Baitogogo by Henrique Oliveira at Palais de Tokyo
My last post on Paris is about the contemporary art and design exhibitions I visited this summer…
I have quite conflicted feelings towards contemporary art, I find some work stimulating and groundbreaking, yet others totally pointless… it is almost hard to find a middle ground. However, I always find Paris’ contemporary art exhibitions inspiring and thought-provoking, and this is probably down to the curators who seem more daring and uncompromising. In London, I noticed that galleries are more willing to take risks than the bigger and more established museums. I am bored of those big blockbuster exhibitions that tend to play safe and stay within the comfort zone. Yes, they are successful and draw huge crowds but they are hardly pushing any boundaries.
Palais de Tokyo
I have previously written about the Palais de Tokyo (13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116) here, which reopened in 2012 as the largest contemporary art centre in Europe. I have visited this venue several times before it reopened, and I honestly think that it has transformed itself from an interesting contemporary art space to one of the most cutting edge art venues in Europe ( if not the world).
Not everyone is going to like this place, and many would even view some of the conceptual art pieces as ‘garbage’ but I love the fact that the curators are risk-takers who are constantly challenging the visitors’ perception. If you are looking for aesthetically-pleasing and ‘comforting’ art pieces, then stick to Musée d’Orsay and Musée du Louvre, this venue is not for the traditionalists.
I think the biggest challenge for the curators is to install different mini exhibitions within the vast and raw space. Yet the curators’ decision to dedicate a specific space for each artist’s installations works brilliantly. Unlike other museums where installations or art objects are cramped next to each other in a small room, here, all the art pieces have been carefully installed with much thought and vision.
Hiroshi Sugimoto’s “Aujourd’hui, le monde est mort” include an installation inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnés
One of the exhibits that I particularly enjoyed was renowned Japanese photographer/ artist Hiroshi Sugimoto‘s “Aujourd’hui, le monde est mort (Lost Human Genetic Archive)”. Sugimoto‘s work explores the nature of time and perception, and the origins of consciousness.
This exhibition is inspired by Albert Camus’s novel L’Étranger (The Stranger) and Marcel Duchamp’s Readymade and Étant donnés, the artist has created a fictitious end of the world installations with thirty possible scenarios. Bleak, bizarre and provocative, it also highlights many issues that the planet and what the human beings have to deal with in the future.
Coincidentally, when I was in one of the rooms where a falling meteor had supposedly smashed through the skylight and concrete floor leaving a hole in the ground. The sky suddenly turned grey (it was sunny earlier) and started to rain heavily. And as I looked up, I realised that the hole up there was real and the staff had to put buckets to catch the falling rain. I never seen an incident like this in any art museum/ gallery before, it was almost comical and surreal at the same time.
Nouvelles histoires de fantômes
I was also quite blown away by “Nouvelles histoires de fantômes (New Ghost Stories)”, a cinematic and imagery installation conceived by French art historian and philosopher Georges Didi-Huberman and photographer Arno Gisinger after the legendary Atlas Mnemosyne by early 20th century art historian Aby Warburg. Visitors would walk through the installation with videos and images surrounding and underneath them, it is a truly immersive experience by all means.
Le Mur: les œuvres de la collection d’Antoine de Galbert at La Maison Rouge
La Maison Rouge (10 Blvd. de la Bastille 75012) is an independent contemporary art venue where I would pay a compulsory visit whenever I am in the city. To celebrate their 10th anniversary, the current exhibition “Le Mur: les œuvres de la collection d’Antoine de Galbert” (until 21st Sept) is the eleventh in a series of exhibitions showcasing the founder Antoine de Galbert‘s private collections.
De Galbert‘s eclectic collection ( including paintings, drawings, photos, 917 works from 458 artists in total) is on display in a random way and covers almost all the walls in the galleries. There are no labels nor descriptions next to the works, information can only be found on the computer screens in the middle of the room.
I have been to many excellent exhibitions here before, and one of the best was “My Winnipeg” exhibition in 2011 featuring many cool and creative art work from a little-known yet thriving arts scene in Canada.
Yet I was slightly disappointed with the current exhibition, partly because I felt overwhelmed by the amount of work on display. The seemingly lack of curation ( and lack of information) is a brave move but it is also hard for the brain to focus and digest the images and objects all at once. It is a shame because there are many interesting pieces here including many big names as well as many lesser known artists from around the world.
Vivid Memories at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain
Vivid Memories ( until 21st Sept) at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain is a retrospective exhibition celebrating its 30th year anniversary. The exhibition focuses on the works that the Fondation Cartier has collected since 1984 and it includes paintings, designs, photography, films, folk art, videos and sculptures etc.
Sculpture at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain
I was especially excited to see Congolese sculptor Bodys Isek Kingelez’s futuristic cityscape, Japanese film director Takeshi Kitano’s weird and wonderful objects and Italian designer/architect Alessandro Mendini‘s colourful objects etc. The exhibition demonstrates the foundation’s continuous effort and uncompromising approach in promoting multidisciplinary forms of art and designs for the last 30 years.
Re-enchanting the world at Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine
Not only does Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine offer a great view of the Eiffel Tower (without the tourists), it also organises brilliant architecture exhibitions. Their current Re-enchanting the world ( until 6th October) is an impressive and compelling exhibition showcasing 40 winners (2007-2014) of the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture.
The exhibition is built around three narratives: – Architecture as a process of transforming the real – Architecture re-enchanted through knowledge – Architecture as a vision of the human establishment on earth. It questions the mission of the architect in an era of great transitions: demographic, urban, environmental, energy, industrial and so on.
I love what the curation and design teams have done here, instead of displaying work on panels or walls, the exhibits are printed onto small and big cubes where visitors can turn, hold and interact with them. There are also glass cases showcasing sketches and collected objects that have inspired the architects. The exhibition highlights an important issue that concerns our future and those who are living the developing countries with very limited resources. It depresses me when I see commercial property developers in wealthy cities constantly hiring celebrity architects who are more concerned about style and ego than tackling the fundamental issues of architecture. Architecture is for everyone and not for just the privileged. Therefore it is encouraging to see so many smaller architectural firms around the world creating beautiful, functional and sustainable architecture that would make positive impact in people’s lives.
Le Cent Quatre
Moving away from the centre and touristy areas,Le Cent Quatre (104 rue d’Aubervilliers, 75019) is a contemporary art space that has been creating a lot of buzz in Paris’s contemporary art scene since its opening in 2008. Housed in a massive 19th century former state funeral parlour in the dodgy north-east part of Paris, the site covers over 15,848m² with 200 artists in residence including sculptors, designers, painters, comic strip writers, musicians, dancers and even gardeners. The large facility regularly hosts concerts, performances, contemporary art exhibition, and there is a restaurant, a café, a bookstore, an eco fashion boutique, a secondhand shop, and a play area for children.
If you are want to see French contemporary artists at work, then this is the place to visit. You will also uncover a part of Paris that is completely different from the pristine and chic image that we are normally used to.