Art shows in Paris: a heads-up

some art exhibitions commanding our attention

November 2016

Fall in Paris, a time when many art exhibitions command attention. Traditionally, FIAC contemporary art fair (19-23 October) drew much of the excitement, but the more it tends to monopolise events, the more those who are excluded react aversely and find their own autonomy. We would even dare to say: the more snobbish the attitude of the fair, the more everything around it becomes friendlier and livelier. Sometimes, without spectacular mood changes being observed, an exceptional quality grows.

There are some ‘in-between’ cases, but most of the time improvements are directly proportional to the struggle they imply. Centre Pompidou suffers from serious budget cuts but tries hard to renew its image of a laboratory wherein all arts converge. Following on from Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s piece in which dancers ‘worked’ for hours in an exhibition space, it is now time for Polyphonies (until 31 December), a project about the voice as a material in contemporary art, through the work of three artists mixing different mediums: Oliver Beer, Mariechen Danz, and Franck Leibovici. It also matches this attempt with good traditional exhibitions, like the one on Magritte (until 23 January), through a break in its philosophy. The result is excellent.

Jeu de Paume has a thematic exhibition curated by the well known Georges Didi-Huberman. And private foundations are competing with each other. Awaiting the presentation of the François Pinault collection at the end of 2018, the Lafayette Foundation (whose new building in the Marais district, by Rem Koolhaas, will be completed in autumn 2017) has adopted the useful action of helping with production.

Concerning the art market, some artists get lost in the role they have to play to seduce. Philippe Ramette and Michelangelo Pistoletto’s pieces bear witness to this. Some galleries were arbitrarily dumped by FIAC after years of participation; others did not get in at all and either made other associations or went for the Carreau du Temple urban art fair, which has a lovely lively atmosphere.

Jean-Luc Moulène, until 20 February, Centre Pompidou

Among other exhibitions, the museum has chosen to present sculptural pieces by French artist Jean-Luc Moulène, who is best known for his photographic practice. In a take-away paper magazine, Quiconque, Moulène transforms surprising, everyday shots into concrete material. In one of the larger rooms on the first level and visible from the street, are all sorts of forms, either female or male, that can be plugged together or not. In fact, the artist considers these volumes as protocols ready to activate or to complete using the imagination. But the reference is not only sexual, it also happens to be a matter of the observations of daily life echoing any of those in the Quiconque newspaper or any one of the people supposed to fill the empty suits in his photographic prints.

Soulèvements (Uprisings), until 17 January, Jeu de Paume

The show displays images of different periods, from Goya onwards, gathered into several sections, each of which concerns a way to rise up. All have in common a physical human gesture or an action related to events that introduce a perturbation and counter conformity. Obviously the topic involves political will, but the interesting thing is its indication that the phenomenon is rooted in a corporeal manifestation. Whether it’s the weather, a speech, or a street protest, artists from all over the world record situations through different mediums and show the uprising as a universal recourse. Curator and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman succeeded in putting together a large quantity of photographs, documents, and films retrieved from numerous museums and archives. Some rare nuggets have been discovered, such as Léon Cogniet’s painting from 1830 heralding Impressionism, or a 1936 photograph by Agusti Centelles in which children mimic the local civil war.

Icônes de l’Art Moderne: La Collection Chtchoukine, until 20 February, Fondation Vuitton

On the institutional side, there’s no doubt that this exhibition is a major coup. The challenge was to put together 127 masterpieces owned by Russian collector Sergueï Chtchoukine, who at the end of the 19th century supported avant-garde artists. The catalogue text by curator Anne Baldessari tells of the way the collection has crossed paths with 20th-century Russian political history; indeed, the narrative collides with current news too, since at the last moment Putin declined Hollande’s invitation to open the show. Still, whatever else could be said about Russian history embedded in art history is very little compared to the emotion these masterpieces generate. Not even the awkward - or rather disastrous - circulation route in Gehry’s building can block the aesthetic emotion emanating from these exceptional works from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and other museums of the world.  

