Cy Twombly” is on view at the Centre Pompidou until April 24, 2017.
October 29, 2016
The “Kollektsia!” exhibition at the Pompidou Center in Paris was born out of a donation of more than 250 artworks from the Vladimir Potanin Foundation, collectors, artists and their families. While not being too exhaustive, this ensemble of works by major Russian artists adequately offers a panorama of some forty years of contemporary art in the USSR and then in Russia, covering the most important movements. It includes works by confrontational artists created outside official structures, from the Moscow conceptual school to Sots Art, from non-conformism to perestroika (a political reform within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1980s, widely associated with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his glasnost [openess] policy reform).
The first section of the show is dedicated to non-conformist art since the late 1950s when artists revived the aesthetic practices of the avant-garde and sought innovations of their own formal approach. My favourite pieces are the “Milk Box” sculpture (1970) by Igor Shelkovski, a hanging object called “Space-Movement-Infinity” — the first kinetic work in postwar Russian art and some intriguing photographic works by Francisco Infante-Arana. The non-conformist artworks are not following a homogeneous movement with shared objectives. However, as a whole they represent the budding diversified creativity confronting the strictly controlled official structures in art in the USSR.
My favourite section of the exhibition is of the more playful Sots Art, invented by Komar and Melamid to subvert, in a Pop-art way, the codes of the mass propaganda that saturated Soviet life. In contrast to the Pop artists — confronted by a superabundance of consumer goods — Sots artists, such as Alexander Kosolapov, Boris Orlov and Leonid Sokov, sought to demythologize official cliché and the ideological environment of the Soviet society through absurdity and paradox. For instance, the eye- and phone-camera-catching “Malevich-Marlboro Triptych” (1985) by Alexander Kosolapov demonstrates how the artist drew on broad iconographic sources from both Soviet and Western clichés while using an advertising image. On the other hand, Leonid Sokov’s hanging sculpture “Glasses for Every Soviet Person” (1976) delivers ironic humour through simple graphics and raw wooden texture.
Alongside Sots Art, the 1970s brought about Moscow Romantic Conceptualism which accord greater importance to text and language, with artists working at the intersection of poetry, performance and visual art, such as Dmitri Prigov and Andrei Monstyrsky. The latter advocated a conceptual art that reflected the ascendancy of literature in Russian culture. A section of the exhibition pays homage to Dmitri Prigov who was known for writing verse on cans. The conceptualists also embraced the power of text through performance, such as “I Breathe and I Hear” (1983) by Andrei Monstyrsky, who is a part of the Collective Actions group; the group taht has carried out a lot of planned performances.
The onset of perestroika brought an exploding sense of freedom and accelerating artistic processes from the mid-1980s onwards. Following the sudden liberalization, artists were then able to take part in exhibitions and find a place on the international art arena. This period in Russian history not only witnesses the diversifying artistic approaches, but also paved the way for legitimizing of formerly marginalized art. In 1988, a first auction organised by Sotheby’s in Moscow gave a tangible value to unofficial art, and the boundary between official and unofficial abruptly disappeared. In this sense, the impressive “Last Supper” (1989) by Andrei Filippov, with hammers and sickles on a red table, is one of those works marking the end of “unofficial art” while it preceded the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Perhaps some of Yuri Leridrman’s works in 2009 displayed at the exhibition could reflect this lively flourishing of creative energies in post-Soviet era; the artist juxtaposed painted plants onto collage of newspapers, thereby transforming textual material into images.
Yes, you didn’t read it wrong – this is about South Korean artists in the Parisian art fair. The art world in Paris has welcomed spring with Art Paris Art Fair which gathers 143 galleries from 20 countries, including Azerbaijan, Colombia and Iran for the first time. The fair presents art from the post-war period to the present, with South Korea as the guest of honour this year. Almost 70 Korean artists are represented by galleries both from Korea and around 20 Western galleries. In fact, the Korean art scene and markets has been growing drastically with multiplied global market share during recent years. By observation, the work of South Korean artists is generally well received by fair-goers while these following artists have particularly intrigued both the French (majority) and international audience.
- Choi Jeong Hwa
Being one of the most internationally renowned artists from South Korea, Choi Jeong Hwa’s art consists of cultural icons and materials from our daily life, such as soda bottles, shopping bags, and colourful plastic dishes. He is also known for large-scale installations that trump the hierarchy of museum. At the fair Park Ryu Sook Gallery from Seoul presents a moving installation titled Breathing Flower that catches much attention from fair-goers as the large red flower opens and closes with air being pumped in and released at intervals.
