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Is the shopping mall the future of art?

 

A Miró sculpture at the entrance to a mall, a Daniel Buren installation over-looking a La Grande Récré store… Welcome to the Polygone Riviera! An open air shopping centre exhibiting big artists…

Inexorablement, les couleurs glissent (2015) by DANIEL BUREN. Polyester colored films, 22,6 x 15,3 m and 4,6 x 23,5 m. In situ work at Cagnes-sur-Mer. 

L’art nous échappe (2015) by BEN. Paint on Dibond, 200 x 200 cm.

Réinventer le monde (2015) by BEN. Paint on Dibond, 200 x 200 cm.

© Florian Kleinefenn

 

From department stores to suburban shopping centres, the phenomenon is growing: contemporary art and photography exhibitions are taking up residence in shopping malls. In the heart of Galeries Lafayette Haussmann in Paris is one of the most successful examples, the Galerie des Galeries offers a pretty cool line-up of events, from the likes of photographer Philippe Jarrigeon to the cult magazine Toiletpaper  by artist Maurizio Cattelan (from July 6th through to  September 10th 2016).

 

XAVIER VEILHAN, FROM VERSAILLES TO THE SHOPPING CENTRE

 

But today the revolution is going even further. Art is no longer restrained within limited, rarefied cultural spaces outside commercial galleries. In fact quite the opposite, these days it’s being shown in the very centre of our shopping experiences. In 2015 when the Bon Marché invited superstar artist Ai Wei Wei, he installed his works slap bang in the middle of the shop floor. Mythical creatures seemed to be watching over the treasures on offer from luxury brands. And two years before that, for its re-opening in the 15th arrondissement in Paris, the Beaugrenelle shopping centre welcomed sculptures by artist Xavier Veilhan…who'll be representing France at the next Venice Biennale. It's a phenomenon that's taking France by storm and growing exponentially. Is the future set to be Asian-style malls that have long been host to cultural events, like the giant Chinese group K11 in Shanghai and Hong Kong?

 

"We postulate about contemporary art being sold on the market… as if that's something new!" Jérôme Sans, artistic director of exhibitions at the Polygone Riviera.

 

THE MYTH OF ART SOLD FOR BIG CAPITAL

 

For curator Jérôme Sans, cofounder of the Palais de Tokyo and today in charge of exhibitions at the Polygone Riviera shopping mall in Cagnes-sur-Mer, "We’re witnessing, at best, a historical glitch, and at worst, a gross hypocrisy. We postulate about contemporary art being sold on the market… as if that's something new! But who did the great Renaissance masters work for if it wasn't rich merchants of the day? This farcical opposition between art and commerce is very Western. In Asia exhibitions have long been held in big malls and no one has ever been shocked by it. These shopping centres are public spaces, our new forums. It's perfectly normal for artists to be present there."

Mikado Tree (2015) by PASCALE MARTHINE TAYOU. Painted aluminium, concrete and steel, 790 x 400 x 400 cm.

 

 

FROM JOAN MIRO TO DANIEL BUREN, ICONS OF THE SHOPPING MALL

 

In Cagnes-sur-Mer, where a village of 150 shops (from Uniqlo and H&M to Lacoste and Swarovski) make up the Polygone Riviera that opened in October 2015, there is no trace of sumptuous Medici residences, nor any futuristic Asian mega-centres. The works installed by Jérôme Sans sit amidst standardised village architecture all rendered very nice thanks to the work of landscape gardener Jean Mus.

 

Thousands of people are offered, free of charge, the chance to repose and contemplate five incredible Joan Miró sculptures in a vast water feature at the entrance to the village. Living legend of contemporary art Daniel Buren is everywhere right now. We can see his interventions at the Louis Vuitton Foundation and the Bristol Hotel in Paris. He's also present at the Polygone Riviera, alongside mainstream creators (the famous Ben and his friendly little phrases) and even very good artists. Céleste Boursier-Mougenot who represented France at the last Venice Biennale and was artist in residence at the Palais de Tokyo in 2015, has recreated one of her magically poetic installations, OpenCage. A cuboid bird cage in which the artist has installed a multitude of little dishes… and coat hangers. Ultra-sensitive microphones capture the very slightest metallic tinkling with the movement of birds attracted to the food. Unpredictable movements in nature born from mysterious musical sonorities… 

 

I was head of artistic institutions. And it was much easier. If an artist pissed against the wall, it was deemed art." Jérôme Sans

 

Double Negative Fountain (2014) by TIM NOBLE & SUE WEBSTER. Aluminium and Inox, 210 x 190 x 190 cm.

 

 

AVOIDING DISNEYLAND ART IS AN ART UNTO ITSELF

 

So does the shopping mall mean we perceive a work differently to a decorative object we look at in passing? And does it offer something different to just an entertaining experience like a Disneyland art spectacular embodied by Olafur Eliasson today? “That's what's at stake and where the interest lies with exhibitions like that of the Polygone Riviera" affirms Jérôme Sans, "I was head of artistic institutions. And that was much easier. If an artist pissed against the wall, it was deemed art, without a doubt. Here if an artist pisses against a shop it would be a detriment to private property! My work is about installing pieces in such a way that they can deployed fully as works of art, ensuring they are not merely decorative. They must invite reflection."  Or reaction…  

 

A NAKED MAN IN THE MIDDLE OF A SHOPPING CENTRE

 

The life-size sculpture of nude man (thank goodness he didn’t have an erection) by Anthony Gormley has already provoked discontent amongst the professionally indignant. Watching fathers trying to explain to their children what this big man with his willy hanging out was doing in the middle of a shopping centre is actually rather satisfying. 

Collier doré (2014) by JEAN-MICHEL OTHONIEL. Aluminium, and Inox, 405 x 120 x 120 cm.

 

 

Joan MIRÓ, Personnage, 1972, synthetic painted resin, 320 x 120 x 100 cm. Haliguon, statuary reproducer, Périgny-sur-Yerre.

© Successió Miró / Adagp, Paris, 2016

photo Florian Kleinefenn

 

 

ART MAKING SHOPPING MORE ENCHANTING

 

By capillarity, subtly sliding in, the true values of art – sharing, culture, history – become those of commerce, “who knows better how to create bridges between people”, emphasises Christophe Cuvillier, CEO of Unibail-Rodamco and Henri Chambon president of Socri Promotions, the driving forces behind the Polygone Riviera. "The presence of art transforms the experience of the place into somewhere for conversation and sharing", they add. Art sublimates the act of buying, rendering it more enchanting. Art imbues a magical and attractive aura to all the products it's associated with. And as for the brands themselves, they too are multiplying their collaborations with artists.

 

If art institutions are being increasingly seduced by this kind of partnership with shopping centres, it’s also because they are reacting both to their objectives of democratising art – art for everyone, everywhere – and their financial needs (loans and projects often come with financial compensation) The Joan Mirós at the Polygone Riviera were indeed lent by the Maeght Foundation. Its director Olivier Kaeppelin repeats to anyone willing to listen (and rightly so) that the foundation, one of the best in Europe, remains a "poor" institution. Begun in 1964 by Marguerite and Aimé Maeght, it inaugurated a new model of the foundation for public artistic use… founded by gallery owners and art dealers. Ah, that good old alliance between art and commerce.

 

The Maeght Foundation Mirós and the Format Paysage exhibition curated by Jérôme Sans, at the Polygone Riviera, 119, avenue des Alpes, Cagnes-sur-Mer. On until October 1st 2016.

  

By Thibaut Wychowanok

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