“contemporary art”

Jan Fabre or the big Belgian blowout

In the last few weeks, a breeze of eroticism and festivity has been blowing through number 28 Rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare, where Daniel Templon recently set up his latest Parisian quarters. To launch his new address, the gallerist is presenting an artist as Belgian as he is inspired: Jan Fabre.   Who better than this protean, corrosive artist to celebrate this new birth, his beguiling and subversively inclined art here tinged with folklore and gaudiness? Yet behind this glitzy burlesque show hides deep reflection on Belgian identity, which the artist, Flemish in origin, continually defends against all extremist stances. An interview accompanied with chocolates (Belgian of course), hovering between religious kitsch and mirthful sacrilege.   How did you design this exhibition “Folklore Sexuel Belge, Mer du Nord Sexuelle Belge”, which rings out like a celebration of life? You know, Daniel Templon and I met at least 20 years ago. Daniel gave me carte blanche to inaugurate his new Parisian space on Rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare. So I wanted to celebrate the birth my own way! I visited and studied the premises, then partly designed this exhibition in response to the environment.   So you produced some works specifically for the site? I’m showing some big sculptures produced for the occasion, but also some of my drawings produced between 2017 and 2018, which are small reinvented chromos.   Can you explain what is meant by “chromos”? In fact, my exhibition is titled “Folklore Sexuel Belge (2017-2018), Mer du Nord Sexuelle Belge (2018), Édité et Offert par Jan Fabre, le Bon Artiste Belge” (Belgian Sexual Folklore (2017-2018), Belgian Sexual North Sea (2018), Edited and Donated by Jan Fabre, the Good Belgian Artist). Part of my inspiration came from our national folklore, but also from those small vignettes found on chocolate bars...

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The Fondation Martell or the art of self-invention

Established at the heart of Cognac’s historic centre, the Fondation d’Entreprise Martell has transformed the Gâtebourse building into a site dedicated to experimentation in savoir-faire: a combination of art, architecture, handicrafts and design. Open and multidisciplinary… A key architectural feature of the town of Cognac, this former cognac-bottling plant, constructed in 1929 as part of the rise of the International Style, is in the midst of being revamped. By 2021, the building’s 5,000 m2 over five floors will gather exhibition spaces, production workshops, a digital platform, a resource centre, a restaurant and a panoramic café. On the strength of its three-century-long history, Martell is commencing a new chapter stretching towards creativity, research and diverse professions. The Fondation Martell, in the words of César Giron, CEO of the Martell, Mumm, Perrier-Jouët group, is “open to the town, the region, the international sphere, with a multidisciplinary vocation.” Nor has it suffered any shortage of funds since its launch in October 2016, as illustrated by its ambitious programme and an endowment of 5 million euros over 5 years. We meet Nathalie Viot, its very dynamic director…   You are behind the Fondation d’Entreprise Martell’s forerunner programme, and since 1 January 2017, you have been the foundation’s director. How did you envisage its cultural identity? I proposed a multidisciplinary foundation without a collection. Firstly, I wanted to avoid conservation, maintenance and insurance issues. The other thing is that if you buy art, you have to follow its market, and it was important for us to stay independent. I come from the world of contemporary art; I was previously artistic advisor for the City of Paris and co-director of the Galerie Chantal Crousel, so I’m very familiar with its ins and outs. Instead, we decided to commission designers and craftspersons to create the foundation’s...

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Centre Pompidou Malaga: three years down the track

