The title and communication releases of the Palais de Tokyo’s summer season are a multiple and slightly comical nod to the Nouvelle Vague, a period that marked a glorious planetary episode of commitment to the grammatical renewal of images.
Unfortunately, it does not quite jibe with this mega, “stop-gap” exhibition.
“It's a dead time; not much is happening,” so says even the museum’s president, Jean de Loisy. So, what better trick than tapping into the well of curators that has experienced exponential growth of late? Each project was provided with a 20,000 euro budget and once again they were able to fill up all three levels of the Palais de Tokyo. The result is around twenty group exhibitions with slightly faded names, titles and concepts: “Il Jakobsen method”, “File not found”, “La fine della notte (parte I)”, “Champs Elysée”, “The floating admiral”, “Un escalier d’eau…”.
They could be — take your pick — the chapters of a book, titles in a playlist or even just the visible trace of the narcissistic disaster that’s surrounding us. The same pathological origin of the proliferation of private “ego-museums”, which in this case, takes on the guise of a public service, the perfect choice for regenerating confusion and keeping one’s distance from the idea of contemporary, inundating visitors with a shapeless curatorial tsunami.
After the disaster of the entire concept, however, let’s address these beautiful wrecks. There are beautiful works in the exhibition: many extraordinary young people, alongside old artists with their insights that surely would have gotten to the public over time, and logical criteria different from those of the this project’s selection process.
Of course, seeing work by Amirita Sher-Gil, discovering the maquette by Adolf Loos for Josephine Baker’ house or watching a beautiful video by Otolith Group is always a pleasure. Unfortunately, however, even for independent curators there is a world-wide curatorial elite, which suggests behaviours and dictates rules and liturgies.
Dashed and shattered, however, are the wonder and ideology of the Seventies, which grew out of the simplicity of making art. Now, new tutelary deities have come forward: Hans Ulrich Obrist, our own Massimiliano Gioni, Jens Hoffmans who oversaw the splendid Parisian exhibition layout.
Sure, “The antigraceful”, an exhibition curated by Luca lo Pinto is a little gem. It is an oasis of freshness and intelligence, but I think the public would love the ceramics by Cameron Jamie all the same without the superb mediation of the photo sequence of La Portinaia by Medardo Rosso. It is by ridiculously stretching this combination — contemporary forms of curating art and Nouvelle Vague cinema — that raises the misunderstanding to the surface. Tupac Shakur will never be the Roxy Music of the “Transformer” exhibition, if viewed through the lens of the discipline's moral code. Seen as entertainment? Yes.
The contemporary curator is a little like Orlan when, in the name of authenticity, he sued Lady Gaga and was disarming. To this, it would be preferable Francesco Vezzoli’s approach to have pianos customised by Damien Hirst playing at the Opening Gala of Moca. In the exhibition’s official communication, the curators are presented as the true heroes, and not just for this exhibition. They are personalities who move outside the confines of Academia, who are able to stay beyond the reach of the marketplace and avoid institutional codes and conventions.
A new, upper-class restaurant has opened at the Palais de Tokyo, the glass windows bear the signatures of Cattelan and Toilet Paper at least a few months and the most beautiful work on display regardless of curatorial perspective is by Estefania Penafiel Loaiza.
Since 2009, she has collected — as if it were a healing potion — the residue of the erasers that she uses in her work. It certainly isn’t Rauschenberg erasing De Koonig, but it’s clear that artists themselves are the best ones at creating antidotes for curators’ use and consumption.