Philippe Ramette, until 19 November, Galerie Xippas

The exhibition concentrates on three-dimensional works while referring to the invention of body prostheses which allowed the accomplishment of these fantastical images. The general topic here is directly related to the main introduction and calls on the status of the artist in an art world where s/he becomes a sort of puppet of the market and of communications. Full of humour even when full of anger, Ramette always succeeds in conveying the message in an elegant phlegm, using his own image to speak out in favour of an awareness. When you get to the gallery space, you see the works mounted on traditional pedestals, and the name of each piece - on a bronze tag - is key to the intention. Portable Ego is a print of the artist’s own face that anyone can wear as a handy mask; Step Aside is the reproduction of his body with one leg stepping into the void; VIP Individual Space and Sortie des Artistes complement one another - in the former, the red carpet has been rolled out, and in the latter, the door opens into a void. Refreshing.

Michelangelo Pistoletto: Respect, until 20 November, VNH Gallery in association with Galleria Continua

In a fit of museum-like ambition, the gallery gathered together pieces by Pistoletto dating from 1958 to today. The oldest of these recall the artist’s beginnings a painter, with a focus on the self-portraits that he developed throughout his career. Two photographic works from 1975, La Conferenza and Raggi di Persone, are his most known works concerned with political engagement. A number of mirror pieces are dotted around the show, emphasising the value of the reflective surface in his work: as much as a sense of infinity as a subterfuge for displaying a new sense of the exhibition space. In the main room, 23 framed mirrors (250x150cm each) were macheted by Pistoletto on the first day of the show; resulting from this performance of destruction is the word Respect, written in different languages. The fact that rare languages such as Javanese, Telugu, and Punjabi run alongside European languages, Yiddish, and Arabic tells a great deal about the purpose of the piece. In the middle of the room is Mediterranean, a mirror-table shaped into the three continents that share the same sea. Made up of detachable segments, it defines the right place to meet, around its user-friendly purpose.

Carreau du Temple, (next edition: 20-23 April 2017)

The ancient cast-iron and glass market hall in the 3rd arrondissement is known for hosting innovative, high-tech meetings, and the surrounding area has become quite trendy. This urban art fair is entirely contrary to FIAC; here, gallery owners even enjoy talking about art! Double-exposure photographs by Vincent Fillon were presented by Little Big Galerie; meanwhile, Galerie Laure Roynette bravely showed an installation by Nicolas Tourte projecting a Magritte sky over books and fake beans. A promising artist, Emanuel Morales, displayed a new version of landscapes. Constructed instead of observed, these works question the classical vision, being composed using only thought and memory. For this purpose, the IT palette, combining the ideal extent of computer images and the strong imagination of the artist, seemed the perfect medium of expression and made quite a statement. Representing Morales was the New Square Gallery from Lille.

Part of the exhibition at Jeu de Paumes: Gilles Caron, Manifestations anticatholiques à Londonderry, 1969 © Gilles Caron / Fondation Gilles Caron / Gamma Rapho
Emmanuel Morales, 17h33,11 juin, on view at Carreau du Temple
take-away paper magazine, Quiconque, Jean-Luc Moulène
Jean-Luc Moulène, 04 07 1996 (os), 1997
Jean-Luc Moulène, Les Pieds Nickelés, 1985
Eh quoi! Tu es jaloux? by Paul Gauguin, Chtchoukine collection
The music room in the S. I. Shchukine townhouse (the Monet and Impressionist room), beginning 1914 © The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Photo ©Albom Pavel Orlov
Philippe Ramette in Galerie Xippas, exhibition view
'Respect' by Michelangelo Pistoletto at galerie VnH with galleria Continua, Paris, France.
Emmanuel Morales, 12h18,8 novembre, on view at Carreau du Temple