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Palais de Tokyo director to open art centre in LA

Chalet Hollywood and its sister space in Paris, Chalet Society, will be a test lab for young artists’ production

Behind the scenes: the Chalet Hollywood will serve as a private member’s club, and will be accessed through LACE’s backdoor

Marc-Olivier Wahler, the outgoing director of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, plans to open temporary art centres in Los Angeles and Paris in spring 2012 after his six-year tenure ends in January. Chalet Hollywood will open at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) and Chalet Society will open on Boulevard Raspail on Paris’s Left Bank.

“The name is intended to play with the idea of branding, identity and image,” says the 47-year-old Swiss curator. The Palais de Tokyo has previously organised exhibitions and artist projects under the name Les Chalets de Tokyo in Buenos Aires, Roswell in New Mexico, Edinburgh, Seoul, New York and Coimbra in Portugal, with the aim of developing its programme abroad.

Wahler's new projects are a continuation of this initiative. “My idea is to reflect on whether an art centre is the best structure for showing art and as a place of production. Chalet Society and Chalet Hollywood will be a laboratory to test this hypothesis for the benefit of young artists, and [to examine] how to use and share knowledge.”

Wahler will be taking over one-third of LACE’s exhibition space, covering around 100 sq. m at the back of the building. He is creating Chalet Hollywood with the Italian-born, Los Angeles-based artist Piero Golia. The project is being funded through individual private donors. It will operate as a private members' club, open from 6pm to 2am, and entry will be through a back door via the car park rather than the main entrance on Hollywood Boulevard. “What’s really interesting is that we’re flipping access to the building, so you’ll come in through the back,” says Carol Stakenas, the executive director of LACE.

The space is being designed by the architect Edwin Chan, who is a partner at Gehry Partners LLP in Los Angeles. The American artist Mark Grotjahn is creating some paintings for one room and the French artist Pierre Huyghe is making an aquarium "displaying the rarest of sea creatures, including an immortal jellyfish", according to a release sent by Golia.

“In Los Angeles, there isn’t a place that reunites artists; people go to their studio and then on to somewhere else,” Wahler says. “They’re not just bringing people together to look at work, but dedicating a place to be with each other within a super-creative space,” Stakenas says, adding that there are plans for some special events at Chalet Hollywood. “We’ve got some things cooking,” she says. "I just want the Chalet to be the most beautiful place in Los Angeles, where everybody will want to go," says Golia.

Chalet Society in Paris is being created in partnership with Artevia, a cultural advisory firm. The 1,000 sq. m space will serve as a production and exhibition centre as well as a meeting point for young artists from all over the world.

The two spaces will function on a temporary basis. “The idea of something being temporary is very important to create a story and a specific dynamism,” says Wahler, who spent six years at both the Centre d’Art Neuchâtel in Switzerland and the Swiss Institute Contemporary Art in New York before joining the Palais de Tokyo in 2006.

Later next year, Wahler plans to open a third Chalet (the name has yet to be decided) in Marrakech in collaboration with the artists’ residency centre Dar Al-Ma’mûn. “Each time [the Chalet] will respond to a context and local needs,” he says.

Before he leaves the Palais de Tokyo, Wahler is preparing an end-of-year performance with the German artist Christian Jankowski. It will feature a magician’s act in which the curator will be transformed into a dog that will continue to work at the art centre until the end of January, when Wahler will reappear on stage. To mark the end of his directorship, he is planning to publish a book on his programme of exhibitions.

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