Contemporary art


19 May 2021 – 6 March 2022


In 20th-century art, the box has a very distinctive role. It is almost a genre in itself. Marcel Duchamp was its founding father, just as it was he who ratified the ready-made, consecrating the object. The notion of being able to depict reality with the help of a canvas and a brush is irrefutable. Yet reality can also become the very substance of art, of the artwork. It is a familiar story, with a wealth of twists and turns. At the beginning of the century, it officially began with the papiers collés of the Cubists and Picasso’s assemblages. It continued with the antics of the Dadaists, the transfiguration of trash and detritus orchestrated by Kurt Schwitters or the wonderful boxed worlds of Joseph Cornell.

The work of Gaston Chaissac, where a root, a rock or an old plate are transformed into astonishing creatures, forms an essential milestone in the consecration of the object that continued in the post-war period with the celebration of the ordinary, be it rustic or urban. Similarly, the works of Victor Brauner or Jean Dubuffet feature assemblages of driftwood, plant matter or pebbles in the form of totems and talismans. Some artists then made use of the object as a charge (in the magical or explosive sense of the term) or a developing medium. Others cited it in an archival or excavational context to invent true/false stories, compiled by Harald Szeeman under the heading “Individual Mythologies”, on the occasion of Documenta 5 in Kassel in 1972.

It is this common theme, represented or convened, mundane or lavish, natural or fabricated in its entirety, enticing, disquieting or mysterious, that permeates the new display layout of the museum’s collections designed to resemble a cabinet of curiosities, resonating with the boxes of guest artist, Henri Guitton.