Paris’s Le Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature is a wonderful place in its own right, with its amazing collections of taxidermied animals, firearms (whoever would have thought that guns could be so beautiful?), paintings, objects and furniture, all artfully arranged in two contiguous mansions in the Marais, one dating from the 17th century and the other from the 18th. Of late, the museum has also demonstrated a real talent for integrating contemporary artworks into its collections. Two new shows offer good reasons to revisit the museum: “Every Stone Should Cry,” featuring works by sculptor and installation artist Théo Mercier, and “[Apokatastasis] Interior Garden,” in which Erik Nussbicker interacts with natural forms.
As it has with a number of other artists in the past (among them Sophie Calle, Gérard Garouste and Jan Fabre), the museum has invited Mercier to take inspiration from and insert his works into the museum’s collection. He has also been given a separate gallery for his work alone.
In the museum, many of Mercier’s installations play with the fragility of the egg, the origin of life, which might, for example, serve as feet for a heavy armchair.
The gallery show, conceived as a pet shop, is full of surreal objects that might please a cat (a tree/scratching post adorned with a swinging ball), a fish (artificial stones for their tanks) or a dog (fake bones).
There is a surreal quality to this part of the exhibition, with its repetition of forms – lots and lots of stones, for example, many piled precariously on top of each other – and crazy juxtapositions of objects picked up at flea markets, natural objects and objects made by Mercier himself. Some of these installations appear to be highly unstable, while others could be used as instruments of torture. Many (like the human breasts or the hands poking creepily out of seashells) reminded me of ex-votos.
It is not surprising to learn that Mercier is also a theater director. In this case, however, he is staging objects rather than humans. In the museum, one of his X-rated exhibits consists of a glass case in which tiny human skeletons are caught in a wide variety of sex acts.
Nussbicker, whose evocative works are on show on the top floor, is also a kind of director, one who goes into nature and subtly transforms or rearranges the elements he finds there or incorporates them into his artworks. He often uses bones, for example, whether human or animal, to make musical instruments, like the skull pictured above, which is suspended from the ceiling and can be swung back and forth to produce a haunting sound; its name, “Psychopompos Skull,” refers to mythological guides, like Orpheus or Charon, whose job is to accompany the dead to the afterlife.
Nussbicker’s subtle, meditative works often refer to ancient cultures. One example is this S-shaped, skull-headed bronze carynx, a trumpet similar to those used in battle by Iron Age Celts, who would have placed the head of an open-mouthed boar or another animal at the end of the instrument.
This show is one of a “triptych,” along with “[Apokatastasis] Jardin Des Méditations” (begins May 25, 2019) at the Vent Des Forêts rural art center in the Meuse department, where a “Meditation Tower” made of larch wood will be installed in the forest, and “[Apokatastasis] Catafalque de Nacre” at Galerie Maubert in Paris May 18-June 29, 2019). The term “apokatastasis,” by the way, means the restoration of things to their primordial state.
Nussbicker will play some of his unusual instruments, among them a stringed instrument made from the spine of a deer, and present projects like his skull-shaped molds for making kugelhopf in a performance at the museum on June 5 at 7:30pm and June 6 at 8pm. Click here for details.