You Really Don’t Look Your Age! Thirty Years of Cartier Foundation

(Paris.) If Fondation Cartier were a wearer of Cartier jewellery, this would be the time to stop counting years and celebrate her 29th birthday again (and again, and...).
For a well-established art foundation it’s the moment to look back and be proud of the past, with the firm will to continue exactly the same.
Cartier Foundation not only organizes
quite excellent shows, but usually buys a work or two from the artists. They are now presented in an exhibition called Memoires vives (Vivid Memories) that will run for six months with occasional changes to the hanging.

At the time of our visit, the first exhibition space on ground floor is filled with sculptures. With few exceptions, these works from the likes of Richard Artschwager,
Jean-Michel Othoniel, Panamarenko, Takeshi Kitano, and many more, impress by sheer size. Maybe Cartier Foundation exaggerated a bit on the number of works here, as there’s not much space left to walk between them, or only to take a step back. The panoramic view doesn’t add a thing, but at least the individual works don’t suffer: It’s impossible to miss one.
Thanks to their size, it should be easy to focus, e.g. on OMG, a co-production of designer Alessandro Mendini and painter Peter Halley. Just like the Issey Miyake signed illumination, Mendini’s participation is an example of how Cartier Foundation sometimes exceeds the limits of pure art and welcomes fashion and design too. It’s ok, as long as they don’t exaggerate.
With Bodys Isek Kingelez we find the first of several African artists, a particular interest of the collection. His utopian Project for a Kinshasa of the Third Millenium is an architectural dream created from garbage.

The second space is mainly reserved for a huge video wall (that by the way also looks impressive seen through the glass windows from the outside). When nobody is seated in front of the screen, you could perceive this rather empty space as the antithesis to the first one.
It’s a good idea to stay and watch though, the films range from sociological documentary (Diller Scofidio, Renfro, Mark Hansen, Laura Kurgan and Ben Rubin: Exit) to animation short (Moebius: La planète encore), and, of course, genuine video art (Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 4 is on every Wednesday night).

Whilst the glass walls upstairs leave few space for framed works, it’s different in the basement. Here the walls are covered with photography, and sculptures only put in the middle of the room.
The photos have been smartly arranged to tell a story or give different perspectives on the same idea; visitors are led to discover heretofore unimagined parallels. One “anthropological” wall thus unites Marion Poussier’s portraits of French teenagers with Raymond Depardon’s ethnological studies from Africa and South America, more Indios from Claudia Andujar, and Jürgen Teller’s portraits of European fashion icons - to name but a few works in the same line. It works. Different formats and technics are not decisive for meaning, but their combination helps to create a coherent whole.

In a side space, we find eroticised photos in the broadest sense of the term from Nobuyoshi Araki (women, naked) to Alair Gomes (men, half naked) and the photographic works of 1970s rock singer Patti Smith.
The last room has been chosen as repose for Ron Mueck’s woman In Bed. A Buddha from Alessandro Mendini joins her in her contemplation, as do, of course, more photos on the walls.

And that’s still not all, as the garden is also part of the show. In itself an artwork plan(t)ed by Lothar Baumgarten, it presents more sculptures, some of them (too) well hidden (Raymond Hains,
Giuseppe Penone). César‘s raised bronze thumb Le Puce reminds of Cartier Foundation’s beginnings: The French legend directly influenced Cartier’s decision to create a foundation for the promotion of contemporary art. His works were presented in their first ever exhibition in 1984, still held in a small village 20 km from Paris. It was not until 1994, that they moved to the current building.

We won’t bore you by describing work for work here, Memoires vives is a great presentation of a very diverse collection, nothing more and nothing less. Cartier Foundation has made the best of the idea to show a best of.
One observation made us smile: at different points in the garden we read signs explicitly forbidding visitors to have a picnic. – No problem, but then why’s there a caravan selling food and drinks? Be that as it may, we’ll say it without champagne: “Happy Birthday, Fondation Cartier!” (oh, and your general interdiction of taking photographs is still deeply annoying – believe us: it won’t help you sell more catalogues. Really, it won’t).

The Sunday afternoon we’ve visited, there was also a performance that started like the amateur acting class of a local retirement home enjoying their second childhood, but considerably improved over time. When planning your visit to Cartier Foundation, it’s a good idea to check their website for the Soirées Nomades (Nomadic Nights), you won’t have to pay extra, and might be rewarded with an interesting experience.

Memoires Vives – 30 ans Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, 10 May-21 September 2014

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