- Chun Kwang Young
Generally recognised as a pioneer in contemporary Korean art, Chun Kwang Young’s art employs traditional Korean technique and material but expressed in visual language of our time. Hundreds of small shapes wrapped in tinted antique mulberry paper are inspired by the artist’s childhood nostalgia as they resemble bundles of paper packages of traditional medicinal herbs. His work can be seen at several gallery booths including Kálmán Makláry Fine Arts, Omer Tiroche Contemporary Art, Park Ryu Sook Gallery, Sundaram Tagore Gallery. Among these, Sundaram Tagore Gallery has brought various new site-specific works – a series of colourful and greatly tactile wall reliefs, which make it worth visiting the booth.
While Kálmán Makláry Fine Arts is displaying only one piece by the artist, it is still recommended to visit the booth to check out the work of a younger South Korean artist, Ilhwa Kim, whose work has visibly been influenced by Chun Kwang Young’s while demonstrating his own style and technique, using another traditional material – handmade Korean paper, Hanji.
- Bahk Seon-Ghi
At the booths of 313 Art Project, Galerie Paris-Beijing and Galerie Andres Thalmann, you can discover and be amazed by the artist’s suspended charcoal installations. Started to concentrate on working with charcoal in the late 1980s, Bahk Seon-Ghi wants to express nature which he has been in close contact since his childhood. His work made up of subtle and humble small pieces of charcoal is very visually appealing.
- Kim Joon
This Seoul-based artist explores tattoo culture using digital prints made with 3-D imaging. Desire, memory and youth are illustrated through digital mediums of porcelain and tattoos. Park Ryu Sook Gallery has brought the artist’s latest series Somebody of startling images of misplaced and intertwined body parts. Though not much my cup of tea, it exposes the hidden desire or the human and the society. I personally prefer Kim Joon’s series of porcelain in shapes of broken human bodies imprinted with brand logos, such as Absolut in Drunken-Absolut Vodka, 2011 as presented at Sundaram Tagore Gallery’s booth.
- Kim Tschang Yeul
Living and working in both Paris and Seoul, Kim Tschang Yeul, at an age of 87, has spent much of his career painting water drops. He drills into the expression of the forms and meanings of this object. At the booths of both Baudoin Lebon, Paris and Park Ryu Sook Gallery are some latest important pieces of this distinguished artist, visually vivid water drops lying on backdrops subtly inscribed with characters from the Korean language.
Art Paris Art Fair at Grand Palais, Paris, 31 March – 3 April, 2016
Anselm Kiefer once said, “art is difficult, it’s not entertainment.” Indeed, when I first encountered Kiefer’s art at his retrospective in Royal Academy of Arts in London in late 2014, I found his art almost unbearably heavy and dark. His first retrospective in France is happening right now, and gave me a better understanding of his art.
Now held at Centre Pompidou in Paris, the retrospective showcases 150 works by this 70-year-old German artist who emerged in the art scene of post-war Germany in 1969, spanning almost half of a century. Organized chronologically and thematically into 13 sections, the retrospective exhibits around 60 selected paintings alongside drawings, installations, artist’s books and 40 “display cases” of micro-fragmented environments or ruins consisting of broken machinery, rusty metal, old photographs and filmstrips.
Firstly, the large-scale installation in the Forum of Centre Pompidou, Steigend, steigend, sinke niede [In climbing, climbing towards the heights, fall into the abyss] with materials resembling hundreds of filmstrips, symbolizes the exhibition as a film running backwards, which simultaneously echoes the perpetual theme of memory in the art of Anselm Kiefer.
“Memory”, “history” and “myth” are some of the keywords to understanding Kiefer’s art as he is one of the first artists in post-war Germany to look into Nazi history by means of his art. In 1969, the artist made a series of photographic self-portraits in which he performed the Hitler salute, dressing in his father’s old Nazi army uniform. In the painting Notung, the sword bears Kiefer’s fascination with the Germanic heroes who are part of the national identity. It is also stained with blood, simultaneously becoming a witness to the nation’s history of the past century. Representing Germany at the Venice Biennial in 1980, Anselfm Kiefer and Georg Baselitz opened a Pandora’s box by making references to German history – the history that the whole nation wanted to forget. With the series Wege der Weltsweisheit [Ways of Worldly Wisdom], Kiefer insisted on the need to face the Nazi history by painting a web connecting the portraits of German intellectuals with some Nazi figures with a forest at the background representing Germany. In Kiefer’s philosophy, “only by going into the past can you go into the future.”
