Recently opened in Paris, Galerie Solo brings together the passion and experience of Christian Bourdais, a property entrepreneur, and Eva Albarran, an expert in contemporary art projects.
The field of contemporary art has for some years benefited by being broadened by new resources from the world of architecture. These have revealed not just architects’ conceptual and creative abilities – with the production of designs, models, furnishings and even buildings raised to the level of genuine art – but also an engagement with the artistic experimentation associated with architectural work and the design process.
Initially, it was isolated pieces taken from buildings and their contexts which invaded galleries. More recently, contemporary art too has taken on an active role in erasing the boundaries between disciplines: architects, artisans and artists can increasingly be found working on joint creative endeavours. It is the creative process itself that is revealed in the context of a genuinely artistic perspective, just as artists are inspired, in their turn, by materials and architectural designs, developing new forms of representation. One example of this is the series Architecture by the photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto – his blurry images of buildings as symbols prompt reconstructions of them in our minds.
Art and architecture are now presented together in outside spaces, populating large city parks in the form of temporary pavilions – like the “Spring Programme” at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens in London’s Hyde Park, or in the Tuileries in Paris as part of the FIAC Hors les murs, or again at Art Basel.
Moved and reconstructed, these pavilions are given new lives – and new functions – in private foundations, and in architecture and sculpture parks, as is the case with the Château La Coste: the site not only houses works from other locations (pavilions by Frank Gehry and Jean Prouvé) but has also inspired new works, art installations, and contextualised architecture like Tadao Ando’s art centre or the sculptures of Richard Serra. The architecture is then hosted in new landscapes, like that in the region of Matarranya, in the south of Catalonia, where Solo Houses showcase new architectural experiences born from the carte blanche accorded to a dozen contemporary architects.
Recently opened in the Marais district, Paris’ third arrondissement, is the Solo Galerie, which brings together the passion and experience of Christian Bourdais, a property entrepreneur, and Eva Albarran, an expert in the creation of contemporary art projects. Focusing on the fact that the work of the architect is no longer “monolithic”, that it “slides towards contemporary art”, in Bourdais’ words, and that “once the Biennales are over, the work of the architects is destined to disappear, despite being interesting”, in Albarran’s, the Solo Galerie follows a precise curatorial line, working with architects who have specific creative needs inspired by the plastic arts.
After presenting “Lore”, an exhibition by the Indian architect Bijoy Jain, the founder of Studio Mumbai, which presented work that took traditional construction processes as a starting point, interpreting these in a very contemporary way, the Solo Gallerie welcomed to its spaces Anne Holtrop, a Dutch architect who has no preconceptions about architecture and who has focused much of her attention on reinterpreting things, as well as forms, gathered a priori from outside the domain of architecture.
The works shown at the Solo Galerie as part of the “Barbar Batara” exhibition came in the form of sculptures, like blocks from which the spaces might be extracted. The architect has evoked from this the allure of the city of Petra in Jordan, where the mineral city is not only dug out from the rocks but is itself an architectural material. This attraction towards materials took the architect to the shores of the Persian Gulf as part of the creation of the Bahrain pavilion for the 2015 Milan Expo. This was conceived as a sequence of micro-landscapes surrounded by a courtyard and sails of curving concrete, the whole structure inserted in a spare enclosure. Anne Holtrop gives form to her architectural work with the support of her engineering training, to which she added time spent focusing on three-dimensional work in the studio of Karin de Koning – two periods of experimentation which, she said, “opened her eyes”.
“Batara” put on display different models, treatments of walls modelled in sand, without a clear function (which gives them a primitive air), sculpted in the material and revisited through the eyes of Bas Princen. “Barbar” refers to a temple – or, rather, three layered temples – rediscovered in 1954. Anne Holtrop balanced the straight lines and the arches with sophisticated montages, in a language of architecture and disassociated spaces recalling those of the temple.
Pursuing this line of work and the experiments prompted by the same material, the architect is currently working on the development of the new souk in Muharraq, in Bahrain, where stone from the banks of the Nile has provided a fresh source of inspiration and experimentation.