National Museum of Women in the Arts wins Simone de Beauvoir prize


National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC


Paris has seen some excellent exhibitions dedicated to women artists in recent months: Kati Horna at the Jeu de Paume, Niki de Saint Phalle (at the Grand Palais until February 2), Sonia Delaunay (at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris until February 22).

But France doesn’t have anything like the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), the only institution in the world dedicated solely to women artists.

The French appear to have been paying attention however, with the NMWA recieving this year’s Simone de Beauvoir prize. The prize is awarded annually to individuals or groups fighting for gender equality. In January 2014, the Prize was awarded to Michelle Perrot and in 2013 to Malala Yousafzai.

“The National Museum of Women in the Arts is extremely honored to receive the prestigious Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women’s Freedom,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “NMWA is dedicated to providing a platform for women’s free expression and filling the void in recognition of women artists past, present and future.”

The NMWA, founded in Washington DC in 1981, is the first American organisation to receive the prize, testament to its international reach and its unique mission.

Camille Morineau, curator of the Niki de Saint Phalle show, as well as elles@centre pompidou, an exhibition dedicated to women artists who feature in the Pompidou’s permanent collections, said: “NMWA deserves to be selected as it is a completely unique place in the world, which shelters women artists, their works, their history and their narratives; encourages research and a critical point of view; and welcomes curators like me who try to change the paradigms in art history,”

The prize will be awarded on January 9th at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. The jury is chaired by Josyane Savigneau of Le Monde and includes Julia Kristeva (professor at Paris Diderot University, writer and psychoanalyst), Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir (honorary president) amongst other public figures.


Gilbert and George at Thaddaeus Ropac (Pantin)

Gilbert and George Pantin

Gilbert and George have placed themselves at the centre of their art since they met in 1967. Their new series of photo-collages at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Pantin, ‘Scapegoat pictures for Paris’ (following ‘Scapegoating pictures for London’ at White Cube Bermondsey) sees the duo fragmented, distorted and melding into the cityscapes around them. An urban cacophony of youth, pavements, buses, hooded figures, niqabs, mannequins, railings, trees and – everywhere – threatening-looking canisters.

Full review here

Scapegoat pictures for Paris is on at Thaddaeus Ropac (Pantin) until 15/11/14

Paris 1900 at the Petit Palais


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).

Full review here

Paris 1900 is on at the Petit Palais until 17/08/14

Ivan Argote, Strengthlessness, at Galerie Perrotin


Ivan Argote, Hangover and Extasy, 2014


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

Paris Photo Wish List

Robert Polidori

Robert Polidori, Salle de Crimée Sud, 2007, courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve


Josef Hoflehner

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 Polidoris 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).

Josef Hoflehner‘s limpid and playful landscapes (Nikolaus Reizicska)

Katy Grannan‘s brutally frank portraits (Fraenkel)

Massimo Vitali‘s over-crowded, over-exposed beach landscapes (Brancolini Grimaldi)

Edward Burtynsky’s awe-inspiring landscapes, where human intervention meets the raw power of nature (Howard Greenberg)

Joann Verburg‘s ethereal olive grove landscapes (Pace/Macgill)

Paris Photo is on at the Grand Palais until 17/11/13, full  list of exhibitors and program here.

Photoquai 2013: Look at Me!

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

Alejandro Cartagena, The Car Poolers

Rongguo Gao

Rongguo Gao, Twins

Tamara Abdul Hadi

Tamara Abdul Hadi, Picture an Arab Man

Toni Wilkinson

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: Icons of the 20th Century

Karsh Hemingway

Yousuf Karsh, Ernest Hemingway, 1957, Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, © Estate of Yousuf Karsh


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.

Yousuf Karsh: Icons of the 20th Century is on at the Mona Bismarck Center for Art and Culture (a stone’s throw from the Palais de Tokyo and opposite the Quai de Branly) until 26/01/14


The Extraordinary Universe of Pierre Huyghe

Pierre Huyghe crab

 Zoodram 4, 2011 (after Brancusi’s Muse endormie, 1910)


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.

Full review here

Pierre Huyghe is on at the Centre Pompidou until 06/01/14

Masculin/Masculin at the Musée d’Orsay

Masculin/Masculin, the trailer


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.

Full review here

Masculin/Masculin is on at the Musée d’Orsay until 02/01/14

L’Ange du Bizarre at the Musée d’Orsay


Johann Heinrich Füssli, Nightmare, 1781


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