“modern art”

Rendezvous at the Patinoire Royale!

It’s a majestic space stretching over nearly 3,000 m2, which once delighted roller skaters. Today it’s an exhibition space with a difference, in the middle of Brussels. We spend an hour with Valérie Bach and find out about her commitment to contemporary art… at the heart of a historic monument. Valérie Bach moved to Brussels in 2005. At that time, she opened her first art gallery in the Sablon district. It was in 2007 that she and her husband discovered La Patinoire Royale, a neo-classical building constructed in 1877 right in the centre of the Belgian capital. Semi-circular arch windows, a magnificent Polonceau structure, period glasswork… They fell in love with it immediately, and very soon after, the couple bought the site. As of 2012, the Galerie Valérie Bach began presenting its programme on this site in the wing looking out onto Rue Faider, while restoration of the building’s nave continued, overseen by the Jean-Paul Hermant and Pierre Yovanovitch architecture firms. It was thus in April 2015 that Valérie Bach, along with her director Constantin Chariot and his team, inaugurated this new hybrid venue which has preserved its historic name. Already, three exhibitions have taken place here: “La Résistance des images”, showing nearly 170 works representing major figures in narrative figuration, curated by Jean-Jacques Aillagon; “Let’s Move!”, a vast retrospective of kinetic art organised by Arnauld Pierre; and “Prouvé / Takis” organised in collaboration with the gallery Downtown. And now, until 25 March, and for the first time since the opening of La Patinoire, all of the venue’s spaces are being handed over to one artist: Joana Vasconcelos from Portugal, whose show includes a few monumental works. You are the manager of the Patinoire, as well as of the gallery bearing your name. What is the relationship between these two spaces? Despite...

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Centre Pompidou: pipe dreams

Delivered by architects Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano in 1977, the Centre Pompidou recently celebrated its 40th birthday. We retrace this museum, social and monumental adventure. An account of the “Pompidou touch”, an example of interdisciplinarity and cultural renown. The 40th birthday of the Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges-Pompidou, in Paris, is a national event. The Centre Pompidou was quick to become a world icon, a symbol of France’s avant-garde spirit, supported by the French president Georges Pompidou, and known for its once contested architecture, designed by the Italian-British architectural duo, Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano. At the time, some compared the building to a supermarket… “All the better. People won’t be afraid of entering it,” Piano is said to have replied. “Pompidou wanted to reconcile France with the culture of his time, noting that while our country, under the influence of André Malraux, had turned to the arts with conviction, it experienced certain difficulties in taking in more recent innovations from contemporary creation,” observed the museum’s president from 1996 to 2002, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, to Le Figaro. Planted in a once working-class district, coming up with the museum plan, then building it, were real gambles, pulling along with it a few modern and contemporary art galleries, such as the very first one to set up in the area, Daniel Templon, at 30 Rue Beaubourg, in 1972, opposite the gaping hole that awaited the museum at the time. We should mention that on the international avant-garde scene – which was starting to globalise and meet strong competition –, Paris needed a museum to reshuffle the contemporary-art cards. Inaugurated in 1977 with an exhibition on Marcel Duchamp and curated by Jean Clair, the museum, directed by Pontus Hulten from Sweden at the time, put on one themed exhibition after...

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Legacy of the avant-gardes

Through its exhibition “The Power of the Avant-Garde, Now and Then”, Brussels’ Palais des Beaux-Arts is offering a new reading of radical movements, which avoids falling into the trap of the traditional retrospective. A show that wavers between historical investigation and the reflection of an era. It’s tiny compared to the works that it faces, the 48 Portraits created by Gerhard Richter in 1972 for the German Pavilion of the Venice Biennale (here in a 1998 re-edition), paying vibrant homage to the intellectuals and musicians behind the avant-garde, from Franz Kafka, through Albert Einstein, to Oscar Wilde. This “it” is a small grenade, placed by Matthias Rogg, director of the Militärhistorisches Museum in Dresden, at the entrance of the exhibition “The Power of the Avant-Garde, Now and Then”. A grenade… This choice made by Matthias Rogg and Ulrich Bischoff, the exhibition’s curator, is not so surprising. First, because the term “avant-garde” initially referred to the leading charge of an army before describing an upsurge in artistic thought. Next, because it is indicative of the avant-gardes themselves: explosive, for they blew apart the art world in barely a few decades, while laying down the foundations of a new artistic grammar. Finally, the image of the grenade itself reflects the theme of the exhibition, given that the avant-gardes constituted a core of pure energy whose force has spread its impact over time and space. The exhibition “The Power of the Avant-Garde, Now and Then” sets out to investigate the avant-gardes, not as an artistic movement – an aspect that has been rehashed time and time again – but the permanence of their influence on artists today. The image is a beautiful one of a wave that keeps spreading outwards. Dialogues and quid pro quos Rather than offering yet another analysis of avant-gardism,...

