Poster for the Palais de l’optique, Exposition Universelle, Paris 1900
The Petit Palais opened for the Exposition Universelle in spring 1900 (as did the Grand Palais and the Pont Alexandre III), making it the perfect location for Paris 1900, a sumptuous aesthetic exploration of the Belle Époque.
The exhibition opens with early film footage, taken by the Lumière brothers, of visitors ascending the steps to the Petit Palais in 1900, all cinched waists, hats and parasols. Film footage punctuates the exhibition throughout, often displayed in mirrored passages which capture something of the whirling excitement of the time. In one film, visitors even hop on and off a moving walkway between exhibition sites (any modern-day visitor to Paris who has the misfortune to pass through blighted Châtelet or Montparnasse will say moving walkways in Paris 2014 have lost some of their je ne sais quoi).
Strengthlessness is Ivan Argote’s second solo show at Perrotin’s Marais gallery. Not bad going for an artist just 30 years-young. His previous show in 2011, Caliente, was a refreshing mix of youth, rebelliousness and humour (reviewed here). It was a joy to see such a successful gallery give so much space to a young talent.
Strengthlessness by contrast seems sterile and uninteresting. The largest piece is a sculpture of a flacid obelisk, entitled Hangover and Extasy. The allusions are obvious but the massive concrete and gold leaf sculpture has little impact on the viewer. In another room, a 3 minute video “Blind Kittens” sees lion statues brought to life in a bizarre animation. Symbols of power subverted? Maybe but there is something cringeworthy about this clumsy allegory. According to the blurb Argote’s “naivety is false”, if so then what are the depths behind this naive front?
Help me out here! Go see for yourselves: Strengthlessness is on at Galerie Perrotin until 01/03/14
Robert Polidori, Salle de Crimée Sud, 2007, courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve
Josef Hoflehner, Bondi Baths (Sydney, Australia, 2011)
Paris Photo is big this year. It’s at the Grand Palais with over 160 galleries and publishers plus curated sections from Harald Falkenberg’s collection, the Instituto Moreira Salles, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Museum Folkwang. The Paris Photo Platform welcomes photographers, critics and curators for talks throughout the event (This afternoon, Martin Parr at 2pm! Sunday afternoon Nicolas Bourriaud of Ensba in conversation with Philippe Parreno!)
The bulk of what is on show is, of course, not an exhibition but a shopping opportunity for the financially unchallenged. Here is my dream shopping list (or a list of recommendations, should you wish to part with a few thousand this weekend… ):
Robert Polidori‘s La Mémoire des Murs. Ragged-looking interiors and faded grandeur of the Chateau de Versailles under restoration in the 1980s, abandoned interiors of Pripyat (near Chernobyl) (Karsten Greve, also currently on show in the gallery).
Vik Muniz’s painstakingly assembled photo-collages, in particular the one after Hieronymous Bosch (Ben Brown Fine Arts).
Photoquai, an open-air photography exhibition alongside the Seine, is in its 4th year and the 2013 edition is subtitled Regarde-moi! (‘Look at Me!’).
Regarde-moi! explores the relationship between photographer and subject, and by extension between viewer and subject. This seems fitting in the age of social networks and constant image-sharing. While some subjects are clearly staged (Eric Bridgeman, Stanley Fung, Qingjun Huang) and some betray the sort of self-consciousness now associated with the ubiquitous selfie (Hein-Kuhn Oh, Olya Ivanova) others are fixed unaware in a moment of action.
As well as various portraits – Dutch golden age style by Adriana Duque, stereotype-busting Arab men by Tamara Abdul Hadi, twins by Rongguo Gao – there are some amazing landscapes, costumes and moments captured. Each series tells its own story (full list of photographers here).
Adriana Duque, Sagrada Familia, De Cuento en Cuento
Alejandro Cartagena, The Car Poolers
Rongguo Gao, Twins
Tamara Abdul Hadi, Picture an Arab Man
Toni Wilkinson, Uncertain Surrenders
Photoquai is along the Quai de Branly and in the garden of the Musée du Quai Branly until 17/11/13
Yousuf Karsh rose to fame with his 1941 portrait of Winston Churchill. Churchill was in Ottawa on political business and, having not been warned about the photo shoot, was not quite in the mood for it. As Karsh describes it he said “excuse me sir” and took the cigar from Churchill’s mouth in order to take the photo. He thought he was going to be eaten alive.
Karsh’s black and white photographs are theatrically lit, but characterized by very human warmth and complicity between subject and photographer. Mitterand is captured, face in slightly pudgy hands, with a benevolent puppy-dog smile; Depardieu in a wonderfully-80s crumpled coat and a genuinely cheeky grin.
In keeping with the Mona Bisarck Center’s mission to celebrate Franco-American cultural realtions, Karsh seemed to have been as at ease with Elizabeth Taylor, Hemingway, JFK and the Clintons as he was with Bridget Bardot, Camus and De Gaulle.
Pierre Huyghe claims his work is not performance art. But curators would struggle to hang it on gallery walls, or display it in an institutional space.
At the new Pompidou show, a maze-like scenography of strangely-placed partitions plunges us into somebody else’s imagination (the artist’s? the collective’s?) Film projections; a black ice rink; a fish tank with a hermit crab living inside Brancusi’s Muse Endormi; what looks like a disco floor suspended from the ceiling; and rain, snow and fur coats in corners all form part of the rich and bizarre tapestry. The fur coats turn out to be more functional than formal – comfortable resting places for ‘Human’, a white greyhound with one pink leg who appeared in the original Untilled and lopes around the exhibition in the flesh.
How is it that the male nude has gone from an academic artist’s rite of passage to a relatively under-exposed genre? Masculine/Masculine. The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to the Present Day sets out to shed light on this question but leaves us somewhat unsatisfied.
An exhibition on the male nude was always going to create a buzz and, perhaps predictably, the opening at the Musée d’Orsay included a male streaker (an art student from Rennes) who disrobed for a little exhibition of his own before being politely escorted out of the museum. Inspired by the Nackte Männer show at the Leopold Museum in Vienna last autumn, Masculine/Masculine is one of the first exhibitions to concentrate solely on the male nude.
Dark Romanticism may not be easy to define but strolling through the Orsay’s exhibition devoted to the theme you definitely get a feel for it: creepy, macabre, melodramatic, gothic and often tinged with the erotic. The show begins with the early 19th century Romantics, runs through late 19th century Symbolism and ends with the Surrealists, punctuated throughout by clips of early black and white film. Thus the iconography and shadowy interior of Johann Heinrich Füssli’s Nightmare (1781) reappears in Frankenstein (US, 1931) or Dracula (also US, 1931), and the baron landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings resonate in clips from Faust – Eine deutsche Volkssage (Germany, 1926) and La Chute de la maison Usher (France, 1928).
Amongst the later 19th century offerings we see less high melodrama and more solitude (Pierre Bonnard, James Ensor), and death personified as in a Medieval Danse Macabre. Gauguin’s Madame La Mort picks up the implicit thematic thread of women as evil/dangerous/unpredictable, while Mort au bal by Felicien Rops, literally a skeleton dressed up for a ball, is almost comical.
Félicien Rops, La Mort au Bal, c. 1865 – 1875
There are some weird connections to be made between the sections. For example, between odd-ball 19th century painter-turned-photographer Charles-François Jeandel and German surrealist Hans Bellmer. After failing as a painter, Jeandel retired from Paris to the Charente region in the West of France. It was not until after his death that his experiments in erotic photography came to light (pun intended). The photos, bathed in an eerie blue glow from the development process (they are cyanotypes, a DIY process which allowed Jeandel to keep his dark desires to himself), show women in ropes, trussed up, suspended and forced into uncompromising poses. They hark back to the Marquis de Sade’s erotic writing but also foreshadow the surreal compositions of Hans Bellmer’s Poupée (“Doll”) where dismembered body parts (of a doll) become semi-abstract compositions.
