Perrotin Shanghai is pleased to present the summer group exhibition Messenger, featuring works by 13 Perrotin artists, most of which were recently created. In 2020, the world in which artists live is more severe than ever before. Global epidemic has brought information explosion, followed by meditations in emergency times, which would inspire artists to survey themselves and the world during quarantine.
We believe that artists are the most important "messengers" in contemporary society. They convey information to the public through artistic practice, creating their own "language" and "word", and also face the recognition and misinterpretation that the results of art may obtain in the real world. What do artists as "messengers" want to convey today? And how? We invited artists to reflect on this question, which may be unavoidable. The Greeks believed that it was Hermes who had invented fire by rubbing sticks, and had gifted the "ars" of god to mortal for the benefit of all who were still imprisoned in the night. What did the artist invent then?
As a cultural concept, "messenger" has a paradoxical meaning, which is quite fascinating: people are looking forward to the arrival of the messenger, but also in fear of his arrival, because what the messenger knows is unknown to people, meanwhile, he always gets what people want to know. As a figure, messenger carries the desire for information from human beings in the social life. We are expecting artists as "messengers" to deliver new thoughts and creations to the audience. On all accounts, the "messenger" who arrives after the disaster is always carrying hope.
The classic figure created by Takashi Murakami: Mr. DOB, is presented in the exhibition. The name of this figure is lifted from the Japanese slang expression dobojite, which means “why?” The icon’s sharp teeth, cartoon eyes, and murine ears are inspired by many sources and together, these features exemplify Murakami’s inspiration drawn from youth culture, specifically anime and manga.
Though Mr. DOB’s appearance constantly changes in the artist’s many works—at times playful and innocent, at times menacing with fangs bared—he remains instantly recognizable, often with the letters of his name emblazoned across his face and ears. More recently, Murakami has said that Mr. DOB is the artist’s self-portrait after 20 years of “working together,” with the figure acting as a vessel through which Murakami can channel his artistic struggles.
Pomegranate is a favored subject in traditional Chinese art, indicating fertility. It can be found in folk carvings and traditional paintings. I had not interested in it, until once, my friend sent me pomegranates that she plants. There are two pomegranates on a branch which are very cute, just like the twin lotus flowers. After cutting it, you can see the faint red seeds are neatly arranged in the yellow-green husk, with a light green translucent film covering it, like eggs under the skin. It was then that I suddenly captured the resonance between this plant and the animal. After a while, the pomegranate skin gradually dries out, and the seeds inside gradually change from pale red to reddish-brown, even yellowish-brown, and shrinks in size, just like an old woman with wrinkles on her face and her body gradually rickety. When picked it up by a pair of tender hands, it feels more complicatedly uneven. As time goes on, all external objects shall be swept away by it, without return date.
One of the central tenets of Thilo Heinzmann’s work lies in revisiting painting’s Western tradition with both of its prime historical momentums in view: painting as the superior medium for showing the world; and, after it had achieved its momentous triumph in retreating to its own means, painting as the field for a powerful interaction of form, color, texture, surface, after the rupture of abstraction. Heinzmann’s work revisits this epochal break and harnesses it into a dichotomy that his art elegantly puts into play.
Viewing Ni Youyu’s work often leaves one with a spatial and temporal illusion: outsiders may have difficulty, at first glance, in determining the age of the artist and indeed the age of the works. The artist seems intent on avoiding temporal marks in his oeuvre, instead imbuing his artworks with an abstract trace. Ni Youyu asserts that he is not keen on the “conceptual”, even hesitating in calling what he makes as belonging to “contemporary art”. For many years now, the artist has gone against the grain, even working in a “low-technique” mode.
To see the work of Jens Fänge is like watching the reconstruction of the world in his brain—to see the fragments of memory in his mind, the perception of colors and shapes, the remodeling of individuals, the recollection of light, the awakening of complex emotions… Classified and combined by him with the rationality and sensitivity of northern Europeans, it becomes a snapshot of his inner space. The elements that appear in the painting, as his chosen anchors of attention, depict both emotional wandering and a potential for peace of mind.
