Vues de l’installation / Installation views Ulla von Bradenburg, Death of a King, 2012, Agora, Palais de Tokyo, Paris/FR. Courtesy the Artist et Art : Concept, Paris. Photo André Morin

In 2012, the Palais de Tokyo reopened its doors after ten months of renovation. Its new configuration makes the Agora a “central space” dedicated to being the “crossroads between exhibitions and visitors”. With Death of a king, Ulla von Brandenburg inaugurates this space, ideally placed under a glass roof, and reveals its new function.

Visitors are invited to enter this monumental, colorful installation, which unfurls on a two-tiered platform, embracing the architectural features of the site. The playful pattern on the floor and walls evokes a harlequin costume, while the U-shaped ramp is reminiscent of a skatepark ramp. A reference to popular theater in the tradition of the Comedia dell Arte, Death of a King also echoes the improvised ramps used by skateboarders practicing on the steps in front of the Palais de Tokyo. The installation is a reminder that the skatepark is also a stage on which to perform under scrutiny. The Agora, transformed by Ulla von Brandenburg, becomes an intermediary space between fiction and reality, theater and life.

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Photo © Tom Cornille
Photo © Sigrid Spinnox
Entretien avec Ulla von Brandenburg. Extrait de Introfilm Experience Traps, 2018

“Because theatre is obviously a way of travelling with the mind, it is worth remembering that it was the sailors who, with their knowledge of machines, worked in theatres when they were on land. I would like to build a stage made of sails, halfway between a theatre and a boat, moored on a lawn far from the sea, where the backdrop would resemble the sails of a boat.”

—Ulla von Brandenburg

Responding to an invitation from the Middelheim Museum, Ulla von Brandenburg has designed a wooden theatre for the exhibition Experience trap (2018), freely inspired by the innovative ideas of the Baroque landscape.

Here, the traditional curtain is declined into seven pairs of drapes whose shades of blue underline the depth of the stage space. The latter hosts a performance referring to the book The States and Empires of Europe by Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655) and interpreted by the actor Benoît Résillot. After the performance, visitors were able to go behind the scenes and activate the “sea machine”. Like the baroque garden, the theatre uses devices such as perspective and trompe-l’oeil to create illusions. Here, an ingenious theatrical device has been integrated into the stage structure to allow “the sea” to move. The use of simple materials, wooden boards and textiles, makes Ulla von Brandenburg’s work timeless, far from any historical copy or contemporary theatre technology.

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Jeremy Deller, Ask The Animals and they will Teach You, mixed media, 2021

Ask The Animals and They Will Teach You was installed in Knokke-Heist, on the Belgian coast, on the occasion of the Beaufort 21 contemporary art triennial.

This work, which is both a sculpture and a children play, invites children to slide on the tongue of a large chameleon. Placed in the centre of the Van Bunnenplein square, the animal stands on an engraved base on which a description of the species can be read. True to his sense of misappropriation, Jeremy Deller uses the codes of the monument to make it a playful object. Instead of paying tribute to a historical figure, he highlights one of the oldest creatures on the planet, threatened by global warming.

” “There’s something magical about chameleons,” says Deller, “they can do things we can only dream of and are the most beautiful creatures on the planet. We have to worship them.” “

– Jeremy Deller,

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Jeremy Deller, The lovers, 2021, polyuréthane, fibre de verre, acier, polyester, peinture, balançoire. H 300cm.

In 2021, Kortrijk’s second contemporary art triennial invites artists to interpret the concept of paradise.

In the heart of Messeyne Park, a romantic garden designed in the 19th century, Jeremy Deller revisits one of the most famous scenes from the Bible, which has become an archetype in the collective Western imagination. His work is based in particular on a painting of Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach (1526), currently on display at the Courtauld Gallery in London.

The imposing three-meter-high pair of white figures is the structure of a swing set available to the public. The artist offers a contemporary, funny, and functional version of this creation myth. He hijacks both the content of religious iconography and the solemnity usually associated with monuments in the public space.

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Hubert Duprat, Sans titre, 2013, plaster, clay pots, 232 x 1800 x 15cm

In 2013, 30 years after the creation of the “Fonds Régionaux d’Art Contemporain”, the FRAC Languedoc-Roussillon asked the Henri Prades Museum to participate in a programme designed to highlight the regional collections. Adjacent to the archaeological site of Lattara, the museum aims to show the daily life of the city in ancient times

The museum then organised a contemporary art exhibition devoted to Hubert Duprat and asked him to imagine a work in dialogue with the archaeological collections. Hubert Duprat proposed an installation made up of a thousand industrial clay pots set into a 20-metre long plaster wall that divided the space dedicated to the permanent collections. The regular and almost hypnotic pattern thus produced provides a contemporary and poetic counterpoint to the ancient objects, particularly the amphorae that faces it.

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Hubert Duprat, 2009-2012. La Verrière, Bruxelles. Polystyrène, bois et galuchat.

Inaugurated in Brussels in 2000, La Verrière is part of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès international network of galleries. Invited to take over the space, Hubert Duprat installed an imposing polystyrene architecture adorned with rectangles of shagreen, a high-end leather used in leather goods. This white fortress, which occupies the space to the point of almost obstructing it, is astonishing in its scale as in the choice and use of materials. Polystyrene and shagreen have a similar grainy texture, but create a striking contrast in terms of density, appearance and symbolic value.