This links to another significant aspect of Kiefer’s art – the sublime and regenerative power of art. Kiefer explores the role of the artist after Nazism, with a drawn palette superimposed on a ruined landscape in Malen [To Paint]. As the bluish rain showered by the palette seems to be refreshing the burnt field, Kiefer illustrates the power of art to salvage and regenerate from the wreckage. Therefore, one could say Kiefer’s art is bipolar – it bridges joy and hope with gloomy catastrophic ruins.
In the painterly Bose Blumen, the expressive colors of flowering meadows, with references to the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire, does not only witness the transformation of Kiefer’s art from monochrome black to a variety of colors, but also denotes cycles of perpetual regeneration as the essence of Kiefer’s artistic philosophy. This is reinforced by the final, site-specific installation, For Madame de Staël: Germany, with cardboard mushrooms indicating various German intellectuals sprouting from sands that are spread over a large gallery space in front of a painting of a dark forest that signifies Germany. With this latest piece indicating transformation and rebirth growing from his nation’s tormented past, Kiefer is determined to emphasize the transcending power of art.
As Kiefer once said art may not be easy, as his art deals with the past, the present and the future in this complicated world. Take a chance to experience and understand Anselm Kiefer’s art at Centre Pompidou until 18th of April, 2016.
March 2, 2016
There are two important events happening in the art world in London both connected to Alexander Calder. The Tate Modern showcases “Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture” until April 3rd and equally as important is PACE LONDON’s “Calder Prize 2005-2015” show that acquaints visitors with the level of inspiration that this grand artist is still offering young artists from all over the world.
At Pace, Alexander Calder’s works such as “Still Life”1944, “Snag” 1944, “Fawn” 1944, “Untitled” 1953, “Trois pics (intermediate maquette)” 1967, “The Tree” 1960 are exhibited in conversation with 6 artists, laureates of the Calder Prize between 2005 and 2015.
A Maverick of modernist art, Calder completely revolutionized the landscape of art by insisting on introducing performance and kinetic qualities to sculpture, embracing industrial media including wire and sheet metal. Calder managed to change the most static materials into romantic pieces.
His work included not only sculpture but also paintings, drawings, and more than a dozen theatrical productions. Calder described his involvement in the stage sets as “dancers performing a choreography due to their rhythmic movement.”
This ultimate vanguard of modern art is still continuing to touch the art world by inspiring so many young artists. Nowadays, Calder Prize and Calder Foundation, a non-profit organization, aim to collect, exhibit, preserve and interpret the art and archives of Alexander Calder. The foundation examines works attributed to Calder and catalogues the artist’s works.Together with the Scone Foundation in New York, the Calder Foundation sponsors the biennial Calder Prize, a $50,000 award to a living artist and it also facilitates the donation of the artist’s work to a major public collection. The laureates are also invited to complete a residency in Calder’s atelier in Sache, France.
Below is a brief presentation of the artists who have been laureates of the Calder Prize 2005-2015.
Darren Bader, born in 1978, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, lives and works in New York. Bader first started by wanting to be a film director and his first videos, composed of long takes of objects, inert and in motion, were a preview of what Bader the artist was going to do.
Everything can become an art object for this artist, from living beings such as live kittens exhibited for adoption under abstract names (MoMA PS1, 2012) to books, undelivered mail, boxes of paint, you name it! Bader’s book “Life as a Readymade” which is basically an open letter to anyone who considers himself an artist, includes the phrase “Art is a state of mind and experience understood by any number of people at any number of moments.”
Tara Donovan, was born in 1969, in New York and was awarded the Calder Prize in 2005. Donovan’s work uses everyday manufactured materials such as Scotch tape, Styrofoam cups, paper plates, toothpicks, and drinking straws to create large scale sculptures that often have a biomorphic quality. Her sculptures must be assembled and disassembled carefully, which sometimes involves an extremely tedious process. With regards to her artistic process, Donovan explained that she chooses the material before she decides what can be done with it. She noted in an interview that she thinks “in terms of infinity, of [the materials] expanding.” Her work has been exhibited in numerous important venues such as Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, Hammer Museum, University of California, MMOA in New York and many others. She is present at Pace London with “Cloud”, 2003 and “Untitled”, 2015.
