Guggengheim Bilbao: triumph of Joana Vasconcelos, decisive Chagall and Chinese contemporary art

'Mao Zedong: Red Grid No. 2' by Wang Guangyi, 1988 (oil on canvas)

'Mao Zedong: Red Grid No. 2' by Wang Guangyi, 1988 (oil on canvas)

Joana Vasconcelos and the Frank Gehry Challenge

“A female sculpture in a male architecture” is the manifesto of Joana Vasconcelos who claims to be a female feminist.
The spectacular”Egeria” (Valkyries series) unfolds its shimmering tentacles throughout the atrium of the museum, a kind of mythological figure that signs the mark of the Portuguese artist (born in France) who likes to use the symbolic places and throw new challenges. “Metaphor of the occupation of museums by women,” the work makes happy among visitors amazed at such a feat. Instagrammable and with immediate impact, combining craftsmanship and the most advanced technologies, the cost of this piece is not revealed. There’s a collision between the American architect’s edges and the artist’s organic curves and bulbs. Moreover, the question arises of the future of such an order.
The route opens on the first works the”Valium Bed”, the”Bride” that had marked the spirits in Venice and the revealed, this controversial chandelier made of sanitary tampons, “Burka” which raises the question of the veil in the violence with this guillotine in the background which reminds that Marie Antoinette paid the high price of the Revolution, or Duchamp’s urinal revisited ceramic covered with crochet lace present in all Portuguese homes of the generation of the artist’s parents.
It is with the work”I’ll Be Your Mirror” that gives its title to the exhibition (borrowed from Lou Reed, muse of the Velvet Underground) that we enter the reactor core. This diffracted and multiplied image offered to the viewer, this masquerade which reminds the Venetian theatre, this tradition of the baroque of the decorative arts also refers to the psychic and intimate exploration. Pessoa she likes to quote,”I took off the mask and saw myself in the mirror.”
Marilyn had more meaning in the gilding of the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, those high heels Marilyn wore to see Vietnamese soldiers, the most effective and alienating stereotype for a woman. The question then arose of the place of reception of the work and in that the castle of Versailles was a more subtle and adapted case.
The funny roead movie towards Fatima is a piece of anthology aboard this motorcycle that once again refers to the traditions of Mediterranean countries. James Bond’s”Call Center” gun and its ambient cacophony is like the nightmare of our communications, these talkative and noisy black bakelite phones. Humor and hijackings always with this merry-go-round to be operated with several “Meeting point” surmounted by bulls, lobsters, or other national symbols which reminds Bruce Nauman and his mistreated animals.
The exhibition continues outside Gehry’s frame with”Solitaire”, this giant engagement ring, this diamond made of gold rims of luxury cars as found in Duba, crowned with a pyramid of crystal whisky glasses. Metaphor of prince charming dreams inoculated on little girls from childhood. And the”Pop Coq”, another Portuguese national symbol covered in kitsch multicolored azulejos.
“First woman in Versailles, first woman in Guggenheim” in this neighbouring country, Spain and always rival of her homeland, the Portuguese star likes strong images and references to history. It remains to be seen what the test of time will hold for such reinterpretations.

Chagall and the decisive years 1911-1919

Taking over the exhibition from the Kunstmuseum in Basel, a co-partner in this ambitious project, the course focuses on his arrival in Paris, his period in Vitebsk recently explored at the Centre Pompidou, where he founded a School of Fine Arts before being ousted by Malevitch whom he recruits. Both the prestigious provenance of the works and the hanging make this exhibition a moment of happiness and rediscovery.


Art and China after 1989: The Theater of the World

It’s the most relevant exhibition in my opinion.
In a context of great upheavals between the protests of Tiananmen and the Olympic Games of Beijing, China emerges as a new world power and the artists seizing this phenomenon, become the actors of this perspective from experimental, analytical and conceptual practices.
An illustrated role through the 120 works collected all media combined, divided into 6 thematic and chronological sections.
From the work of the artist Huang Yong Ping who gives his title to the ensemble,”Theater of the World” this cage containing different species of reptiles and insects, we already dive into a system of surveillance and control. The artist (Kamel mennour gallery) revealed by the”Magicians of the Earth” in 1989 in Paris, had invested the Grand Palais for Monumenta 2016, founder of the movement Xiamen Dada, he mixes western references and Buddhist and oriental philosophical symbols;
There is another artist revealed by the exhibition Magicians of the Earth, Gu Dexin, exhibited the same year at the National Art Gallery in Beijing, as part of”China/Avant-Garde”. The year of protest, as Wang Xingwei’s painting”New Beijing” recalls, based on the famous photograph of two demonstrators transported in haste on a luggage rack.
Since then, transformations are underway and emerge from performance, video and photography practices with Ai Weiwei and her famous “Drop a Vase”or Zhang Peili and “Uncertain Pleasure” strongly influenced by Bruce Nauman and the Young British Artists.
At the beginning of the 2000s, the Biennales reflect this globalization and the Chinese diaspora abroad as with Chen Zhen (Continua gallery) and his long dragon of suspended bicycle carcasses, metaphor of the drifts of this globalization.
Then with the era of Internet and social networks, artists and collectives organize their response to the challenge of organizing the 2008 Olympic Games, as at Cao Fi and its Chinese dystopic city on Second Life.
Catalogue of 324 pages, 49 Euros, collecting essays by the 3 commissioners, on sale at the bookshop-boutique.
Around the exhibition: Film cycle
Practical information :
Joana Vasconcelos
until November 11th
Chagall, the decisive years
until September 2nd
Art and China after 1989, the theatre of the world
until September 23rd

Marie-Elisabeth de La Fresnaye

After training in literature and art history, Marie de la Fresnaye entered the art market in Drouot and embarked on events. In parallel to several years in business in the field of editorial commun...

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