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Master Emmanuel Perrotin’s latest coup (along with artists Elmgreen&Dragset)

 

For one day only the famous French gallery owner privatised the Grand Palais to show a unique work by artists Elmgreen&Dragset…

Elmgreen & Dragset portrait in front of the one-day installation Elmgreen & Dragset présentent la Galerie Perrotin au Grand Palais in Paris on Saturday, September 24th 2016.

Photo: Claire Dorn, courtesy Galerie Perrotin

 

It’s always a show of strength when it comes to one of the most important gallery owners in France. And yet the spectacular privatisation on September 24th of the Grand Palais, an architectural gem, obviously costing a pretty penny, shouldn’t overshadow the real masterstroke of the day: the artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset.

 

In a completely empty Grand Palais the Dane and Norwegian set up the booth to be used by the Perrotin Gallery during the Foire internationale d’art contemporain taking place within the same walls a month later. This “work stand” was erected on the exact spot where it will be between October 20th and 23rd. “The walls, the posters, the lighting elements… everything is an exact replica of what will be built in a month’s time. We even had to work with the same companies who work on the FIAC”, the artists tell us. We’re reminded of their installation “Prada Marfa” (2005), when the duo built a luxury boutique in the middle of the Texan desert. Except that here even the works exhibited are identical to those that will be presented during the fair: pieces by Elmgreen & Dragset of course, but also a KAWS, a Soto, a Murakami, a Veilhan, a JR… 

 

 

The installation of the stand in an empty Grand Palais radically changes its relationship with space.

Elmgreen & Dragset, The Collectors (2009). Danish and Nordic Pavilions – 53rd Venice Biennale

Photo by Anders Sune Berg

 

 

While the duo’s ideas might seem simple, the effects are powerful. The installation of the stand in a deserted Grand Palais radically modifies the relationship to space. Regulars at the FIAC are well aware of the number of galleries these venues can hold. They know the Perrotin booth is quite walled in by other stands. And yet this Saturday, 24th September we had trouble imagining how the others might fit in at all, with Elmgreen & Dragset’s construction seeming to swallow up the space. Bizarrely when you stepped back, the effect was reversed. This vast stand suddenly seemed as tiny as the model version on display in the heart of the stand. All very mise-en-abyme... 

 

 

 

“Most people walk through exhibitions like sleepwalkers. It's a challenge for artists to propose an intriguing experience that awakes them from their state of torpor.” Elmgreen & Dragset

 

 

Elmgreen & Dragset have long mastered the elaboration of stories and staged scenes that blur the boundaries between reality and fiction, forcing us to reconsider the truth. “By playing with the environment of our exhibitions, we’re looking to confuse the visitor’s experience. How should they react? Are they still in an exhibition? Most people walk through exhibitions like they’re sleepwalking. It’s a challenge for artists to offer an experience that really intrigues and brings them out of their torpor,” they explained to us during a visit to their Berlin studio. September 24th was a success. The spectators were suddenly filled with doubt: could they actually enter the installation? (Yes) Could collectors buy the works on show? (Yes, but only if they lent them back to Perrotin for the FIAC in order to produce the exact same stand). “The only real constraint we imposed on Emmanuel Perrotin was that all the works be in shades of black and white,” confide the duo. The effect was most arresting. The white space of the stand seemed to metamorphose into a 3D painting within which the visitor evolves and becomes one of the protagonists. 

 

 

“It would be interesting to imagine the stand standing here until the FIAC opening, and to watch the whole fair being erigated around it.” Elmgreen & Dragset

Elmgreen & Dragset, Prada Marfa (2005). Adobe bricks, plaster, aluminum frames, glass, panes, MDF, paint, carpet, Prada shoes and bags. 760 x 470 x 480 cm. Unique.

Photo by James Evans

Portrait of Elmgreen & Dragset and Emmanuel Perrotin in front of the one-day exhibition Elmgreen & Dragset présentent la Galerie Perrotin au Grand Palais in Paris on Saturday, September 24th 2016.

Photo Claire Dorn, courtesy Galerie Perrotin

 

Another of the duo’s specialities is playing with the codes of the art world. At the Venice Biennale in 2009, their offering was a hyper-real reproduction of a fictive collector’s apartment (complete with art works) and who we discover drowned in his swimming pool. Today’s intervention is a continuation of their exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing where they showed a fake contemporary art fair presenting 88 of their own works. “What’s funniest is imagining the stand staying here until the opening of the FIAC with the rest of the fair being erected around it. As if the Perrotin Gallery stand is the centre of the world...” The duo has never been short of humour and irony, even their gallery isn’t spared.  

 

By Thibaut Wychowanok

 

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