Rachel Harrison, born in 1966, in New York, was a Calder Prize laureate of the 2011 edition and has had many solo exhibitions at institutions such as Bergen Kunsthall, Camden Arts Centre, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Migros Museum fur Gegenwartskunst in Zurich and SMAK, Ghent. She lives and works in New York and is present at the Calder Prize with “Avatar” ,2010 and “Silent Account”, 2004. Rachel produces sculptures that juxtapose a unique combination of found, purchased, and received items. Since then, her works have been fabricated using a wide range of materials, such as honey, cans of peas, papier-mâché, and trash bags. By using everyday goods and objects, Harrison frequently takes on the subject of consumer culture. She also often confronts popular culture and celebrities with her work. In the 2012 exhibition named “The Help”, her pieces featured the singer Amy Winehouse and the artist Martin Kippenberger.
Zilvinas Kempinas was born in 1969, in Plunge, Lithuania and he is the Calder laureate of 2007. He lives and works in New York and his works are kinetic and minimalistic. Kempinas employs non traditional materials to create active and dynamic exhibits, most commonly as installations. In many of his works, Kempinas utilizes his signature material, unwound magnetic tape. The use of the tape affects the viewer through various senses; visually, aurally and physically. “His art plays out on the bright side of the moon” and Londoners can see that in his work exhibited at Pace London “Illuminator”. His installation “Flux” shows as much of Calder’s influence and heritage as aimed by the exhibition. Similar to the rest of the laureates, Kempinas has had major solo exhibitions including the ones at PS1 Contemporary Art Centre, Long Island New York, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Kunstalle Wien and many others.
Haroon Mirza is an English and London born artist, who became a Calder laureate in 2015. His installations made me think about what famous architect Xavier Corbero said: “when you choose the right scale, music sounds beautiful”. Mirza is close to an architect, creating a space where LED lights, speakers, vinyls, screens, and different music sounds interact and converse to the point of involving the spectator. His installation “Light Work iii”, is also an experience in itself.
Tómas Saraceno born in 1973 in San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina, was awarded the Calder Prize in 2009 and he lives and works in Berlin. Trained as an architect, he is not only an artist but an environmentalist and he combines engineering, physics, chemistry, aeronautics and materials science in his work. Saraceno has had solo exhibitions at the Barbican Art Gallery, London, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, University of California, Hangar Bahnhof, Berlin, etc. It is an interesting fact to note that Saraceno holds a World record for the first, longest, fully solar-powered, certified, lighter-than-air vehicle tether Flight. He is present at Calder Prize exhibition with “Cumulus Filaments”, 2016 and “Trace G64 B213”, 2015.
The exhibition is open to the public up until 5th of March, 2016 at PACE LONDON.
February 4, 2016
The art scene in Paris has long been recognised, first and foremost, as the birthplace of Impressionism with the likes of Manet, Monet and Degas bringing it to global prominence. Today, however, Paris’ modern and contemporary offerings are a strong and exciting force driving its reputation beyond the die-hard, 19th century roots. From cutting-edge industrial architecture in the Gagosian Le Bourget, to digital innovation at La Gaîté Lyrique, we rounded up the 10 best modern and contemporary galleries to give you an insight into the city’s burgeoning arts scene.
In a nutshell: The rugged concrete interior may appear to be a meditated aesthetic decision but was actually due to the the gallery’s lack of money in the middle of renovation which led to organisers leaving it in its stripped-down state. Situated across from the Musée d’Art Moderne, the enormous Palais de Tokyo space houses some of the most cutting-edge, contemporary art in Europe including mind-blowing installations, films, and performances that are always exciting and immersive. Don’t miss the excellent bookshop and The Toyko Eat, the gallery’s restaurant.
Where: 16th arrondissement. Open 12pm-12am every day except Tuesday.
In a nutshell: The base level for any contemporary art-goer in Paris is the Centre Georges Pompidou, its name pays homage to its creator – the French president – who commissioned the building in 1969 as a completely new, multidisciplinary cultural centre. It’s architecture is an extraordinary mélange of multicoloured pipes forming a structure that juts out from the traditional French buildings of the 4th arrondissement. With its exhaustive permanent collections of modern and contemporary art spanning over 100,000 works including Pollock, Kandinsky and Man Ray, the Pompidou is, unsurprisingly, one of the most visited museums in France. Don’t miss the panoramic view from the top floor and the gallery’s library.
Where: 4th arrondissement. Open 11am-10pm everyday except Tuesday.
