face to face
curated by gaël charbau
« When Christian Berst asked me to work with him on a new project, I didn’t hesitate for long. Our first collaboration was back in 2015, when he invited me to curate the first European exhibition of John Urho Kemp, which, in our shared enthusiasm, we titled “A Bermuda Triangle.” I vividly recall the vertiginous experience of exploring the world of “Crystal John,” as he was known in his day. The man was a veritable mathemagician. After the initial fascination of the work’s form, I became increasingly aware of the mysteriousness of its contents, which grew as we explored his archives. I found a bridge between my practice as a curator working in the world of contemporary art and the art of this creator “speaking to no obvious audience.”
Some view such mixing of DNA with suspicion: “curators” should busy themselves with their contemporary pseudo-artists and leave Art Brut to the specialists! Personally, I have never liked labels. For me, their place is on supermarket shelves and on the clothes of people that need you to know who they’re wearing. In art, all they do is organise history and fashion different specialities; take a more detached view, though, and we are all in the same place, grappling with the forms that fascinate us.
That, I believe, is the meaning of Christian Berst’s decision to open “The Bridge,” a space that can embody this much-needed iconoclastic approach. It certainly does not simplify the history and specificities of Art Brut, pre-modern art, modern art or contemporary art. Instead, it gives them a physical space where they can meet and enter into dialogue, precisely at the point where we are usually forced to cross to the other side. “The Bridge” is there to enable experiments: what happens when you hang this piece next to that one? How is our pleasure in form refreshed and how do forms acquire a new radiance when they are taken out of their assigned galaxies?
For this first exhibition, titled “Face to Face,” I propose to take a look at a subject that is universal and obvious, and yet that has become scarce in public space in recent months: the face. Combining works from the enlightened collection assembled by Laurent Nebot and from the gallery, “Face to Face” does not try to theoretise its contents but, on the contrary, is open to the “sympathetic” resonances between the works, as we say in music when one string sets another vibrating. How does a piece by Annette Messager resonate alongside a Misleidys Castillo Pedroso, or a face by Raymond Coins when placed beside Philippe Mayaux’s “Missing Link,” and how does a funeral post from the high plateaus of Vietnam vibrate with a scrawled-over face by José Manuel Egea? Let’s try it and see. »
Arman, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Jorge Alberto Cadi, Misleidys Castillo Pedroso, Raymond Coins, José Manuel Egea, Hampatong Dayak, Anton Hirschfeld, Tetsumi Kudo, Dwight Mackintosh, Stéphane Mandelbaum, Philippe Mayaux, Annette Messager, Luboš Plný, Acharya Yakul, Carlo Zinelli.
Text : Gaël Charbau
Catalog published to mark the exhibition face to face, curated by gaël charbau, from february 22nd, 2020 to january 24th, 2021.