Judith Benhamou-Huet Reports | Highlights of 2017: Gisèle Vienne, The Louvre AD, Koons & Vuitton and…


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Gisèle Vienne, Crowd
Gisèle Vienne, Crowd

Gisèle Vienne: “Crowd”

While Anne Imhof was staging dark, aesthetically pretentious performances on the theme of gutter punks, which resemble photoshoots for Nordic fashion magazines and for which she was unfortunately awarded the Golden Lion at the 2017 Venice Biennale (she was representing the German Pavilion), in Paris at the Festival d’ automne, a choreographer and director, Gisèle Vienne (born 1976) was developing a show – the most deeply affecting I have seen for a long time – about the disenchanted youth who frequent artificial chemical paradises to the background of deafening music in the raves and other apocalyptic Berlin clubs. Exceptional.

I hope that “Crowd”, which is the name of the show, will be travelling all over the world .

This is my personal Golden Lion 2017, despite the fact that Gisèle Vienne represents nothing and no one other than herself and she had no work on show in Venice.

(Crowd is shown : 26-27 January in Brussels, Kaaitheater. 6, 7, 8, 9 February in Rennes, Théâtre National
de Bretagne. 29 May, 1, 2, 3 June in Vienna. Wiener Festwochen. 13, 14, 15 June in Berlin, Volksbühne).


Venice Biennale (2): the Olympic Games for contemporary art . And the winners are…

Venice BiennaleRegardless of what people say each time about the overall standard at the Venice Biennale, and despite the growing number of challengers from Sao Paulo to Shanghai, this event remains the queen of the world’s contemporary art shows. With 900 works at the international pavilion curated by France’s Christine Macel plus 88 national pavilions spread …



The Louvre Abu Dhabi and the story of Leonardo

It has been 10 years since I was first excited by the idea of a universal museum opening in a part of the world where history, geography and religion are ordinarily intended to be anything but universal.

I have, therefore, made use of all the modest means available to me (writing) to support the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The result, with the exception of the contemporary department, is moreover convincing.

But I had neglected to recall the political or diplomatic calculations that can preside over a culture that tends towards mediocrity, which is to say, marketing.

Whatever the true identity of the individual or organization who bought this painting of Christ by Leonardo da Vinci in its pitiful state, this shadow of a Leonardo, for 450 million dollars (I am doubtful, by the way, that it was the Abu Dhabi tourism department), I find it deplorable that this painting will be hung long-term alongside such masterpieces as, for example, “La Belle Ferronnière” by the same Leonardo, which belongs to the Louvre in Paris and is on loan to the Louvre Abu Dhabi for a year.

A temporary exhibition such as the one held by the National Gallery in London in 2011 would have been acceptable. Not an acquisition.

It should be noted that the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s annual budget is ten times smaller than the price obtained for the ghost-like Leonardo.

We must only emphasize that it is not the Louvre Museum itself and its scientific authorities who are supposed to made this acquisition, but rather a state body responsible for, among other things, tourism.

Louvre Abu Dhabi: A visit to the most daring museum of the twenty-first century

Louvre Abu DhabiThis story begins, for me, in 2006 or early 2007 in the lobby of a London hotel. Tom Krens was head of the Guggenheim at the time, a museum he sought to transform into a global brand. He had opened branches of the establishment in downtown New York, Bilbao, Las …



Leonardo but also Basquiat, Pollock and Currin: the power of the record sale hides a host of unsold major artworks

Leonardo but also Basquiat, Pollock and CurrinIt will have escaped no one, thanks to the huge scale of the media shockwaves across the globe, that on 15 November Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” was sold at auction for a sum never before officially attained for an artwork: 450.3 million dollars. Let’s not forget that we’re talking about an authentic …




Arthur Jafa

I saw it in New York and London. The film by Arthur Jafa, a unique marriage of punctuated images and music (by Kanye West), is a sheer masterpiece called “Love is the message, the message is death”, and one that is important on at least two counts: it presents the recent history of the black population in America from a personal and a historical viewpoint, but crucially it does so by inventing a new narrative genre, one in which music, rhythm and images contribute equally to the narrative. An heir, by virtue of its focus, to the towering figure in American painting, Kerry James Marshall.

Arthur Jafa in London and Washington: you won’t have seen such an exceptional video in a very long time

Arthur Jafa in London and WashingtonHe’s a genius in the recent history of the moving image, and his vision in the film“Love is the message, the message is death” (2016) leaves no viewer unscathed. The short extracts which could be available to watch online give nothing away compared to the powerful impact of seeing it on the big …



Hans Ulrich Obrist

I had a meeting with HUO, who is the artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries, among other things, and I didn’t yet know the reason for it. On my way there, I thought about suggesting that he answered 10 questions in fifty seconds, each time facing the camera on my phone.

He agreed, and threw himself into the game with enthusiasm. And that’s how I began a new series of interviews following this principle.

More broadly, Hans Ulrich Obrist is generous and curious. He’s an antidote to the throng of boring, snobbish and superficial people who populate our lovely art world. We will conclude by saying that Hans Ulrich Obrist himself would never write anything so malicious.