In a nutshell: Like the Palais de Tokyo, La Gaîté Lyrique is hyper-contemporary. It focuses on the digital arts, complete with a video game station, interactive library and café, as well as exhibitions in the basement. The institution embraces all forms of contemporary digital expression from cinema, web design, and visual arts to electronic music. You’ll find many students in the café, teens playing the video games and plenty of families who take advantage of the kids afternoons the gallery holds during its exhibitions.
Where: 3rd arrondissement. Open 2pm-8pm Tuesday-Saturday and 12pm-6pm Sundays. Closed Monday.
In a nutshell: Located in the East-Wing of the Palais de Toyko, the Musée d’Art Moderne has been running since 1968 with over 10,000 modern and contemporary works from both European and global artists as well as several temporary exhibitions each year. The gallery was briefly closed in 2010 after a theft of over €100,000 worth of masterpieces, including works by Matisse and Modigliani. Even with its compelling heist history, the gallery is not as well-known as its name suggests, but is still worth a visit for its excellent permanent collection.
Where: 16th arrondissement. Open 10am-6pm Tuesday-Sunday except Thursday with a late opening until 10pm. Closed Monday.
5. Jeu de Paume
In a nutshell: Situated on the edge of Paris’ Place de Concorde in the famous Tuileries Garden, the Jeu de Paume is a beautiful 19th century building that once served as a tennis court, (hence the gallery’s title – ‘Jeu de Paume’ is French for racquet), as well as a sorting house for Nazi loot during WWII. The work on display, however, often goes above and beyond the building’s history with a focus on exhibiting post-war mechanical/electronic art – predominantly photography but also includes cinema, video installation, web art and more. Its major exhibitions, such as the current showcase of Philippe Halsman’s famous celebrity portraits have made it a popular destination for the city’s art-goers.
Where: 8th arrondissement. Open 11am-9pm Tuesday and 11am-7pm Wednesday-Sunday. Closed Monday.
In a nutshell: Housed in an ex-hotel in Paris’ historic 4th quarter Le Marais, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie is an institution dedicated to showcasing contemporary photography with a collection of over 20,000 works as well as rotating exhibitions which show anything from portraiture to optical illusions. Each rotation gives a broad vision of photography today, recently showing a major exhibition documenting a season at French fashion house Lanvin, as well as the remarkably composed architectural photographs of Caio Reisewitz. As well as these spaces, the gallery houses an auditorium, library, and video viewing facility and runs workshops and events throughout the year.
Where: 4th arrondissement. Open 10am-8pm Wednesday-Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
In a nutshell: Describing itself as having an “original approach to corporate philanthropy”, the Cartier Foundation commits itself to raising public awareness for contemporary art by exhibiting established artists as well as offering younger ones a chance to debut. Housed in a glass building designed by Pritzker Prize architect Jean Nouvel, it sits in a tranquil woodland garden, landscaped by Lothar Baumgarten making it a worthwhile place to visit for reasons beyond just the art. As well as organising multiple exhibitions, the foundation has created ‘Nomadic Nights’, an event focusing on the linkage between different kinds of contemporary expression via the performing arts.
Where: 14th arrondissement. Open 11am-8pm Wednesday-Saturday and 11am-10pm on Tuesdays. Closed Monday.
8/9. Gagosian Galleries
In a nutshell: Major player in the contemporary art world, Larry Gagosian has fifteen galleries worldwide including two in Paris; one in the north-eastern suburb Le Bourget and another in the 8th arrondissement. The former is in an industrial park of Le Bourget, its location enabling the gallery’s spacious interior which, like Paris’ Cartier Foundation, was designed by Jean Nouvel. Indeed, the building is an extraordinary work in itself, combining the rugged industrial original with a smart contemporary finish. The latter is a smaller space than its suburban counterpart but is exceptional nonetheless, set in a Parisian mansion just off the Champs-Élysées. Expect a vibrant contemporary art program featuring leading international artists.
Where: 8th arrondissement. Open 11am-7pm Tuesday-Saturday // 93350 Le Bourget. Open 11am-7pm Tuesday-Saturday.
In a nutshell: Paris’ size to population ratio has always been pretty tight and is one of the reasons why many large public spaces lie just outside the Périphérique dual-carriageway that defines the city limits. One of the many exciting contemporary art centres in the suburbs is Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, a.k.a. MAC/VAL. Situated in the south-eastern suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine in a sprawling contemporary building, MAC/VAL boasts being the first museum completely dedicated to the French ’50’s art scene. Having now expanded its collection to house everything from the ’50’s to contemporary art, the gallery also enjoys exhibiting both experienced and up-and-coming artists.
