Exhibitions Museums France

Arresting show in former Avignon prison

Lambert Collection installs works in disused gaol while its home is closed for expansion

The 18th-century Sainte-Anne prison is the venue for an exhibition of contemporary art. Photo: © François Halard

While the Lambert Collection’s Avignon premises are closed for renovation and expansion, the curatorial team has turned to the city’s disused 18th-century Sainte-Anne prison for its current exhibition. Taking its title from a 1975 essay by Pasolini, “The Disappearance of the Fireflies” (until 25 November) inhabits the “memory-steeped” spaces of the prison—unaltered for the show—to explore themes like time, love, solitude and, naturally, imprisonment. It features works from the Bologna-based contemporary art collection of Enea Righi, shown along with pieces from other private and public collections.

Some of the works, scattered throughout the cells, corridors and courtyards, have an obvious connection to prison, such as Andy Warhol’s 1971 Electric Chair print, or Xavier Veilhan’s statues of five police officers, Sans titre (Les Policiers)/Untitled (The Police), 1993. There are also work with more ambiguous subjects that speak powerfully within the spare space, like Barbara Kruger’s Who do you think you are?, 1997, while others take on a haunting new dimension inside the prison walls. The installation of Kiki Smith’s Girl with Globe, 1998, is particularly striking—the small body of a child frozen in motion, perched on a ledge in a high and narrow cell, a large mass hanging above her head.

The show also includes archival documents of the prison’s history up to its closing in 2003. One cell looks at the darkest moment of its past, when French Jews were detained here during the Second World War before being sent to death camps.

Kiki Smith's Girl with Globe, 1998, installed in a cell of the Sainte-Anne prison. Photo: © François Halard
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