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Friday, September 4, 2009

ELLES @ Centre Pompidou: Female artists in the collection of the Musee National D'Art Moderne

I only stayed a few days in Paris this summer but I got the chance to see one of the most powerful exhibition I've ever seen: "Elles" at Centre Pompidou.

A gigantic show, at the exact same place where one usually finds the permanent collection galleries of the Centre Pompidou. 500 works by 200 female artists including Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Calle, Nikki de St Phalle, Annette Messager, Orlan, Eleanor Antin, Diane Arbus, Betty Tompkins, Cindy Sherman, Valerie Jouve, Agnes Martin, Barbara Kruger, Valerie Favre, Valie Export, Gisele Freund, Marguerite Duras, Nancy Spero...

From the beginning of the 20th Century to present, the show comprises paintings, sculptures, installations, drawings, photographs, prints, videos, furniture and architectural models.

I was stunned by the statement this represents. I really admire the courage of the "intrepid female curator", Camille Morineau, who organized this event.
The show is hung in chronological order, through 7 themes: Pioneer, Free Fire, Body Slogan, The activist Body, A Room on One's Own, Wordworks, Immaterials.

I spent hours in this empowering, ambitious, rich, diverse, disturbing, enchanting, surprising show. All the pieces present in the show are part of the collection of the Centre Pompidou - "known for its too male, too pale orientation" (The Guerrilla Girls). [Today the Centre Pompidou's collection includes works by 5000 artists. 17% of them are women.]

It was about time to finally show all that work together. It is the first time ever that a show paying a tribute to the female artists, of that scale, is organized. And It looks like a splendid manifesto.

I bought the catalog and brought it back to San Diego. I look at it everyday since. Although it was permitted to take pictures, I did not take many and unfortunately my photos do not reflect the diversity of the show - but here are some picks:

The entrance piece of the show is the hilarious/serious piece "Portraits Grandeur Nature" by French artist Agnes Thurnaeur

Orlan (France), "Le Baiser de l'Artiste, le Distributeur Automatique ou presque?"1977.

The entrance of the section: "Free Fire" (Feu a Volonte) in which one can find one of Nikki de St Phalle's pieces

Annette Messager (France), "Les Piques", 1992-1993

Les piques (detail)

Sigalit Landau (Israel), Barbed Hula, 2001

Guerrilla Girls (International) - please click to enlarge and read the texts!

In the show, I was very interested by the work of the Guerrilla Girls, extra bold and talking about the inconvenient truth of being a female artist. Funny and sharp.

At the end of the catalog there is a calendar, listing social events vs art events/openings, it starts in 1900 and goes up to the present. For the year 2008, one can read:
[2008 - Exhibition "Louise Bourgeois", Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou. First large retrospective of the artist in France (She is 97)].

Elles @ Centre Pompidou
27 may 27, 2009 - may 24, 2010

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