Pierre et Gilles at Saint-Eustache

Perhaps better known for their camp erotic portraits, Pierre et Gilles’ contribution to La Force de l’Art (triennial of French contemporary art) is a contemporary interpretation of the Virgin and Child. The piece is typical of their modus operandi – a highly staged, stylized photo depicting a celebrity sitter, in this case French actress, Hafsia Herzi. Resplendant in a Lacroix wedding gown, she sits with a baby atop a heap of oily-looking car parts, with a grim apocalyptic cityscape as a backdrop. This dark, urban setting is extended beyond the frame, the piece being supported by scaffolding in an alcove of the Gothic church of Saint Eustache.

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Pierre et Gilles, La Vierge à l’enfant.

As with much of the duo’s work, it appears provocative – a religious theme, re-contextualised and reinterpreted in a glossy, high kitsch, and perhaps irreverent, way. That said, Pierre et Gilles’ La Vierge à l’enfant conforms in many way to a traditional portrayal: the blue and white robes, the frontal view of the Madonna and child, their central position in the composition. The artists chose the Gothic church as the setting for their piece, but it doesn’t seem to  want to make a religious comment. The emphasis is purely aesthetic – they seem to relish breathing new life and theatrality into conventional Christian imagery. This is not the first, nor is it the most dramatic of their hammed up takes on christian iconography: Saint Mary Magdalene, Saint Sebastian and Adam and Eve have all had the Pierre et Gilles treatment. These, along with their portrait of Kylie dressed as a nun riding a hobby horse, would perhaps be less welcome in a place of worship.

La Vierge à l’enfant de Pierre et Gilles is on at the Eglise Saint-Eustache until 01/06/09

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