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Data: Picabia, nihilism and humour at auctions

A painter with talent, cheekiness and an eventful life… Francis Picabia marked the 20th century with the eclecticism of his painting and his significant contribution to French and American intellectual life. And what does the market make of him? Francis-Marie Martinez de Picabia was born on 22 January 1879 in Paris. A single child born to parents representing Spanish aristocracy and French bourgeoisie, he grew up in a certain material comfort but was not spared from emotional affliction. He was seven when his mother died of tuberculosis, and he found himself stuck with his father, Juan Martinez Picabia, the Cuban consul in Paris, his bachelor uncle Maurice Davanne, a curator at the Sainte-Geneviève Library in Paris, and his grandfather Alphonse Davanne, a wealthy businessman and enthusiastic amateur photographer who at one time was president of the Société Française de Photographie. In this universe that was possibly a little too virile, Francis escaped boredom by painting. In 1895, after school, he signed up at the École des Arts Décoratifs with Braque and Marie Laurencin as his teachers. In 1899, Francis Picabia joined the Salon des Artistes Français thanks to his painting Une Rue aux Martigues. At the start of the 20th century, his painting owed a great deal to impressionism. He showed at the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Indépendants, but also in galleries such as that of Berthe Weill or at the Galerie Haussmann. His paintings sold well. In 1908, Francis Picabia met Gabrielle Buffet, a young avant-garde musician who encouraged him to continue his research. Supported by his personal fortune, he gradually shook off his ties with his synthetic style and his dealers to trace a path through the 20th century’s “isms”: fauvism, futurism, cubism and orphism. His style stretched in all directions and adapted itself to every constraint, every manifesto. Some of his...

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Catherine Alestchenkoff: Monaco, a balcony overlooking the sea

A stroll in Monaco, accompanied by Catherine Alestchenkoff, cultural events head of the Grimaldi Forum. A panoramic scan of the exhibition policy of this spot, as unique as it is distinctly Mediterranean. Her slender figure displays that distinctive Grimaldi elegance. You could say that she embodies the spirit of this place. On this morning, in the Larvotto district, Catherine Alestchenkoff looks out at the horizon. Despite being an art historian, she has no qualms about flirting with cultural marketing, organising “blockbuster” exhibitions at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, where art takes on the allure of a big event. This vision of art that she promotes tends to be “chic and shock”, both cosmopolitan and refreshing. In short, we have before us true cultural engineering talent, renowned far beyond the 2 km² of this second-smallest State in the world. Her slimness may cause you to imagine her to be lightweight, but then you’d be mistaken: Catherine Alestchenkoffis is a war machine, a battering ram in elegant attire. At the head of artistic events at the Grimaldi Forum – a steel-and-glass mastaba overlooking the Bay of Monaco –, this is a lady who rocks the Riviera. In the space of fifteen years, she’s turned “this place without a collection” into the cultural showcase of the Principality. After completing a master’s in art history at the Sorbonne in 1982, then eight years as an archivist for exhibition catalogues (“Kees Van Dongen”, “Figures du moderne”…) at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the young woman became an exhibition assistant, namely for the exhibition “André Derain, le peintre du trouble moderne”, in 1994. The following year, she joined the object-production department of Paris-Musées, where she was in charge of the design and editorial followup of derivative products. In February 2000, she...

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