Monaco - I know Artlife Magazine readers are precisely the kind of people for a spontaneous weekend trip to Monte Carlo. Just to relax, get some tan and maybe say "Hi" to Albert and Charlene, you are so sorry you couldn't make it to the marriage last year (in fact you preferred not to go - the paparazzi...). Then, after you have made yourself comfortable in Hotel de Paris, the Hermitage or the Metropole - or maybe you take your place in rich man's trailer park on the ocean -, you probably start the night getting your share of Champaign at Jimmy'z, The Black Legend or that other bar in the harbour I could not get in. Some hours later you decide to give the Billionaire's a try, Flavio Briattore's Sardinian nightclub has opened a branch in Monte Carlo this summer, located in Avenue Princess Grace. And just when you hand over your descent €500 tip to the bouncer for he may find your name on the guest list, your glance might fall upon the Grimaldi Forum several metres to your left, and a poster showing a red Rhino with the mention "Extra Large". If you still remember this impression the next morning, you might decide to come back and find out more. Arriving there again in daylight you realise, this is an art exhibition with the subtitle "Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou", and you know you can do nothing wrong with a visit.
The Centre Pompidou belongs to the big five of European museums, and this summers it has outsourced some (or rather: many) works that would take too much exhibition space if shown in Paris or Metz. Every genre of contemporary art is present and the works' quality matches their size, this show is the equivalent to a Methuselah bottle of Cristal - only that you don't have it every night. You will find biggest format paintings from Joan Miro ("Persons and Birds in the Night", 1974) to Robert Matta ("The Powers of Disorder", 1964-65) and Frank Stella ("Polombe", 1994). And photographs: if you like Madonna, contemplate Andreas Gursky's photomontage of her Hollywood concert in 2001 - maybe you discover your head in the crowd; if you prefer Cypress Hill, stay with Jeff Wall's "Knife Throw" (2008). If you are not into music, Valérie Belin's mysterious black still life ("Untitled", 2008) might be your favourite.
You enter Dan Graham's "Present, Continuous, Past(s)" and automatically perform some stupid breakdance moves, simply because you find yourself alone with a big mirror, then you notice the screen showing the recording some seconds later.
Another room is reserved for Bill Viola's "Angels", it is always astonishing what the artist creates from filmed water, the finest in video art today.
Cildo Meireles' installation "The Sorceress" spreads metastases over the entire exhibition, right from the start you see strange black threads pouring over a wall or curling on the floor only to disappear behind the next corner. More and more grows your curiosity until you arrive at the epicentre, the floor covered with this woolly mess like a tar puddle you have to wade through to finally face the sorceress: A woman and her broomstick, the source of every single thread, and she looks so vulnerable, no evil witch willing to destroy the visitor whom she pulled close to her all the way through the spider web, rather a lonely being suffering under a curse herself.
We see magnificent sculptures, like Tony Cragg's "Stormtrooper Broke his Neck while Performing Auto-Fellatio" - ah no, it's called "Box" (1999) and open to every interpretation; or Thomas Schütte's Michelin Man influenced "Big Spirit No. 7". But the most overwhelming experience creates Giuseppe Penone's "Breathe the Shade", a room whose walls are entirely covered with bay leaves; here the work is combined with the gold sculpture "The Lungs". Nature is present in other works as well; indoor land art may sound like a contradiction in terms, but Richard Long's "California Wood Circle" (1976) is an impressive artwork under every roof.
Sol LeWitt's "Wall Painting #346" from 1981 normally consists of six giant forms on a wall to be executed in situ; here it is reduced to three: a triangle, a circle and a X, making it appear as the inspiration for Playstation controllers (and maybe it was, you never know). A similar change happened to Eva Aeppli's "Group of 13" (1968), her aliens now have three additional empty chairs to their disposal (to judge over humanity or to peacefully watch that film classic with Henry Fonda, "12 Angry Men"?).
In arts as everywhere else you cannot get along without China any more (John Cleese knew it first: "I like Chinese"); each shabby backyard gallery has its Chinese artist, and here we find a Chinese corner with - amongst others - Yan Pei Ming's portrait series "Survivor(s)" and Chen Zhen's "Round Table": From a distance you might think of a séance, many chairs lifted in the air, attached to a table, on which you discover strange runes. Then you realise the writings are Chinese, and the work has been created on the occasion of the UN's fiftieth birthday. There are all sorts of chairs, even a baby chair with poo compartment, some of them turning their back to the table - an artwork as funny as honest.
In the end I have to add only one warning: in the whole exhibition, climate is set on "blizzard", worse than in a French supermarket (fancy some days off work? Go shopping and catch a cold!). We all know about the Prince's personal winter sport history, and maybe Monacan sportsmen have undergone ice chamber training for the London Olympics in here. But of course YOU don't need to worry about it, as the Bentley's trunk is big enough for your evil fur coat...
Oh yes, if your life is not like supposed, but rather resembles that of a humble art critic; even if the sighting of yellow Ferrari Californias registered to the diplomatic corps of one of West Africa's poorest countries leaves a bad taste in your mouth (on the other hand: If you are a corrupt a... , don't hide it at least), you should still come to Monte Carlo. This exhibition definitely is worth it - and the town much prettier than you imagine.
There are so many more great works at the Grimaldi Forum (and the highest ratio of security officers per artwork ever seen), "Extra Large" is the show to visit this summer.
"Extra Large" at Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, July 13th to September 9th, 2012