New Anticipations in Paris
The art news coming from Paris during the past month has been filled with descriptions of the new art center that the Galeries Lafayette has opened in the Marais district.
“Anticipations,” as it is called, is meant to cover the broad scope of expectations —from the anticipation of what new work could be created next, to the Fondation Galeries Lafayette’s attempt to anticipate artists’ needs, and even to the larger notion of anticipating the future of the planet. According to Guillaume Houzé, the President of Galeries Lafayette, the combination of retail and art has been part of the retail company since it was founded by his great-grandfather, Theophile Bader, 106 years ago.
“Only creation can consider the movement of an era in its diversity and thus carry us continually to new horizons.” Guillaume Houzé
“We created the Galeries Lafayette Corporate Foundation as a tool for advancing the conversation in our era and participating in the major social debates through the applied and visual arts. Guillaume Houzé
What makes this artcenter different from Paris’s many other foundations is its commitment to showing new work as well as its interdisciplinary focus. When the Galeries Lafayette was founded 120 years ago, it was a time when all the disciplines including design, arts and crafts, and applied art were seen as more fluid. Accordingly, the foundation will be offering the opportunity for designers, artists, performers, and fashion creators to mix disciplines and processes, as part of a general inquiry into the practices of creation — which will lead to a better understanding of contemporary times.
The Fondation d’Entreprise Galeries Lafayette, run by the French retail chain, commissioned Rem Koolhaas to renovate the historical building at 9 rue du Plâtre, that will be headquarters for the foundation’s cultural arm. The Marais building was erected in 1891 by the architect Samuel Mejot de Dammartin.
Not disturbing the exterior of the 19th century structure, Koolhaas and his firm OMA converted its central courtyard into a steel and glass exhibition tower, fitted with a mobile flooring system that offers 875 square meters of flexible exhibition space. The four independently moving platforms can be rearranged in more than forty different configurations depending on the project, and a 350-square-meter production workshop in the basement offers a space for guest artists to conceive and create work.
Lafayette Anticipations plans three or four exhibitions a year, along with conferences and performances. “The public will discover new works by international creators from the fields of contemporary art, design and fashion,” according to Houzé.
Every three years, the foundation plans to invite guest curators from abroad. On the Lafayette Anticipations curatorial team is Charles Aubin, a French curator based in New York who is also involved with Performa; Anna Colin, an independent curator based in the UK; and the Dutch-Moroccan curator Hicham Khalidi.
The foundation’s managing director, François Quintin, previously worked as curator of contemporary art at the Fondation Cartier, and for seven years headed a contemporary art center in the French regions, FRAC de Champagne-Ardenne. He also directed the commercial gallery Xippas for three years.
The inaugural exhibit by artist Lutz Bacher (the US conceptual artist’s first exhibition in France) was conceived specifically for the entire building, highlighting the verticality of the building, exploring the structure’s symbolic elevation, and focusing in particular on the central void constructed by its architect.
The exhibition, “The Silence of the Sea,” is an architectural intervention involving sound, light and transparent films, focused on the surfaces of the building such as window reflections and bare walls. The title references a novel written by a member of the French Resistance during World War II, which was secretly published in German-occupied Paris and is now a major text of French literature. (until April 30),
Space for Visiting Artists
On the lowest level is an experimental production workshop that provides a space for guest artists to work on new projects. The Foundation supplies tools to support their creation, production and dissemination. Artists can apply to use this workshop where works can be fabricated. Acccoding to Houzé “Artists can work here and show them in the building, or show them elsewhere. Between 2013 and 2016, we did a lot of co-production with other institutions such as the Tate in London and the New Museum in New York.”
The Corporate Art Collection
The Lafayette collection, known as the Fonds de dotation Famille Moulin, is not going to be displayed in the Marais space. The Fonds de dotation, which operates as a separate entity, has acquired more than 300 pieces by artists such as Anne Imhof and Wu Tsang.