Where: 94400 Vitry-sur-Seine. Open 10am-6pm Tuesday-Friday and 12pm-7pm on Weekends and holidays. Closed on Mondays.
Sitting in a building of fine and historical architecture on an art school campus, I talked to Victor Cord’homme, a young and green installation artist who is in his fourth year of art studies at this prestigious National School of Fine Arts in Paris (l’Ecole National Supérieur des Beaux Arts de Paris). As a traveller, Victor has been inspired to create installations that transform exhibition spaces into works of art and lead people to discover new spaces and possibilities. While our conversation started with his life at art school, both his artistic practice and his perceptions of the art world speak loudly to a global perspective, which has been constructed through his numerous travelling experiences.
- When did you decide to become an artist?
When I studied marketing at high school, I was very bored of it. Then, I took a gap year after high school to go travelling for 6 months around Asia. I went to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, India and Nepal. At that time, I missed painting and drawing which I did quite much during my free time throughout my high school years. So I started to think about getting into art school and start art studies. That was my first point of revelation that I started to have the idea of doing art. Then, I started going a lot to museums as my own art cultivation, such as the modern art museum of Paris and Palais de Tokyo. Paris is really a good place to get exposure to a lot of art, which gives me lots of inspirations.
- How did you get into the National School of Fine Arts in Paris (l’Ecole National Supérieur des Beaux Arts de Paris)?
After travelling around, I went to a preparatory school in Paris where I did art every day. That’s a school for people who want to get into all the big art schools. There are various art streams, like fine art, decorative art and so on. It’s pretty competitive to get into the National School of Fine Arts, like 1500 people competing for 70 places each year. At the beginning, you submit your art portfolio of paintings or photos of sculptures. After being screened, then you can enter into later stages like a writing test, a drawing test, and finally an interview panel with three professors.
- Can you share about your life in the art school? What’s the most important thing that you learn in the art school?
I feel the school is like my second home. The school is not just about getting knowledge, but about meeting people here and discussing art and our works with friends. Everybody tries to be an artist here and we’re helping and sharing with one another our views and experiences.
I think art study is not easy at all because there [are] no definite right or wrong answers and it depends on the comments of people around you. The school actually is not demanding, like around 10 hours of classes per week, but we spend most of our time in studios making art. Studying art is about investing a large amount of time while you need to have knowledge of art history. But it’s also out of passion –all the people are being here because they liking doing art. And I enjoy the process as I try to do things that are interesting.
One of the most important things that I learn here is self-motivation because nobody would push you to work. You wouldn’t be forced to do anything here. We learn art history here from many great art historians but you need to get some contemporary knowledge by exploring in museums or galleries yourself.
- Why do you focus on art installations?
Because I like experimenting with different media including painting and sculpture, and I would like to mix several smaller pieces together into one big piece of art. Somehow it’s like matchmaking –a sculpture and a painting can be compatible and even make each other stronger. Sometimes when art pieces come together, they speak a lot more. Installation is interesting because it’s about how to see and interact with space. Painting is my major art practice, but for me, it’s not enough to involve the space around. With installation, I’m trying to create an environment which gets people to discover new spaces, encounter and observe different forms of life and ways of understanding life.
- How exactly do you achieve this with your art – to get people to discover new spaces and ways of understanding life?
For example, with my diploma project in my third year, I created an interactive space that worked with sensors and computers, and there are sounds going on and when more and more people come into the exhibition space, the sounds would keep changing, and so the space would become different. Every person that came into the exhibition added two minutes of available electricity to the space.
And I like taking natural elements from the outside environment, like wind, into the exhibition space inside. Also, I would try to make all elements connected in an installation, like in our environment.
And I would not give out everything at one moment and people would have to come back at different times to discover new things from my installations. So I added lights to the installation so that the space and ambience would be different if people come in daytime or nighttime. I would like to show a temporal dimension of my works because I think time is an interesting material for doing art.
- The idea of exploring and discovering new spaces sounds like travelling. Do you travel a lot? How does travelling inspire your art making?
I had a lot of fun travelling to many countries; I’m just back from Canada where I stayed for few months. Before that, I went to Japan for an art competition and I went to Turkey last year. It’s really interesting to meet and talk to different people and to share experiences. I don’t know how to speak about all the feelings from my travelling but I would like to translate these feelings by art. Art makes it easier to share my travelling experiences and people can feel the connection through my art, maybe unconsciously. Travelling is one of the most important things for me. Being an explorer of this world has given all my inspirations for my art –every time I come back from travelling, I always have new ideas.
