• (first published on artlifemagazine.com)

Paris: La Rentrée, featuring Sophie Calle, Clément Cogitore, Fritz Panzer and many more...


Paris - Every year in early September Parisians celebrate "La Rentreé", the "relaunch" of all activities, art related or not. During summer nobody has worked here (except those poor guys in tourism industry), and now is the time to rediscover the life you led before.

Saturday, the 8th has been this year's "rentrée" for most art galleries, and rue St. Claude was crowded as ever. After two months of cold turkey, even art addicts who gave up going to openings long ago - since nothing special happens at openings any more besides the doors being opened - came to make sure there are no changes this season.

Perrotin Gallery brings us three new shows; the best of these is Klara Kristalova's "Wild Thought". The Bulgarian artist creates porcelain sculptures of children with animals (probably another word combination you should never ever google for). Sometimes both types of models are mixed into one, like this young Ganesha called "Fifteen". I really appreciate Kristalova's works, though when I think about the type of collectors presumably interested in buying them, images of desks overloaded with Kinder Surprise figurines cross my mind. But this is not the artist's fault and the dreamy little show continually pushes our imagination to believe in a secret fairy tale hiding behind each piece or to even think up one ourselves.

Then there is Hernan Bas with "Thirty-six Unknown Poets (or, decorative objects for the homosexual home)". Great title. Nice exhibition.

Drawings and two painted folding screens show young men looking really really gay. Either you take it as homage to Oscar Wilde mode-de-vie or as a criticism of the deliberate fulfilment of prejudice. There seems to be a double meaning to the long title, a play on clichés - do you really need to underline your sexuality in choosing your room decoration? And (I ask this in the most tolerant manner) is it true, that poetry today is nothing more than a fashion accessoire for homosexuals?

Perrotin's third show presents one of his most prominent artists and, well, I cannot say it is disappointing, for Sophie Calle does what she usually does: to celebrate herself. In the first room we watch several screens, on each of them an Arab looking man or woman, filmed from the back, is standing before an ocean. After a while they turn around (one of them strikingly resembles Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's lost twin brother) and the screen goes blank. Ok. In the second room the same on more and bigger screens. Ok. From the leaflet we learn, those are Turkish people who see the ocean for the very first time in their life. But more important is who has granted them the experience: "I went to Istanbul. (...) I filmed their first time". Yes, Sophie, you did. And she did even more as the show goes on with blind Turks. One photo each, plus a few lines on how they have lost their vision and what they remember of their last view. This sounds like a good idea. Were these people only taken seriously in their individuality. But again, we are invited to admire only the blessing they received by the eye of Mighty Sophie Calle falling upon them, according them their minute of fame. What was it again, something about treating people as ends in themselves not as means to an end... I know I am old-fashioned.

Let's continue with Perrotin's neighbours. Galerie Richard, traditionally specialised in Japanese art, shows paintings of Kiyoshi Nakagami, an exercise in repetition, in meditation. Different versions of a dark abstract landscape (?), in which you may recognise a stormy sea or (nuclear) clouds. In the huge exhibition space is enough room for a group show in the back, outstanding are the works of Stefan Hoenerloh who paints city scenes of dark deserted buildings that could stand in Paris or Bruges, but only emerged from the painter's mind. Romantic decoration for the gothic home.

Anne Barrault Gallery, which went to vacation with a group show, chose for the relaunch... a group show. There are nice works, though. Like Bernhard Rudiger's paper helmets with antennas to catch those aliens calling. Another group show at Sultana, but with a precisely defined topic: "Pas Encore..." ("Not Yet..."), curated by Fréderic Bonnet, assembles works that try to translate literature into contemporary art, examples include Jorge Méndez Blake's wall painting of T.S. Eliot's "Wasteland". The text's silhouette mirrors its content.

White Projects presents young photographer/filmmaker Clément Cogitore. In front of a black background we distinguish a police officer in black armour enthroning on a big black horse; his visor shut, he holds a medieval shield and lance. Is it night around us, we are living in end times and the apocalyptic horsemen will come over us like Batman over the bad guys (taking in charge the work's title "The Dark Night")? The sombre, yet heavenly-sent entity identified with worldly forces of order, holding on to the same tactics/weapons used hundreds of years ago, may suggest a very conservative law and order disposition on the artist's behalf. The accompanying ready-made video of Julian Assange dancing in a nightclub would then be meant to present a symbol for our world's rottenness, just like the photograph of an "Anonymous" masked group having a picnic (or a Déjeuner sur l'Herbe). But maybe Cogitore means it all different. A troubling exhibition in any case.

You like Candida Höfer's famous photographs of empty halls, libraries, museums, etc.? Well, you will love Martin Kasper's paintings at Eric Mircher Gallery that basically show the same.

Alberta Pane Gallery presents Austrian artist Fritz Panzer with his first solo show in France. In drawings and wire sculptures he strips the world to its skeleton. Especially the three-dimensional drawings, as the artist calls his emptied sculptures, are worth more than one look. From a milk carton to a piano, these objects in actual size cannot be used but only admired; no representations but alternate - artistic - versions that easily surpass their "real life" counterpart.

Finally, Alain Gutharc Gallery presents Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza, her sculpture of books covered with black wax ("Sismographies 1. Sotto Voce (uel loro incontri") is one of the most magnificent works of this year's rentrée. Just beautiful.




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