LA says bienvenue to French artists
Multi-venue project aims to inject French contemporary art into Southern California
By Gareth Harris. News, Issue 240, November 2012
Published online: 20 November 2012
An ambitious Los Angeles-based project made up of more than 40 events and exhibitions aims to raise the profile of French contemporary art in the US. “Ceci n’est pas” encompasses a wide range of Franco-American collaborations taking place in public and private venues across Southern California until April 2013. The scheme is backed by the French government, including the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French ministry of culture, as well as the non-profit body Flax (France Los Angeles Exchange) and the City of Los Angeles. The organisers declined to confirm the total costs.
The project means French artists will finally be able to make their presence felt overseas, says Marc-Olivier Wahler, the former director of the Palais de Tokyo, the contemporary art centre in Paris. “Up until a few years ago, French artists were often labelled as ‘state artists’ abroad. For a while, there was no international network with connections to curators, institutions and commercial galleries. French artists received strong support on a local level, but it was difficult for them to be integrated into the international art world. It’s much healthier now and this kind of initiative helps.”
Wahler is organising the centrepiece of the “Ceci n’est pas” project, “Lost (in LA)”, a sprawling exhibition based on the US television series “Lost” (2004-10), about survivors of a plane crash who are forced to live on a remote island. The show is due to take place at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Art Park (1 December-27 January 2013), featuring works by high-profile international artists such as Jim Shaw, Oscar Tuazon and Thomas Hirschhorn alongside French artists such as Fabrice Hybert and Mathieu Mercier. It has been organised by Flax in partnership with the Palais de Tokyo and the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
Visitors to “Lost (in LA)” will “find themselves cast as characters in a fabulous drama”, according to the organisers. Upon entering the park, visitors can tune their car radios to a channel playing a piece by the artist Laurent Montaron. Inside the venue, an undulating roof constructed by Vincent Lamouroux will connect the two aisles of the exhibition space, Wahler says.
Another quirky element of the programme is “Paris At Your Home”, a joint venture between the non-profit Machine Project in Los Angeles and the Mains d’Oeuvres art centre in Paris. “French artists will come to Los Angeles to live with people from the art world and produce [art] in their homes in January. Then Angeleno artists will do the same in Paris during the spring,” says Adelaide Barbier, the cultural attaché at the Consulate General of France in Los Angeles.
Artist residencies at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica and the Otis College of Art and Design on Los Angeles’s Lincoln Boulevard form an important strand of the programme, while seminars and talks at the University of California and the University of Southern California will focus on the political aspects of French contemporary practice.
On the commercial side, a special section of the Art Los Angeles Contemporary fair (24-27 January 2013, Barker Hangar, Santa Monica) will be devoted to a selection of French galleries, such as Galerie Hussenot and Galerie Torri. “Los Angeles is an exciting and expanding market for contemporary art, and French gallerists are sensing that,” says Tim Fleming, the director of the fair.
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