Charles-François Jeandel, Femme nue, de trois quarts dos, attachée, 1890-1900
Hans Bellmer, La Poupée, 1936
The show also includes a good dose of fantasy (drawings by Victor Hugo, plates from Goya’s wonderful series of etchings Los Caprichos); witches (Edvard Munch, Pail Elie Ranson); mythology à la Gustave Moreau; cannibalism (Gericault’s studies for the Raft of the Medusa); and visions of hell (Goya’s more chilling series, Los Desastras de la Guerra, Bouguereau’s Dante and Virgil in Hell ). A great antidote to the sun-dappled and snow-dusted Impressionist landscapes upstairs.
L’Ange du Bizarre (“The Angel of the Odd”) is on at the Musée d’Orsay until 09/06/13
Femme/Objet is the first retrospective of British feminist punk artist Linder Sterling (or just “Linder”). The Great Exposition made it to the artist’s opening presentation of the show.
Linder has the kindly face of your friend’s mother, making it all the more incongruous as she describes her intellectual interest in pornography in a softly spoken voice, barely audible over the noise of a video showing her younger self screaming into a mic during a gig with her band Ludus at Manchester’s legendary Haçienda club in 1982. During said concert Linder wore a dress with a bodice weaved out of meat (way ahead of ms Gaga who went to the MTV Video Music awards clad head to toe in meat in 2010). Under her net skirt, which she whips off during the performance, Linder wore a dildo, clearly visible in the video pointing and bouncing around aggressively at the gradually retreating crowd.
Linder, Orgasm Addict single cover for the Buzzcocks, 1977
Linder continues to be involved in performance art but the main body of her work is photography and photo-montage. Her early collages use found images and splice naked women with domestic appliances (she designed the single cover for the Buzzcocks’ Orgasm Addict, showing the torso of a naked woman with an iron for a head). Searching through gendered magazines in the 1970s, Linder had the realisation that what they had in common were women’s bodies and the image of women: fashion, homes and domesticity in women’s magazines; naked women in men’s porn magazines. Her interest in magazines led her to Manchester’s only porn outlet at the time. “I had to be very brave” she says.
This seems quite quaint compared with modern internet-driven pornography. “We went to Pigalle”, says Linder, exchanging conspiratorial glances with Emmanuelle de l’Ecotais, the show’s curator, “for research, But print media in porn is nearly over”. In the light of these changes Linder’s more recent work has something of the nostalgic about it. Using negatives unearthed from the 1960s, she continues to create montages which mix (now) retro-looking naked women with flowers, outsized mouths and garish-looking cakes. Although coming from a feminist place, the collages are not without humour. In a series from 2011, Postliminalrites, pictures of snakes or cactuses – nudge nudge wink wink – are placed in front of genitals. The original images in the series come from a specialized magazine for “transsexual horse lovers”. As Linder says, with the decline of the printed porn magazine, “there’s only really weird stuff left”.
For the second year running the majority of the action takes place at the Grand Palais (previously the galleries’ stands were divided between the Grand Palais and the Cour Carrée du Louvre). The volume and concentration of art, wealth, little black dresses and champagne flutes under one roof make for an effervescent, devil-may-care atmosphere. That said, the organisers are keen to question art’s relationship to money this year, with a series of seminars on the subject of “value” (intellectual and commercial) taking place around the city (more details here).
At the opening last night visitors swarmed around a moving sculpture by Elias Crespin (Galerie Denise René), a sort of ethereal dancing mobile; a garish sculpture of George Bush with pigs by Paul McCarthy (Hauser & Wirth) and The Incomplete Truth, a Damien Hirst dove in formaldehyde (White Cube).
Elias Crespin (Denise René)
Damian Hirst (White Cube)
With over 180 French and international exhibitors and a good mix of well-established galleries (Marian Goodman, Yvon Lambert, White Cube, Kamel Mennour…) international contemporary art titans (Gagosian) and relative newcomers (Samy Abraham, Crèvecoeur) plus sculptures in the Tuileries, the Place Vendôme, the Esplanade des Invalides AND the Jardin des Plantes, there is a lot to see. Hurry on down!