A few dozen pigeons by Maurizio Cattelan, perch on the balustrades, watching visitors from the heights of the Rotunda; Ryan Gander’s animatronic mouse chatters incessantly in front of the elevators; Lili Reynaud Dewar dances in the hallway leading to the 18th-century stairs, and Tatiana Trouvé’s “guardians” watch over the works exhibited in the gallery spaces. The inaugural exhibition at the Bourse de Commerce also strives to highlight the relationship that artists can have with an exhibition space, their relationship to a museum and its visitors, through works that can be situated outside of the museographic framework. They are located here in the venue’s thoroughfares and passageways, under the dome and at the top of the Medici’ Column, surprising visitors.
The wish to foster a dialogue between artworks and their architectural, natural and urban context is indeed one of the key features associated with the identity of the museums in the Pinault Collection. In Venice, the marbles and painted ceilings of the Palazzo Grassi, and the brick walls and beams of the Punta della Dogana, interact with the changing reflections of the water. These non-standard elements, which one might have suspected of interfering or even compromising the presentation of the artworks, is, on the contrary, a source of inspiration for the artists. The environment also provides visitors with a unique, contextualized art experience, in the “here and now”.
A polymorphic artist, sculptor, performer, editor and programmer, Maurizio Cattelan has made a name for himself, thanks to a production whose spectacular forms highlight the contradictions of contemporary society. Others (2011), the disturbing squadron of stuffed pigeons, posted on the interior balconies of the third floor of the Bourse de Commerce is a perfect example: “more real than real life”, these motionless creatures arouse a mixture of surprised bemusement and “strange anxiety”. They are stationed there like an alert, a sign of something potentially sinister to come. Yet, their presence is already slightly unnerving.
If he weren’t already a major player on the contemporary art scene, Maurizio Cattelan, adept at paradox, provocation and savage irony, could pass himself off as an artist on the fringes and with a good dose of humour to boot! Born in Padua in 1960, he lives and works between Milan and New York.
“Humour is a way of communicating that overcomes the barrier of shyness.” With his “Z” paintings series (1995-1996), he playfully subverted the work of conceptual artist Lucio Fontana via a series of monochrome canvases that he cut with a Z, in reference to Zorro. With Nona Ora (Ninth Hour, 1999), he presented a life-size sculpture of Pope John Paul II, crushed by a meteorite. Him (2001) represents an infantilized Hitler, and plays with the banality of absolute evil. Untitled (2007) is an inverted hunting trophy of a horse with its head stuck in the brick wall of the Punta della Dogana, and is yet another example of Cattelan’s surprising, disturbing, humorous and devastating play on reality.
“The Guardian” is a generic title for each of the eight sculptures by Tatiana Trouvé (b. 1968 in Calabria) that punctuate the route of the inaugural exhibition, from the ground floor of the museum to the second-floor galleries. Watching over the works of other artists, and the “worlds” to which they guard the entrance, these guardian sculptures take the form of seats in marble, bronze, onyx, and copper, which retain the form of a missing human presence. By giving body and weight to this absence, they find their place in this section of the exhibition devoted to the human figure. A stone cushion bearing the imprint or weight of a human body, a book placed on the back of a chair, a bag hanging on a rail and other small objects scattered throughout … the viewer connects together these disturbingly material absences that haunt the exhibition spaces, weaving a discreet narrative, a fictional world of speculation and reverie. The books—anthropological, engagé, philosophical, poetic works—chosen by the artist and “carved in marble” sketch the outlines of a utopian philosophy. They all share a reflection on our relationship with nature, our way of inhabiting the world and the power of the imagination.
Tatiana Trouvé lives and works in Paris, following a childhood partly spent in Dakar (Senegal) and a period studying in the Netherlands and at the Villa Arson in Nice. When she moved to Paris, she transformed her job search into the raw material of her works, collecting and archiving the CVs she sent and the stereotypical responses received in a piece called B.A.I: Bureau d’Activités Implicites [Office of Implicit Activities]. Exploring the relationships between past and future, presence and absence, reality and fiction, she privileges the anonymous, forgotten events that are not only a part of our history but influence our lives. Interested in the memory of objects and places, which distort reality, Trouvé constantly reinvents time and space, creating a parallel dimension where the laws of our world are recomposed, leaving the viewer disoriented and forced to redefine everything.
Author of a multifaceted body of work, Ryan Gander (b. 1976 in Chester, UK) lives and works in London. He uses a vast array of media to question the mechanisms of perceiving an artwork within a complex relationship between reality and fiction. The majority of his production explores, in one way or another, absence, loss, invisibility, latency. With I… I… I…(2019), Ryan Gander stages an animatronic mouse with a stutter, nestled in a hole in the wall, surprising visitors as they wait for the elevator. Trapped in its animated “loop”, this unlikely mouse, condemned to live cycle after cycle of the same experience to the point of exhaustion, encourages us to think and even smile about our own condition.
Lili Reynaud Dewar
Trained in classical dance, Lili Reynaud Dewar (b. 1975 in La Rochelle, France) is a visual artist and performer. Drawing an inexhaustible choreographic repertoire from Josephine Baker’s creations, her critical and militant performances transform her naked painted body into a kind of grammar. Her body confronts the environments in which it moves and merges. Presented in the hall of the 18th-century staircase of the Bourse de Commerce, two video performances by Lili Reynaud Dewar are positioned opposite each other. The first, “Dancing with Myself” (2018), shows the artist dancing in the exhibition spaces of the Bourse de Commerce, then undergoing restoration, while the second was performed as part of the exhibition “If the Snake” curated by Pierre Huyghe for the second Okayama Art Summit in September 2019. Lili Reynaud Dewar blurs the line between the private and public spheres: the museum becomes an intimate space and the gestures of collective memory a personal physical language, while she stages her naked and vulnerable body. The paint that covers her transforms her body into an extremely fluid, almost abstract material.
Presented as part of the Bourse de Commerce inaugural cultural programme, the performance Moinho de Vento / Windmill by Paulo Nazareth (b. 1977 in Brazil) will feature a group of thirteen immigrants from Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, marching through the streets of Paris. Operating old hand-cranked coffee grinders, they will leave behind the ephemeral traces of their passage, a visual and olfactory trail, evocative of colonial history and slavery, discrimination and exploitation, both past and present. In his work, the artist often documents journeys from one symbolic point to another, frequently on foot. During these journeys (some of which last several months), the artist gathers ideas and images based on the encounters he has on the way, all of which serve to nourish and constitute the resulting artwork. Imbued with a certain humour, and always through a political prism, although never didactic or patronizing, Nazareth creates a counter-narrative from the perspective of the nomad, the migrant, and the displaced.
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