“This white structure takes us back to geometric modernism and the autonomous methods of early 20th-century art. But there’s a disturbing element, suggested by the title, which derives from the English word “shagreen”: ray or shark skin, whose rectangles seem to serve as staples to hold the white object together, and require traditional know-how and expertise, so that the work evokes the time lapse between the era of the handmade, the artisanal, and modern industry, or rather melts one into the other. “*

*Martin Herbert, « Une vision holiste », in TextWork, Fondation Ricard, July 2019

Richard Fauguet, Sans titre, 2011. Éléments de fumisterie, lampes et câblage électrique / chimney engineering/ aluminium pipes and lamp. 1 300 × 400 × 350 cm. Courtesy the Artist and Art : Concept, Paris. Collection Mac/Val, Vitry-sur-Seine/FR. Photo André Morin.

Chimney pipes form a thirteen-meter-long carriage pulled by four riders. The interior is a disproportionately enlarged chair where visitors are invited to sit. Defying the industrial use of material, the artist magnifies steel tubes, a smoky element, to create a monumental sculpture. He plays on the double meaning of the word, “fumiste” referring to both a heating engineer and an unserious person. Since the 1990s, Richard Fauguet has been observing chimneys and the varied shapes of heating pipes and systems. He finds the figure of Darth Vader in chimney vacuum cleaners. A recurring motif for the artist, here he takes on the appearance of a modern-day knight. The artist’s work borrows materials from everyday life: formica, Vallauris glass, Pyrex, steel tubes. He assembles a variety of elements, both flashy and obsolete, to create a kitschy discrepancy between form and substance, on the edge of art history and popular culture. This three-dimensional construction game echoes the assembly practices of the Nouveaux Réalistes.

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About Richard Fauguet

Vidya Gastaldon, Escalator (Rainbow Rain), 2007, wool, threads, lime tree sticks, 700 x 100 cm

Escalator (Rainbow rain) is a multitude of suspended strings that give the illusion of a rain of coloured petals, under and around which the public can move. These fine suspensions are made of wool, thread and wood. Through their accumulation, Vidya Gastaldon renders, with very ordinary materials, the brilliance of precious materials and the impression of lightness and intangibility of a rainbow. In this way, the artist reveals the symbolic potential of these everyday objects, which she likens to “an art of tranquillity, of Sundays and holidays”.

Acquired by the Pinault Collection, this work has been shown on numerous occasions. But it was undoubtedly during its first exhibition at Palazzo Grassi that the effect produced, in relation to the palace’s sumptuous architecture, was the most striking. multiples reprises. Mais c’est sans doute lors de sa première exposition au sein du Palazzo Grassi que l’effet produit, en relation avec la fastueuse architecture du palais, a été le plus saisissant. L’illusion des lumières, curated by Caroline Bourgeois, “without limiting itself to the physical and aesthetic dimensions of light, […] addressed its symbolic, philosophical and even political extent through the works of twenty or so contemporary artists”.

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Geert Goiris, Centrochelys Sulcata, 2017, wallpaper.

As part of a collaboration between Rubis Mécénat and the Frac Normandie Rouen, Geert Goiris travelled through twelve port areas belonging to the Rubis Terminal company in 2017. Peak oil, a photographic work on the theme of the contemporary industrial landscape, resulted from this experience. The corpus of images materializes in different forms: an exhibition at the Frac, an edition and two installations, one of which, Centrochelys Sulcata, shows a giant sulcata turtle on the tanks of the Rouen site of Rubis Terminal since 2018.

“The sulcata turtle represented is an emblem of longevity and stability, and can be considered a true living fossil whose origin goes back to prehistoric times. According to the artist, it thus echoes the hydrocarbons on which society is dependent. By transferring this sulcata turtle to the gigantic reservoirs of Rubis Terminal Rouen, Geert Goiris establishes an analogy between the animal and the oil activity linked to this industrial territory. *

*Geert Goiris, Centrochelys Sulcata, depuis 2018,

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Jacob Kassay, Untitled, 2012, eight copper cavities, gravel, external diameter : 304 cm

In 2012, Jacob Kassay was invited to take over the space of The Power Station in Dallas. NO GOAL is a set of interventions that emphasizes the raw, industrial architecture of the exhibition space. Some of the gestures are very minimal – opening the window, removing some of the lights, or opening the sliding garage door at the average height of a gallery wall – and others more substantial. Outside, he installs eight hollow bronze forms lightly filled with the same gravel as the driveway. The shadows cast by the copper allow us to perceive these forms,  a sort of dotted line suggesting a circle.

“Each [object] has its own particular cadence, resulting from the separateness of each, albeit with rather blurry borders. One might focus on these borders to suggest that there is no object, only a convenient fiction of the mind. Close inquiry at the edge of an object reveals that its solidity is fabricated; that the object is instead a radical fraying: porous, trembling, a dynamic glut of flux. Implicit in this perspective is an effective atomization of the world, where one can always look closer and see that things are not what they seem.”

Extract of the exhibition’s press release “Parts and wholes and holes and parts”, itself took from the text « Appoggiatura » from Jacob Kassay and Ajay Kurian.

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