Jubilation, Jameel Prize and
New Paris Housing Designs
“Indienne au Jardin” by Charlotte Marchand.
For those of you who have already seen most of the major art exhibitions in Paris and are just waiting for the next batch to open, here are a few smaller shows that might appeal.
Facing the Centre Pompidou across the plaza, the Centre Wallonie Bruxelles doesn’t exactly compete on the same level with its neighbor, but it often puts on free exhibitions that are worth seeing. Right now, the cultural center has a lively show called “Jubilations Héroïques” featuring the work of 12 young artists working in Brussels.
Generalizations can’t be made about the work of 12 different artists, but I can say that most of the work here is figurative and uses the traditional forms of painting, sculpture and collage (not a single conceptual piece in sight). These artists show a marked interest in the things of childhood, with toys, games and superheroes providing inspiration for many of the works. For a couple of the female artists, these childish things meet up with a phallic fixation. In Catherine Versé’s work, for example, penises show up in the most unexpected places: on female figures in her delicate drawings, for example; as a crocheted erection on a dressmaker’s dummy wearing a lacy slip; and depicted like an illustration in a children’s book among mundane objects like a crib, a table, a dress and a plucked chicken.
Olivier Goka has a knack for making what look uncannily like tribal sculptures out of ordinary objects like coffee filters, electric plugs and remote controls. They are shown here in a darkened room like real anthropological artifacts along with documentary photos of them by Bernard Babette.
There is also an anthropological feel to Stephan Balleux’s hauntingly surreal black-and-white watercolors, in which the paint itself seems to be trying to take over and destroy the realistic images.
Alice Pilastre puts Eric Satie’s music onto textiles that can be played by visitors on music-box mechanisms (unfortunately, most of them were broken when I was there), while Charlotte Marchand makes Basquiat-inspired paintings.
Bita Ghezelayagh’s “Souvenirs en Feutre III” (2008-09). Courtesy of Rose Issa Projects.
Figuration barely appears in the “Jameel Prize 2011” show at the Institut du Monde Arabe, which presents the work of the finalists and winner of this award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. The show is being held in the institute’s courtyard in architect Zaha Hadid’s spaceship-like mobile pavilion, a structure originally designed for exhibitions put on by Chanel, which donated it to the institute before it completed its planned world tour.
Hadid is also the patroness of the Jameel Prize (click here for more information about it), which is sponsored by the Victoria & Albert Museum, which specializes in decorative arts and design, in London. That – and the supposed interdiction on figurative representation in Islamic art – may explain the strong decorative bent of the work of the 10 finalists, although a couple of them offer more conceptual pieces.
The winner, Rachid Koraïchi, makes handsome black-and-white hangings covered with Sufi-inspired patterns, symbols and calligraphy. Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian is represented by gorgeous panels covered in complex patterns of mirrored mosaics that create wonderful reflections.
The back side of Aisha Khalid’s beautiful black-and-gold paisley shawl reveals a surprise: the motif is formed by the heads of golden pins, whose points bristle uncovered in the back. The work of Hayv Kahraman, one of only two artists presenting figurative work (both of them women), also holds a sting, but of a different kind: the doubled playing-card figures inspired by decks of cards handed out to by the American Army to its soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan graphically express the pain of Iraqis displaced by the war.
Design by Stéphane Maupin for a 150-unit apartment building in Paris’s 17th arrondissement.
Just a short walk across the Seine from the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Pavillon de l’Arsenal has a fancy new digital map of Paris that takes up a good portion of the floor space on the ground floor and allows you to zoom in to any point on the map you like, along with lots of other bells and whistles.
Upstairs, the current exhibition, “Habiter 2011,” shows the plans, drawings and models by the five finalists for each of 30 architectural competitions for buildings in Paris and environs. The overall impression is that there is really not much room for creativity in these projects, mostly for mixed-use buildings and public housing; there is a certain sameness to them. Is that the result of current architectural trends or is it because of technical and monetary constraints? In any case, the winning designs (the ones marked “lauréat”) don’t always seem to the non-expert eye to be the most innovative of the five proposals.
Entrance is free to the Pavillon de l’Arsenal, which also offers great little extras like free bus maps that point out highlights of contemporary architecture along the line and a free map of contemporary architecture in the city of Paris.
Centre Wallonie Bruxelles: 127-129, rue Saint Martin, 75004 Paris. Métro: Rambuteau. Tel.: Open Monday-Friday, 9am-7pm; Saturday-Sunday, 11am-7pm. Admission: free. Through January 29. www.cwb.fr
Institut du Monde Arabe: 1, rue des Fossés-Saint-Bernard, Place Mohammed-V, 75005 Paris. Métro: Jussieu. Tel.: 01 40 51 38 38. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday and public holidays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Admission: €7. Through February 26. www.imarabe.org
Pavillon de l’Arsenal: 21, boulevard Morland, 75004 Paris. Métro: Sully Morland. Tel.: 01 42 76 33 97. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30am-6:30pm; Sunday, 11am-7pm. Admission: free. www.pavillon-arsenal.com
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