Guest post by Toby Rose
The art world is well known for boldly going where the smart set never wanted to go to before. In London, galleries migrated to the rough and readiness of Shoreditch and the Berlin art set high tailed it into the grim wastes of the East when the wall fell.
Now Paris is discovering the delights of les banlieues. Ultra chic Larry Gagosian has set up in a hanger style space not far from Le Bourget Airport just a short hop by limo from a private jet. Meanwhile another art world star gallery crossed the frontier across the Paris ring road to Pantin – Thaddaeus Ropac.
As a man who defines tastes and trends he can draw comfort from the fact that stellar luxury brand Hermes has installed workshops here for decades. And the word is that Chanel craftsmen will soon be joining their Up Town friends in these less than salubrious surroundings. That said, it is difficult to imagine either brand opening up a boutique way out here anytime soon.
So it takes chutzpah to launch your new space on the wild side of the peripherique with the title ‘ Disaster/End of Days’
But, as they say, in the gung ho world of high flying, private jet flying art world – who dares wins.
Neverthelss the choice of bringing well-heeled clients to this neighbourhood is not without risk. So what will the dot com stars and trustafarians discover when they pitch up the other side of the tracks?
The Austrian gallery owner opened up a veritable commune in Pantin, which is a short walk from the RER suburban train station, certainly not the normal mode of transport for moneyed collectors. Stepping into the zone, which famously was the setting for the pitched battles with the riot police in 2005, is certainly a giant leap out of the comfort zone.
But, for those who make the trip, Mr Ropac has created not so much an out of town gallery space, as an art village, sprawling over 2,000m2 and still a work in progress. This sizeable light industrial space gives enviable dimensions to showcase the world-class client list of this leading light of the Marais art scene for over two decades. As Ropac says, his aim is to give his artists the chance to express themselves `without the restrictions of space.
Not only is it the perfect setting for this ambitious second exhibition of no fewer than 28 artists for Disaster/End Of Days. This new Paris art exhibition is co-curated by Séverine Wealchli from the gallery and art historian Michael Bracewell, author of the catalogue text.
At the press conference to announce the show Bracewell cited the Hollywood blockbuster Armageddon as a reference. This disaster film starred Bruce Willis as the gritty hero who stood between Earth and Oblivion. Bracewell used this big screen image as a starting point to situate the works, which were addressing the same theme.
These include Gilbert and George who create a series of scare tabloid headlines to depict the end of the world. There was a tumble of giant silver letters by Jack Pierson, which seemed like so much post apocalyptic rubble, and is a textual reference to the fall of Icarus. Robert Longo`s bronze sculpture revisits the fantastic animal that is the chimera, fusing historical and Pop elements. Particularly jarring and unsettling are a series of mirrored panels wired to a mechanism which crack the work by Banks Violette. A hydraulic system shatters and collapses the work during the course of the exhibition.
Very Disaster. Very End of Days.
A very dramatic collection of reflections on a timeless art theme – from playful to political to populist. A major blank canvas for a host of top art names to share their viewpoint in a dramatic new space in a new place.
Disaster – The End of Days – Until 27th April 2013
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