091109: Centre Pompidou: elles@centrepompidou

Centre Pompidou: elles@centrepompidou Ladies first Jacqueline Pollock, Joséphine Beuys, La Corbusier or Miss van der Rohe: how would art have developed if its key figures were women? Would they have experienced the blessings of art history? Visitors to the newly conceptualized collection rooms of the Centree Pompidou in Paris are accompanied by the Agnès Thurnauer’s installation in which the French artist mounted the names of celebrities onto oversized, colourful buttons: for the duration of 15 months an entire floor was emptied to present works which were exclusively created by female artists from the Centre’s own collection. The remarkable exhibition elles@centrepompidou displays 500 works composed by more than contemporary 200 artists - ranging from the 20th century to the present day - presented in a chronological as well as thematic structure – a vibrating conglomerate of the most diverging artistic forms of expression, a colourful gallimaufry of interests and positions. As praiseworthy as it may be to offer female artists so much space, one cannot avoid the impression that these artists primarily create art that is typically feminine – not a very contemporary variant. This impression is supported by the way the works are hung – already at the beginning of the tour the art focuses on feminine actionist art. Nikki de Saint Phalle’s painting from 1961 clearly presents the violent intrusion into the male domain of Action Painting and Orlan’s performances “MesuRages” (1970’s) showing her body in a humiliating posture crawling through exhibition halls and streets, which were all named in memory of famous males, the social barriers and constraints which female artists were and still are exposed to, become visible. Through the newly emerging media: video and photography, the artists succeeded in conquering an experimental playfield – again, paradoxically, by staging naked female bodies, however this time in the form of self-reflection and liberated of conformity. On the one hand, the numerous key works of feminist art are testimony of the Centre Pompidou’s far-reaching strategy, and sensitise the onlooker, but on the other hand, the strength of the works turns out to be as the weakness of the exhibition concept, because the quiet tones - set beyond the feminist – are threatened to be overheard. Already in 1975, Meret Oppenheim wrote an article titled “Female art does not exist”. But an exhibition such as this one strengthens the perception of female art as a particularity; one that is worthy of being presented as a special exhibition. elles@centrepompidou offers the viewer surprising comparisons. Large-format city photographs by the Japanese artist Mariko Mori contrast Dorothea Tanning’s nightmarish-disturbing installation, while the reluctant narrations by Sophie Calle allow intimate insights into emotional worlds. The stunning ironic video “Me, 1997 – 2000”, by the Iranian artist Ghazel, gives proof of the remarkable actuality of feminist topics even today. Between tragedy and humour, a woman dressed in a chador demonstrates her inner conflict between the cultures and the desirable goals. She fulfils her dream of travelling around the world by walking around a globe, and the pleasure that her inconvenient garment doesn’t prevent her from skiing, immediately shifts into a feeling of amusement linked with horror when two machineguns tumble into the snow as she falls. While the creation of female art is a matter of course in today’s Western hemisphere, the achievements of earlier generations are not valued in all parts of the world. But one has to keep the following in mind: a report published in 2006 by the “Department for Cultural Affairs of the City of Berne” together with the “Department for the equality of Men and Women in the City of Berne” uncovered that only 27 percent of the subsidies in the field of applied arts between 1994 and 2003 were granted to women. This fact desperately calls for the yelling of the Guerilla Girls. In 1988, this anonymous activist group, disguised with gorilla masks, created a poster with the words: “The advantages of being a woman artist: working without the pressure of success”. By Sylvia Mutti Centre Pompidou 75191 Paris, Paris cedex 04, until 24.05.10 http://www.centrepompidou.fr

Centre Pompidou
75191 Paris, Paris cedex 04
Tel: +33 (1) 44 78 12 33
Öffnungszeiten: täglich von 11.00 bis 21.00 Uhr

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