On the strength of its success, the Centre Pompidou Malaga, inaugurated in March 2015 and initially set up for a five-year period, recently had its stay in Spain extended until 2025. A progress report on its first three years and a review of a pilot project in favour of cultural decentralisation. Rumours had been flying around the streets of the Andalusian city for several weeks, but it was on 20 February that they were confirmed by Serge Lasvignes, president of the Centre Pompidou, and Francisco de la Torre, the mayor of Malaga. The inaugural planting of the Parisian museum overseas was an experiment. And after three years of operations, the assessment of the Centre Pompidou Malaga is highly satisfactory, resulting in an extension of the project and the prospect of new ones. Two branches will shortly emerge in Brussels and Shanghai. Museums proliferate in Malaga… Home to 570,000 inhabitants, the city contains no less than 36 museums, including the Museo Picasso, the Museo Carmen Thyssen and the first branch of the Russian Art Museum of Saint Petersburg, inaugurated in the same week as the Centre Pompidou’s Spanish site. This multiplication of art institutions is partially explained by the mayor’s policy, making access to culture a priority. By taking this stand, Francisco de la Torre hopes to boost tourism and bring economic vitality back to Malaga, a city heavily affected by the crisis. To finance the Centre Pompidou project, the municipality paid over 7 millions euros and committed to pay 1.5 million euros every year to the Parisian institution, for use of its image and exhibition design. Museum strategy as a cultural and economic springboard is an appealing idea in itself, but not always adapted to every spot. In the case of Malaga, it seems realistic. As Picasso’s city of...

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Miguel Chevalier: bits & cells

He’s one of the pioneers in virtual and digital art. He tackles the question of intangibility and computer-led logic. Hybridity, generativeness and networking are at the heart of his research… An hour in the company of Miguel Chevalier, an observer of the flows dear to our contemporary society.   It’s at La Fabrika, his big studio in Ivry-sur-Seine (and so named in homage to another famous studio), that Miguel Chevalier designs his works. All around, you’ll see prototypes, 3D prints, projectors and projections…  This spring, his studio is a hive of activity as he gets set for several solo shows (at the submarine base in Bordeaux and a double event in London, at the Mayor and Wilmotte Galleries). Miguel Chevalier is also taking part in major group exhibitions, namely “Artistes & Robots” at the Grand Palais, and “AI Musiqa” at the Philharmonie de Paris.   The exhibition “Digital Abysses”, recently launched at the submarine base in Bordeaux, with ten installations and a hundred or so works spread out over 3500 square metres, is one of your largest to date… That’s right, this is my biggest exhibition to date. The submarine base is an unusual site, constructed at the end of World War II. I didn’t want to illustrate the memories of the place, but rather, work on the relationship with water and the great depths and abysses in which U-boats plunged. The large printed fabric Atlantide (25 x 9 metres) opens the exhibition, emerging as the floor of the base’s first pool. Then, we arrive at the bunker’s entrance – a spot that’s all the more interesting as it immerses visitors in darkness and comprises numerous spaces on different scales. I drew inspiration from plankton and all sorts of aquatic microorganisms, such as radiolarians and protozoa that are observable...

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Africa and its diaspora: convergences

It’s not that easy to put a finger on the relationship between African artists and those from the African diaspora. In a globalised world in which African centres are increasingly dynamic, couldn’t it be said that we are currently witnessing a convergence of forms and sources of inspiration? When referring to African artistic creation, Sudanese painter Ibrahim el-Salahi – who, along with Ahmed Shibrain and Kamala Ishag, founded the Khartoum School – uses the image of the tree. A tree has roots, a trunk and branches. And in his view, many artists from Africa or the African diaspora experiment with global issues and forms (branches), but also feel the need to bear in mind where they come from and relate their work to their origins (roots)… Defining “contemporary African art” and distinguishing it from (or likening it to) that of the continent’s diaspora potentially opens up a can of worms. The risk is to oversimplify it, or else to put everything into the one box. “We can only use this expression if we don’t claim that there’s only one way to make art, and if we avoid speaking about African art and African identity in the singular,” explains Rocco Orlacchio, director of the Voice Gallery, in Marrakech, which he founded in 2011 and whose objective is to stifle the resurgence of orientalist tendencies. According to curator Marie-Ann Yemsi, who headed up the 11th edition of the Bamako Encounters, “one of the major issues today is to de-exoticise gazes, to debunk misconceptions and unravel them in order to show Africa as it is. Stripped of fantasies.” Indeed, Africa comprises 54 countries and a wide range of increasingly numerous artistic centres, historically Niger, Senegal, Morocco and South Africa. And beyond the generalities that gloss over reality, the question of origins is also...

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