June 20, 2012

MONUMENTA 2012 @ Le Grand Palais

Here in Paris the weather is overcast and remarkably cold for the middle of June.  The very idea of sitting outside at a café makes me start to shiver, but I know a special place where, for a few more days anyway, the sun is always shining!

I have posted blogs about earlier MONUMENTA exhibitions - Richard Serra's 2008 "Promenade" and last year's "Leviathan" by Anish Kapoor.  Basically, it is an annual event initiated by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication in which a contemporary artist is commissioned to create a temporary on-site installation.  The kicker is the site - none less than the Nave of the fabulous Grand Palais, an Art Nouveau masterpiece built for the World Fair of 1900.  Covering three football fields with a 45 meter high (147') ceiling entirely of glass, this is a remarkable exhibition space and an exciting challenge for any artist invited to fill it. 

The 2012 edition is another masterpiece of creative thinking on a very large scale.  This year the organizers invited the controversial French artist Daniel Buren to explore the possibilities of this great space.  The result is "Excentrique(s)" a vision of color and light surrounding the visitor and saturating the atmosphere.

Although now highly regarded in the world of contemporary art, the 74 year old Buren began his career as radical provocateur whose antics included painting stripes on the columns of the Palais Royal.  Known primarily for his motif of very exact bands of color, "Excentrique(s)" represents a departure in both form and dimension.  Here, he has installed hundred of elevated circles of glass in blue, green, yellow and orange, arranged according to Persian mathematical formulas called "excentriques".  In the middle of the Nave two things happen.  The colored glass "umbrellas" stop and are replaced by mirror circles on the floor and a blue and white checkerboard pattern on the cupola.  The result is pure magic!

Looking down at the reflection in mirrors on the floor

And looking up at the ceiling with some "umbrellas" in between
Walking through pure color
Another shot of the checkerboard ceiling

Looking out over the Nave from an elevated viewpoint

I was looking forward to visiting this year's MONUMENTA, but I was overwhelmed at how stunning Daniel Buren's installation is.  Besides being unique and fabulous, it is uplifting.  Everyone there, young and old, had a smile on his face!  And why not - we were all sharing a sensory overload of pure color and light.  A perfect place to celebrate a rare sunny day in Paris this spring!

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