October 26 - October 30, 2006
Grand Palais, Paris

exhibition release


FIAC 2006, group exhibition
Grand Palais, Paris / October 26 – 30, 2006

Jean-Michel BASQUIAT
George CONDO
Claudine DRAI
Fabrice HYBER
David MACH
Bettina RHEIMS
Bernar VENET


SIGNE (SIGN): what makes it possible to know, guess, anticipate – clue, token; word, gesture, etc., enabling to know, to communicate; a linguistic unit formed by the association of a signifier and a signified; a distinctive material mark; a material representation of something with a conventional characteristic; any printed character; a name given to certain symbols used in mathematics; elementary expressions of an illness.

PRODIGE (WONDER): an extraordinary event or fact that appears to be magical or supernatural; a cause of wonder or amazement; a person with an unusual, remarkable talent or intelligence.

The meaning and nature of the sign in art is constantly evolving. Today, although it no longer suffers the yoke of the symbol or of the allegory, an artwork is both a sign and a wonder – or at least it aims to be both. The founding concept of an artwork is at least just as important as its aesthetic appreciation and emotional impact. Through works specially selected among those of the gallery’s artists, including brand new ones, the exhibition will approach this topic from 3 main standpoints: works with a spiritual connotation (MacDermott & MacGough, Neshat, Pierre et Gilles, Rheims, among others); works that are object-based (Hyber, Koons, Mach and Sabatier); works referring to text and language (Basquiat, Hyber and Penck).

The “sign” has always, and particularly in portraiture, been integrated into an artwork as a detail in the composition with a symbolic or allegoric value. Any work with a spiritual, religious or mythological connotation uses the sign as a historical reference to give meaning to the represented scene or figure. Pierre et Gilles, in their Saints and Mythologies series, just as Bettina Rheims in I.N.R.I., use the classic attributes of the portrayed figures to make their contemporary iconography understandable. In a similar way, MacDermott & MacGough refer to clothes to date their works executed in the “ancient” style.

The sign is also understood with its linguistic value, many contemporary works integrating words or elements of texts. For instance, in the paintings and drawings by Basquiat and Hyber, words are side by side, sometimes forming poems, or scattered in the work like keys whose meaning and place on the canvas indicate the artist’s lines of thought.
The sign can also have a purely aesthetic value as in Penck’s canvases, where crosses, points and other geometric symbols are essentially intended to balance the composition (placed alongside other signs, such as the eye and the eagle, which have a real symbolic value). It is this plasticity of the symbol or mathematical formula that Bernar Venet highlights in his recent paintings to define a new aestheticism, a new evolution in artistic representation.

A work by Duchamp is not exactly what we have before our eyes, but is the impetus that this “sign” gives to the mind of the person looking at it. Following the example of Duchamp, the sign tends to disappear to become a wonder for many contemporary artists. A work is no longer understood through the details of its composition but through its visual and emotional impact, thanks to a strong and explicit founding concept.
When Koons wants each and every person to understand that it is possible to achieve fulfillment and social success, he appropriates Nike advertising posters that feature American sports stars, such as the one displayed of Zungul, Lord of Indoors. Moreover, to produce his famous Tanks in the Equilibrium series (here, One Ball 50/50), he seeks advice from a Nobel Prize winner for physics to achieve the desired visual shock.
As for Benjamin Sabatier, he is continuing his reflection on the place of the artwork in present social and economic reality by imitating corporate reasoning on the creation of new products intended for mass consumption with his new Bacs, unique works composed of newspaper and ice trays. The wonder is also created by the virtuosity with which an artist creates a work out of “nothing”; for instance David Mach who unveils his new sculptures executed with everyday objects but always spectacular, or Claudine Drai who enables us to perceive the inexpressible with her sculptures in tissue paper.
In this search for wonder, Fabrice Hyber pushes Duchamp’s approach even further with his p.o.f. (prototypes of functioning objects): these are objects than can be used in another way, not only through contemplation, and that aim to demystify the objet d’art. The Ballon carré (square balloon) is an ideal example of a work that provokes a reaction in spectators by the oddity of its shape.

Contemporary artistic expression can be compared to the teaching of a prophet or a god in any religion - a teaching that becomes understandable through the signs used and the wonders achieved. The words pronounced by the prophet regularly query, question each question, instead of replying. They are disguised in riddles and parables so that their meaning becomes multiple and so that they find a specific echo in each person. They fly like seeds carried by the wind, and no one knows what plant they will produce when they germinate in the earth. The artist expresses himself through his works and not through words. It is a question of looking rather than listening …

Press contact : Emmanuelle de Noirmont, assisted by Ludyvine Travers
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IMAGES 300 dpi available on request at the gallery