- Can you share your most memorable travelling experience?
When I was 19, I left my parents and I went to travel in India and met a lot of people there. Travelling there showed me the real side of life. It’s about meeting and talking to people and learning about their life. You’re in a different culture and environment. People would look at me curiously because I look different from them and some even came to me and asked if I could take photos with them.
- Any artists who have a particularly great influence on your perceptions and practices of art?
First is the Canadian artist, David Altmejd. We’re not in the same way of thinking about art, but he’s my main reference. His sculptures are dense, tell stories and give lots of information. He’s a really interesting artist. There was his exhibition in Paris last year, and I saw his exhibition again in Montreal and could discover new things from his works.
Also, I saw an exhibition of a Thai artist, Korakrit Arunanondchai, at Palais de Tokyo this year. He was making a huge installation with paintings and mannequins put in an interesting way. Actually, I didn’t like his formal way of doing art but his ideas are more interesting.
- How does your art interact with the French contemporary culture?
I think my art does not specifically interact with French culture, but rather the global culture. I don’t think art has to necessarily relate to a certain culture. I prefer to work in global culture rather than just French culture. And we’re in a world of globalisation; everything is mixing and exchanging. I’m more into exploring and mixing several cultures.
- Interesting perspective! So do you see yourself as a world citizen?
Yeah, I think I’m more a world citizen… I’m happy to say that I’m French and I’m having the colours of my flag on me. But actually, I’m French-Danish as my father is French and my mother is Danish. So I have double nationalities and I grew up in both countries, so I’m not solely French. And I also like travelling so much — I like to feel home and meet friends everywhere I go. So I think being a world citizen is more interesting; it’s about your way of acting and it makes your mind more open to different things.
- What do you think about contemporary art?
I think the contemporary art world is very different from the 19th or 20th century when there were prevailing art movements. There are now a lot of different directions happening because there are way more artists and more communication. Everything can kind of be contemporary art, it is way more diverse. Every direction can be interesting, and you need to discover and show to people new ways of thinking. Another thing in the contemporary art world is the need to deal with speculation in the art market, but I think that’s not totally a bad thing.
- How do you perceive yourself as an artist?
I don’t like to say I’m making art pieces… I think I’m kind of trying to be an artist… Being an artist is a huge thing for me and I don’t like this definition. I think I’m just someone who’s thinking and proposing something while using art to show it. I don’t mind if I’m being seen as an artist or not, and I think someone becomes an artist when everyone around sees him/her as an artist.
December 3, 2015
Unlike our previous articles about art fairs, this will not be able to provide you with any names or recommendations of galleries’ booths to visit. It is about the experience of an unusual art fair…
In a brownfield site of 3000m2 in the centre of Paris, the first edition of EXPERIENCES Art Fair is born. The art fair set out with an initiative to annually promote contemporary creation in empty buildings of the French capital, in partnership with a real estate group which provides the venue. This unique event features works created by more than fifty artists especially for this purpose including large-format photography, sculptures, video installations and urban art.
Committed to redefining obsolete codes of traditional art fairs, EXPERIENCES Art Fair offers an innovative and immersive panorama to reconnect the public with the artworks. At the same time, it aims to change the [normal] economic model of an art fair since all works are available for rental as well as for sale, and the organiser is directly funding art projects without galleries as the intermediary. In addition to selected French and international artists, this first edition of the art fair has also invited young Israeli contemporary artists while it presents simultaneously ten French artists in a hotel venue in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The venue and ways of display have lived up to the expectation of being unusual as the name of the fair may have denoted. The exhibiting venue is three storeys and can be described as shabby (but in a cool way, with hipster aura) compared to the usual setting of major art fairs (which can be bright and grand but perhaps more intimidating). The first floor is a large, dimly lit, long space, scattered with installations throughout. I was mainly fascinated by Alena Gaponova’s paintings in a room at the very end because they give different visual representations when colours of the lights in the dark room change –at one point you see a woman’s face painted on the canvas but the next moment it changes and you see a man’s face only.
On the brighter second floor, which is mainly dedicated to photography works by various artists, Maximilien Franco’s “InsideHEADphones” project stands out. It invites visitors to put on the headphones fixated in front of each photograph that depicts an anonymous passer-by in the street listening to music with his/her headphones. By listening to the same music to which the portrayed strangers were listening when the photos were taken, we can suddenly intrude into each of their personal worlds, as if a strange intimate link between the viewer and the subject is created through the music or songs.
