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”.
The sculpture Seated Artist is a consummate example of the work and thought of American artist Duane Hanson, a key figure in the Hyperrealist Movement. The artist created characters using resin and fibreglass, moulding and meticulously crafting the sculptures using real-live models. With their lack of idealisation and disorienting degree of realism, these works present viewers with psychological and social portraits of individuals in their daily lives.
This hyperrealist work forms part of a large series of “lifecastings” that the artist began in the 1960s, in the wake of the social, political, and cultural upheavals that would continue across the United States into the mid-1970s, against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and a number of political crises.
Seated Artist is all the more powerful for being a self-portrait of Hanson, seated backwards on a chair, his forearms resting against its back, a sheet of paper in his hand. The illusion is perfect: viewers are under the sensation that they have come across the artist himself at a moment of repose, taking a break in his paint-spattered work clothes, a woollen cap on his head. His posture expresses doubt, if not disillusion, over the state of the world, his eyes lowered in an introspection bordering on powerlessness. About his subjects, Duane Hanson has said: “My work portrays people in a fairly desperate state, who are fed up, tired, old, frustrated. These folks can’t compete. They’re psychologically handicapped.” Pascale Le Thorel-Daviot, Nouveau Dictionnaire des artistes contemporains
Presented in the Salle des Machines at the Bourse de Commerce, which used to generate the cooling for storing foodstuffs for the Les Halles central market, this sculpture is bound to surprise viewers for its realism, its anachronic presence, and contrast with its environment. This portrait of the artist deep in thought and frozen in a kind of inaction ironically heightens the complex relationship between humans and technological systems that he himself used to create the work.
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.
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.
With its intermittent changing hues, this “lighthouse” translates into code the mythical and unfinished eponymous novel by René Daumal (1908-1944), published posthumously in 1951. This light sequence illuminates the Parisian sky, translating the story of Daumal’s fantastic, metaphysical adventure, which recounts the discovery and collective ascent of a mountain joining earth to sky. An endless quest, an impossible adventure, a metaphor for art and its utopia. Philippe Parreno has designed a new version of this in-situ installation for the Bourse de Commerce, reworking and modifying one of his seminal pieces, originally created in 2001. Mont Analogue is installed at the top of a unique architectural feature, present on the site since the Renaissance, when the building served as the palace of Catherine de’ Medici. This column, a symbol of royal power as much as esoteric eminence (according to legend, the queen’s astrologers, notably Cosimo Ruggieri and Nostradamus observed the stars there) becomes a beacon from which the artist transmits another message to the city. It is in the form of a mysterious code that the artist invites us to discover the invisible, possible, intangible worlds of art.
Philippe Parreno (b. 1964, Algeria) studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Grenoble and at the Institut des Hautes Études en Arts Plastiques in Paris. In his work, he explores the exhibition as a medium. Convinced that the project takes precedence over the object, his interest in a dynamic and collaborative artistic approach has led him to work with other artists, including Pierre Huyghe, Tino Sehgal, Douglas Gordon and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, in an effort to radically rethink the concept of the exhibition. Parreno frequently intervenes in the mechanisms of how exhibitions work, by creating environments consisting of a succession of ephemeral elements or of varying duration, and by transforming the exhibition itself into an artistic object. In the 2000s, his films were populated by ghosts and automata, mirroring his questioning around the border that exists between fiction and reality, story and origin. These films take place in a poetic space punctuated by explicit references to the world of science fiction, science and the occult, philosophy and fables.
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Until the 8th of February, the museum is in motion to prepare the next exhibition.
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