The Bill Viola retrospective in Paris is the first major video art exhibition to be held in a national museum of France. In the hands of Viola there is something elemental to this high-tech medium. The dark galleries of the Grand Palais are illuminated by videos of water, fire, weather and universal human experience.
Not sure what to make of Lady Gaga being in the Louvre (her take on David’s Death of Marat is in one of the busiest intersections behind the Mona Lisa and between the large format French masters) but you have to admire her taking dressing up to another level. And her ability to stand/lie still – you don’t realise her version of Ingres’ Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière is a video until you see it disconcertingly blink.
Lady Gaga 2013/ Ingres, Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière, 1806
Lady Gaga 2013 / Andrea Solario, Head of John the Baptist, 1507
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).
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
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!
Mary Cassatt in Paris: Prints & Drawings from the Ambroise Vollard Collection is the first exhibition in the new look Mona Bismarck American Center (formerly the Mona Bismark Foundation). With over 60 drawings, etchings, aquatints and pastels, this impressive collection gives us a great insight into the aesthetic experiments and innovative techniques employed by Cassatt in her printmaking.
An American with a love of Paris, Cassatt trained in Paris, submitting works to the Paris Salon in the 1870s, but in the end identifying more with the groundbreaking Impressionists, with whom she exhibited between 1879 and 1886. Her works on paper show the influence of her friend and mentor Edgar Degas.
The highlight of the show are the prints in the middle gallery, a series of domestic scenes of women and children. Cassatt was inspired by Japonism, the 19th century craze for Japanese art and by Japanese woodblock prints in particular. The cropped compositions and strong, almost decorative, lines of her aquatints allow a certain distance from the subjects, who become studies in form rather than sentimental portraits.
At first sight Daniel Buren’s installation for this year’s Monumenta is a little disappointing. A forest of coloured circles create a canopy overhead but leave a lot of unused space. But then, any artist would be hard pushed to fill the 13 500 square metre space with its 45 metre roof (this is where Richard Serra triumphed with his huge vertical installation in 2008). But walking into the space you begin to see the appeal. It is a bit like being underwater and looking up towards the light, or being in a pond under the lily pads. Beyond the curious upward reflection we see the Grand Palais’ steel skeleton in a new light.
In the centre there is a clearing in the canopy to make way for a series of large circular mirrors. Visitors are invited to stand on the mirrors, again adding a new dimension to the well known nineteenth century architecture. The effect is impressive, if a little nausea-inducing. * Above the mirrors, the central part of the roof has been decorated with turquoise coloured windows and outside Buren’s own circular flag is flying.
Buren is famous for his public piece Les Deux Plateaux in the Palais-Royal (1986), he also represented France at the Venice Biennale in 1986 and won the Golden Lion for best pavilion. His installation for Monumenta follows previous editions by Anselm Kiefer, Richard Serra, Christian Boltanski and Anish Kapoor.
Buren’s work has always emphasized the in situ element – it is designed for and defined by its context. Buren is the first Monumenta artist to take a global view of the space. A different entrance and exit have been created for the show and the cafe and bookshop are integrated into the project rather than added as an afterthought. The specificity of the Grand Palais’ nef (“nave”) makes Monumenta a challenging undertaking. Buren has struck a fine balance between accentuating this specificity and making the space his own.
* don’t wear a short skirt to this show, you may end up showing more thigh than you intended!
Daniel Buren Monumenta 2012 is on at the Grand Palais until 21/06/12
This weekend is the 23rd edition of the Porte ouvertes des ateliers d’artistes de Belleville, the event where artists working around the vibrant area of Belleville open their studios to the general public. Over 200 artists are participating and the programme includes debates, workshops and concerts. More details including a map of exhibitors here.
The doors are open from 11/05/12 (today!) until 14/05/12, 2pm – 9pm