“artist”

Balthus or a treatise on style

A young girl, a cat, a mirror… We thought that we already knew everything there was to know about Balthus. But in Riehen, Switzerland, the Beyeler Foundation is staging an enlightened show on the enigmatic work of this artist. From naked bodies to serene landscapes… When we think of Balthus, we often think of his pale, consenting young ladies, surprised in dubious positions. But Balthus offers more than striking images of these sleeping beauties, these chrysalids who disturb as much as they enchant. Above all, Balthus is associated with the Italian countryside and the landscapes of the Morvan region, nostalgia for a tranquil world. In Arezzo, the painter’s vision was shaken up when he discovered the frescoes of Piero della Francesca, enhanced by a certain buzz in the air… Born in 1908 in Paris and of Polish descent, Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, better known as Balthus, spent part of his childhood in Switzerland. He became close to artists Bonnard and Derain, and with the encouragement of Rilke, he chose painting from an early age. Apart from perhaps Henri Michaux, an unclassifiable artist, Balthus had no equivalents this century. And yet, on a technical level, nothing seems to stand out in particular. Perhaps because style and great art ultimately consist in covering up one’s game. This withdrawal, this masterly discretion is undoubtedly what makes him one of the great 20th century masters. Singlehandedly, he encapsulates an original combination of Quattrocento painting, Japanese poetry, and the landscapes of Gustave Courbet. In short, something truly magical. But to get there, he’d have to put in time. His path wasn’t that straightforward. When Balthus was first shown in Pierre Loeb’s gallery, in 1934, the failure was excruciating: not a single work sold. It wasn’t until 1966, with the retrospective at the Musée des...

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Alain Lombard, the new head of the Collection Lambert

A graduate of the French administration school ENA, he was previously secretary general of the Villa Médicis, a cultural attaché in Budapest, but also general administrator for the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie… His name ? Alain Lombard, who this year takes over from Éric Mézil at the helm of the Collection Lambert. An encounter in Avignon.   The news was released on 5 February this year… Éric Mézil, who had directed the Collection Lambert since 2000, would be handing over his position to Alain Lombard. After working for 17 years alongside dealer Yvon Lambert, Éric Mézil has left an enduring print on the Avignon cultural landscape, marked by ambitious programming. We remember of course his big solo exhibitions: Cy Twombly in 2007, Miquel Barceló in 2010, Andres Serrano in 2016, or more surprisingly, the outside-the-walls show, in 2014, in the former Sainte-Anne prison, titled “La Disparition des lucioles”. Now at the helm, Alain Lombard has taken on the mission of bringing life to this extraordinary contemporary-art collection… Indeed, the Collection Lambert, born in 2000 in Avignon, is quite a special museum. The works owned by art dealer and collector Yvon Lambert were long stored in the Hôtel de Caumont, and the donation of over 550 works to the French State only became official in July 2012. Now housed in two eighteenth-century townhouses – after the addition of the Hôtel de Montfaucon to the project –, the Collection Lambert offers a selection of major works from the second half of the 20th century and the start of the 21st century.   Can you tell us about your background? I had the fortune to be able to choose to join the French Ministry of Culture when I graduated from the ENA, and I’ve worked there since 1982, in...

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Images that come to life…

Art critic, journalist and former head editor of AMA, Clément Thibault is also a curator. He is presenting, in Paris, “Rituels, Images vivantes”: an exploration of the things handed down from magic and shamanistic thought and surviving in the work of contemporary artists.  On show at H Gallery.   Why, in 2018, would anyone set up an exhibition on the permanence of images, gestures and ideas derived from magic thought and living on in contemporary art? Firstly, because spirituality, as a whole, is experiencing a resurge in interest, echoed and sometimes initiated by artists. Western societies are on the lookout for magic again, and seeking to emerge from long centuries of all-triumphant phenomenology and the excesses of rationalism. As if there were a need to rekindle ties, sometimes awkwardly, with the inexplicable. For some time now, scientific writings have had a lot to say about modified states of consciousness and timeworn religious practices. The New Zealand parliament has recognised the Whanganui River as a living entity with its own legal identity… There are countless examples of this spiritual upsurge, nurtured by ecological stances, rethinking about humans as opposed to non-humans, and the development of non-anthropocentric materialism, supported by global networking. The second reason is because the H Gallery space and layout are well suited to such an exhibition: its two rooms separated by a corridor are like two states separated by a passageway. A layout that offers an architectural metaphor of ritual.   The effects of ritual The intention, in the first space, was to consider the way in which the iconography of ritual inspires artists, before examining the idea of living images. The fact that an image plays with its referent, and cultivates a type of haziness with it, is a classic basis of all magic thought, as...

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Hicham Berrada or the world of potentials

He’s a “chemical-reaction manager” who explores scientific protocols. Through his revisited Land Art, Hicham Berrada mingles with living things, but often on a molecular scale. An artist with a yen for chemistry, he reinvents a number of natural processes to create highly original landscapes. Situated somewhere between nature and artifice…   Have you ever seen a field of dandelions releasing white haloes in the middle of the night? Or a blue cloud forming in a matter of seconds, like a turbulent sky painted by eighteenth-century French artist François Boucher? Or else timeless landscapes materialising from fragile aquatic gardens, or abstract galaxies being born before your eyes? What, you might ask, is the key to this magic? Yet Hicham Berrada is not a magician but a virtuoso in physics experiments. An alchemist-artist, he orchestrates chemical combinations in the way that a painter will play with the colours on his palette. In his studio, there are no canvases but little boxes stacked up on top of one another. Waiting to be activated to express their magic and to unfurl dreamlike landscapes.   I discovered your work in 2013 at a collective exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo. How has your practice evolved since? In 2013, I spent a year at the Villa Medici. This is where I started off a number of research projects. The experience allowed me to go on to produce Mesk-Ellil (2015), and Masse et martyr (2017), artificial bronze creations that I presented at the Abbaye de Maubuisson until April. Creation is often a very long process. The time factor is a key component of my work. These objects evolve, I have to keep them in my studio for one or even two years before I can show them.   Do you mean that you don’t know the...

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Klein continues to conquer

After the immersive installation featuring Gustav Klimt at the Atelier des Lumières in Paris, it’s Yves Klein’s turn to get the augmented-reality treatment. See you this summer in Nice for a digital dive into the “blue Revolution”. A real eyeful!   Yves Klein was born in Nice… in 1928. So it comes as no surprise that the 90th year since his birth is being celebrated this year on the French Riviera. Where things get a bit more unforeseen is that the exhibition-homage in his honour is being held… in the middle of a shopping centre: Nicetoile, in other words 19,600 m² wholly devoted to blatantly consumerist desires. But the most hair-raising detail about the venture is the hanging: an immersive installation that flirts with augmented reality! In short, from the art of shopping to the art market, Yves Klein, the eternal apostle of the intangible, returns in a digital version. Here, original works have been digitised and transformed into 3D ultra-HD format by the company LEXPO Augmentée, in collaboration with Artcurial Culture. Titled “La vibration de la couleur” (The vibration of colour), this first module of a digital retrospective set to travel around for a period of ten years is an absolute wonder. But let’s first take a step back in time…   We’re at the start of the 1960s. Castro has just come into power in Cuba, while in New York, economist John Kenneth Galbraith is on the verge of publishing The Affluent Society. Against this backdrop, in Europe, the Nouveaux Réalistes (New Realists), led by art critic Pierre Restany, offer their take on seeing objects. As distant cousins of the American Pop Art movement, the members of this somewhat hazy collective set to work in earnest. Exaltation of the object, a sense of performance, appropriation of reality…...

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