Bernard Frize’s process-oriented abstract painting explores all the possible visual outcomes of precise protocols, which the artist conceived beforehand. These established conditions usually pertain to the use of unconventional tools and materials, the almost mechanical execution of seemingly simple gestures, and sometimes the simultaneous assistance of other painters. While they each record the peculiar dynamics of a predetermined technique, Frize’s vibrant abstractions are also arenas for chance to operate by outsourcing some of his creative power to contingency.
Gregor Hildebrandt’s signature media are cassette tape and vinyl, which he collages and assembles into apparently minimalist yet latently romantic paintings, sculptures, and installations. Resting in silence behind the glossy surface of his analog aesthetics, which verges on black and white monochrome, music and cinema haunt his practice. Whether pictorial or sculptural, all of his works contain prerecorded materials, which he references in the titles. These pop-cultural sources, usually a single song, are meant to trigger both collective and personal memories.
Barry McGee was associated with the Mission School, a movement primarily influenced by urban realism, graffiti, and American folk art, with a focus on social activism. McGee’s works constitute candid and insightful observations of modern society, and his aim of actively contributing to marginalized communities has remained the same throughout his career, from his days as “Twist” (his graffiti moniker) to his current work as a global artist.
At the crossroad of heterogeneous temporalities, geographies and realities, Laurent Grasso’s films, sculptures, paintings and photographs immerse the viewer in an uncanny world of uncertainty. Anachronism and hybridity play an active role in this strategy, diffracting reality in order to explore the ways in which various powers can affect human conscience. Ranging from collective fears to politics, through electromagnetic or paranormal phenomenon, Grasso materializes what lies behind common perception and spurs a new perspective on history and reality.
Using His signature module of geometric elements, such as bricks or beads, Jean-Michel Othoniel creates significant glass sculptures that range from small-scale to monumental. Throughout his long and distinguished career, Othoniel has experimented with and expanded on the use of various alchemic materials, most notably sulfur and glass. Othoniel’s sculptures carry the trace of the glassblowers’ bodies as it is mixed, pulverized, and handled by them – in some cases, purposefully leaving the glass wounded and imperfect. Othoniel has been regularly invited to create artworks in situ, interacting with historical places as well as contemporary architecture.
JR’s reputation has grown over the past fifteen years thanks to his monumental photographic collages which have filled urban and natural landscapes around the world. Through his work, the artist has turned the spotlight on places which we customarily ignore, paying attention to everyday people, those who live in the shadows, the ones we never hear or notice. In response to an invitation by the Louvre, whose doors have been open from the very beginning to contemporary artists, JR had the ambitious idea of making the famous glass pyramid temporarily disappear. Designed in 1988 as the museum’s main entrance by the renown architect I. M. Pei, the glass pyramid was a controversial work when it was first erected but today, 30 years later, it has become a key symbol of the museum and one of the most famous landmarks of the Parisian architectural cityscape.
Encouraged by her geography, Stockholm-based artist Klara Kristalova uses her surrounding imagery to great effect as a multitude swarming her eerie fairy tales, whose characters straddle between possible good and potential evil. Sculptures as “three-dimensional drawings”, which highlight her signature imprecise hand-built form, gives an almost palpable tension to her work wherein the edge of darkness lurks. The characters in her corpus are haunted by hypothetical experiences and recollections that tap into the emotions, discomfort and unease of life. As creatures of ambivalence inscribed in exquisite sketches of studies, they reiterate Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy, suggesting an evolving state suspended halfway between “being” and “becoming”, transformation and transcendence.
Sophie Calle is one of the most renowned French artists. For about forty years, her work has been a combination of narratives, photography, performance and video; blurring the lines between fiction and reality, the intimate and the public sphere. As Alfred Pacquement writes : “Sophie Calle is a first-person artist. In her works she directs herself, unreservedly, using direct language to recount stories she has lived, with impressive attention to detail. She turns onlookers into accomplices to her privacy and leaves them no way out.
Following thefts involving a Lucian Freud painting and two Turners belonging to the Tate Gallery in London, a Picasso at the Richard Gray Gallery in Chicago, and a Titian from the Marquis of Bath’s residence, Longleat House, I asked the curators, guards, and other staff members of the Museums, gallery or collection, to describe the missing works.