Hans Ulrich Obrist: 10 TIMES 50 SECONDS . 10 questions to the exhibition maker superstar

Hans Ulrich ObristHans Ulrich Obrist (Huo) is one of the most famous superstars of contemporary art. The artistic director of the Serpentine Gallery and self-described exhibition maker was generous enough to inaugurate our new video series: 10 times 50 seconds. –1 What is the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning? –2 What …




How can an artist, alone (or almost) deep in the countryside around Aix-en-Provence at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, have been able to invent a style of painting so incredibly unconventional yet crucial, composed of unbalanced tables, ugly women (often his wife), and faces dappled with colourful shading? Only the biggest institutions such as the Musée d’Orsay in Paris or the Met in New York can bring together artworks of this level to create such extraordinary exhibitions.

Cézanne is THE giant of modernity.

Portraits by Cézanne: an extraordinary survey of a pioneer of modernism in 60 paintings

Portraits by CézanneIf there is one unmissable modern art exhibition this summer it has to be Portraits by Cézanne (1839-1906) at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. In 60 paintings it proves many things, first of all the museum’s pulling power in assembling so many masterpieces from all over the world. More specifically, the exhibition …




Wolfgang Tillmans

There are certain artworks that must be viewed collectively.

Tillmans is an artist who has proved to be highly important thanks to his juxtaposition of differing scales, subjects, techniques and layouts, beauty and ugliness, banality and singularity.

Bad news for collectors, then: owning just one Tillmans is not enough.


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Wolfgang Tillmans at Tate Modern and Fondation Beyeler: a major artist for the 21st century

Wolfgang Tillmans at Tate Modern and Fondation BeyelerThe brilliance of certain artists lies in their ability to force you to really look at what they have to show. It’s true of German-born, London-based artist Wolfgang Tillmans (b. 1968). Slowly but surely he’s become one of the superstars of contemporary art, and deservedly so. He currently has an exhibition at Tate Modern …




Jeff Koons and Vuitton

People love to hate him, but I for one loved the fact that Jeff Koonsproduced such an ugly line of handbags emblazoned with artists’ names in gold letters and covered in cliched artworks from Van Gogh to da Vinci.

It’s so ugly that it’s beautiful. If it had been cute then it would have been horrible.

During our interview, which was as usual a very special experience, Koonslulled me with a stream of honey, milk and sugar gobbledegook, which resembled his artworks.

I like what I took to be his off-beat humour. But you’ll never know what he really thinks of what he’s done, before he falls asleep in his bedroom opposite his sensual Fragonard painting.

The Koons-Vuitton Project: The Mass Tourism Look Shocks the Fans of so called ‘Good Taste’

The Koons-Vuitton ProjectJeff Koons (born 1955) is one of those artists who inspires fascination and revulsion in equal measure. On the occasion of his 2014 retrospective at the Pompidou Centre, I was astonished to find myself subjected to vitriolic online attacks after I defended his show, which incidentally drew a record 650,000 visitors (the American version of …




Douglas Gordon and Morgane Tschiember

Out in the almost hostile wilderness, at the summit of a snow-covered mountain, Douglas Gordon and Morgane Tschiember have created an exceptional experience.

In the snow, they set up a gigantic circle of fire from which wolf howlsemanate at intervals. We cannot see them. Perhaps they will emerge?

Using virtually nothing, the pair have managed to reawaken primitive fear. The scene did, however, take place at Gstaad, the least primitive of the ski resorts for millionaires.

In Gstaad: at the summit of the most chic contemporary art in Europe

In GstaadSwitzerland is a unique blend of alpine culture, cows, rustic tradition, cheese, and world-class expertise in such diverse domains as watchmaking, banking and contemporary art. Every two years, in Gstaad, a show called Elevation 1049 perfectly incarnates these two apparently irreconcilable tendencies. It takes place in a village known as the epicentre of ultra-chic skiing, …



Rei Naito

Is it possible to imagine a more modest and unassuming, sensitive and underrated artist than the Japanese Rei Naito, who, in collaboration with Ryue Nishizawa, conceived one of the greatest masterpieces of our times atTeshima?

It is a temple of contemplative beauty where only the water droplets work on forming from the ceiling and dancing on the concrete. A softly spoken giant of her field whom I managed to catch briefly while she was passing through Paris.

Rei Naito: the extraordinary japanese artist speaks about Naoshima, Teshima, Hiroshima

Rei NaitoAnyone who has visited Naoshima and Teshima, the art islands in the Seto Inland Sea in Japan which have been transformed by the visionary businessman Soichiro Fukutake into spaces that marry beauty and nature, will probably never get over the experience. Teshima especially, for it’s home to an immense space that radiates simplicity …





It’s a story of hope and beauty, that of a black man in eighteenth-century Brazil who became a star sculptor. (In Brazil slavery was only abolished in 1888). He was nicknamed Aleijadinho, and in his home country he is a source of great national pride. Last summer I had the opportunity to follow in his footsteps in Ouro Preto in the state of Minas Gerais. A unique baroque style in painted wood and stone. Sublime.

In Brazil, the story of the first great black artist, acclaimed since the 18th century

In Brazil, the story of the first great black artist, acclaimed since the 18th century Sublime. Ouro Preto. Perched on a cluster of slippery hills is a city of white, blue and gold, of sloping streets paved in large rough-edged stones, of fountains and churches, of rockeries, of Jesus and Mary. We’re in Brazil, in the state of Minas Gerais (‘the General Mines’), a five-hour drive from Rio …




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