At one moment during the vernissage, while fair-goers were chatting with friends and enjoying their glasses of wine in front of photography works, the light was suddenly dimmed and a team of performers came down the stairs, with the majority of around ten women wearing only underwear but each of them tied to an ironing board. They lined up in the middle of the exhibition space and started to perform [the act of] struggling to free themselves from their ironing boards while all visitors gathered around and paid full attention with the aid of mobile phones or cameras… This live performance, as I perceived, was probably about the emancipation of women from their family roles and social stereotypes. Besides the live performance art, observing other people’s reactions could be seen as part of the interesting “experiences”.
The top floor is for larger sculptural and installation works, but unfortunately, I have to say that the display on this floor did not seem as carefully curated and exposes incoherence. This can be a slight weakness when such an art fair is without any booths and artists just bring their own works to be exhibited next to one another in the same space, unlike any curated exhibition. On the other hand, several rooms at the back provide wonderful spaces of creativity, where one artist occupies and designs the setting and display of each whole room.
On the whole, the concept of EXPERIENCES Art Fair is innovative and has provided an alternative experimental platform to traditional art fairs. It has also demonstrated the creative energy in Paris, still being a breeding ground for young talents and an indispensable contemporary art scene. So come to experience this unique art fair from 28 November to 6 December 2015, it’s free entry anyway – also unusual for an art fair!
Facing the pain and fear of the bloodshed in the French capital, art is here to heal. After the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13th November, people all around the world show their solidarity with this city, with many stating “pray for Paris” on social media while others do not much like this religious note. Street artists show their love and support in a unique way –#sprayforparis. Street artist Goin started the hashtag #sprayforparis on Instagram with his artwork illustrating a muse resembling that in Eugène Delacroix‘s painting, Liberty Leading the People. Instead of holding a French national flag, Goin‘s muse is holding a paint roller dipped in the French tricolours, and the caption reads “The paint must flow, not the blood!” Many other street artists from different places echo this call with their talents, not only in Paris or France, but even as far as Melbourne, Australia.
One week after the incident, I went to the Place de la République where people come with flowers and candles in memorial of the victims of the attacks. Then, I saw an artist spraying on a wall in the square, presenting colourful forms and words in French meaning “yes to life…” while on the other side, large graffiti on a black background with white font states “Fluctuat nec mergitur”, which has recently caught much attention on media . It was painted by a team of Parisian graffiti artists called the Grim Team. The team also made a similar piece in another spot by the Canal St. Martin, on the other bank where people come and gather in silence in front of the restaurant and café that endured horrifying attacks.
But what is “Fluctuat nec mergitur”? It is the motto of Paris in Latin, translated as “tossed by the waves but does not sink”. This motto is present in the city coat of arms depicting a ship floating on a rough sea, which can be seen in a recent piece of street art by yearz1 too. Both the motto and the city arms had been used for centuries by the powerful river Seine’s boatsman corporation, which ruled the city’s trade and commerce, before they were made official in 1853 by the Baron Haussmann. The artists have revitalised this centuries-old motto in a cool way, reminding heartbroken Parisians of this tough and persevering spirit.
On a wall right opposite the attacked restaurant and café, Fred le Chevalier, a well-known Parisian street artist who also lives in that district has stuck a figure dressed in black and white, holding a candle in her hand and a heart-shaped teardrop falling from her eye. The figure is able to cover some of the bullet holes in that wall. Being much lighter compared to the heavy atmosphere just metres away, his art offers comforting compassion to this miserable corner of the city and the devastated people around it. Near to this spot, another street artist juxtaposed the legendary Parisian photo The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville with red paint on the couple symbolising gunshot wounds, alongside French words written in red meaning “not even hurt”. The message is simple but compelling, that the love represented by the kiss would not be hurt even by brutal terrorist shootings.
All of these beautifully painted walls in the streets may not have comparable monetary value with the so-called “high art” that is being sold for millions in auction houses, but they are simply invaluable. These artistic walls are there to show love and support and to spread mighty spirits and positive energy, particularly at this difficult time when people in the city are most in need. There should not be any walls, or wars, to divide humankind, either by religions, races or nationalities. The walls are to defend those previous values and virtues of human civilisation which are the best weapons to counteract terrorism. So, yes, leave paint, not pain, on these walls; let’s spray not only for Paris, but also for Beirut, for all the suffering people, and for a brighter world!