I usually write about art that impresses me. This blog post reviews a disappointing exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The Palais de Tokyo is the largest center for contemporary art in Europe, and my intent was to counterbalance other museums I am visiting that focus on centuries past. Well, I think I’ll stick to centuries past – at least as far as the Palais de Tokyo’s current exhibition ‘Natures mortes‘ (Still Life). Not every artist can pull off a successful show every time, unfortunately.
Multi-media German artist Anne Imhof was given the entire museum to do with as she pleased. Total carte blanche. I was anxious to see her work. After all, she won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale and has been touted as ‘one of the most innovative voices of her generation’. Her vision for the museum-wide exhibition was stated as “encouraging visitors to walk the space between life and nonlife, darkness and light, past and present, stillness and action, intensity and disenchantment, and to freely trace our own path across this vast, open scene.” Umm…OK.
This could be translated as letting the visitor wander aimlessly around the vast lower level between walls created out of graffiti-covered glass panels retrieved from an abandoned building. I’m sorry, but haven’t we seen that sort of thing before? In another separate space, ginormous copper walls superimposed with 18th century etchings reminded me a bit of Anselm Kiefer’s work but without the tactile masculinity and stunning gravitas.
As you wander further into the bowels of the museum’s raw subterranean space to the accompaniment of discordant music interspersed with screams, the artist successfully created a sense of discomfort and displacement. If anyone is familiar with Tel Aviv’s abandoned ‘new’ bus station, you will be able to relate to the feeling that at any moment a hunk of cement could fall on your head. Then there was the video of a guy beating a bicycle to death. Although the video did manage to convey the sense that the bicycle was a human being being beaten to death, I’m sure I’ve seen videos similar to this before, possibly at art school graduate shows.
The whole thing felt to me as if Imhof was just trying too hard and struggling to creatively fill the cavernous space she was assigned. There was nothing fresh or new. There were some redeeming works, mostly by artists that Imhof invited to participate such as Oscar Murillo and painter Eliza Douglas (see works below).
Anne Imhof is herself a very accomplished painter and some of her paintings on display were impressive:
I think you get the point that I was underwhelmed by the exhibition. I let out some of my frustrations on the padded pillars that were part of the exhibition.
I hope to see some more exciting art to share with you on my brief visit to Paris before heading off to my residency at the Chateau Orquevaux. You can follow me on Instagram for more of the highlights of my trip. Until then, adieu!!
The name Palais de Tokyo derives from the name of the street. The building is separated from the River Seine by the Avenue de New-York, which was formerly named Quai Debilly and later Avenue de Tokio (from 1918 to 1945). It was designed in 1937 for the Exposition internationale.