Not a fan

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.

Me looking underwhelmed

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).

Painting by Oscar Murillo
Painting by Eliza Douglas

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!!

INFO TITBIT:

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.

“Go big or go home!”

Ai Weiwei, Iron Tree, 2013.

According to one influential art critic, “Go big or go home” was the underlying theme at this year’s FIAC – the French International Fair of Contemporary Art, celebrating its 40th year in Paris. Anxious to re-establish its relevancy, FIAC seems to be making a comeback on the global art map. Judging by the oversized artworks on display, I wouldn’t be surprised if this year’s FIAC showstoppers could be seen from space.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Iron Tree (above) is a good example of FIAC’s supersized sculptures. Weiwei is by far one of my favorite contemporary artists. He likes to think big – very very big.

Artist Weiwei holding handfuls of the millions of porcelain sunflower seeds that make up his installation 'Sunflower Seeds' at the Tate Modern
Artist Weiwei holding handfuls of the millions of porcelain sunflower seeds that make up his installation ‘Sunflower Seeds’ at the Tate Modern

However, while talking to a talented fellow ceramicist today, I was dismayed by his blanket statement about there being no point in his trying to get into galleries because “they just want big”. I take issue with that. Artists these days have to be wary of falling into the trap of thinking that ‘bigger is always better’.

One successful artist who has followed his passion for the other end of the size spectrum is Thomas Doyle who, in his own words, sculpts in “1:43 scale and smaller” (see image below):

Publications such as Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal laud Doyle’s illustrious international career based on his tiny worlds. I was naturally very excited to have him select one of my 4″ high figurines (see below) for the upcoming Small Worlds exhibition opening December 7th at the Target Gallery in the Torpedo Factory, Alexandria.

Goose that Laid the Golden Egg

Likewise, my tiny 5″ x 5″ portrait entitled Le Parisien (below) just won second place in the small format section of the Mortimore Prize for Realism in Australia.

Parisien I medium

Thinking on a gargantuan scale often means that the artists cannot possibly produce the works by themselves. They need to hire a team of assistants to create their masterpieces. I personally would miss making things with my own hands – after all, that’s what drew me to art in the first place.

So for those of us artists who often enjoy creating on a small scale, and for those art appreciators who like to experience artwork of an intimate size, let it be known that we are not going home!

My figurine 'Wet Dreams', recently sold through Susan Calloway Fine Art, Washington DC
My figurine ‘Wet Dreams’, recently sold through Susan Calloway Fine Art, Washington DC

Irit Ovadia Rosenberg suspends tiny clay fragments overlaid with multiple glazes and her signature prints. Currently at Tova Ossman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Irit Ovadia Rosenberg suspends tiny clay fragments overlaid with multiple glazes and her signature prints. Currently at Tova Ossman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel.