Precious & Nothing
The 2010 Natura morta is a seminal work by Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum. She showcases a set of glass objects in sparkling colors, adorned with shiny, attractive, and seductive surfaces. Seen up close, these objects are representations of grenades – the French designation for both pomegranate and grenade – not the delicious fruit from the Middle East, but those mortal arms so frequently used in our region. Natura morta belongs in the proper and the figurative sense to an important genre of art history, namely the still life – in French, nature morte.
Artists have always been fascinated by the representation of objects. In his Natural History (Book XXXV), Pliny recounted that a certain Piraikos, a painter from the fourth century BC, had specialized in the representation of “barbershops and shoemakers, donkeys, kitchen provisions and other similar things” and that his paintings sold at a high price. Aristotle established that “the value of an artwork depends on the moral content with which its representation is imbued” (1). From then on, the principles for the representation of things were imposed. How did the still life genre evolve over the centuries? How do today’s artists consider the representation of objects and ephemeral things?
Two exhibitions, Live still life! and Precious & nothing aim to answer these questions.
At its head is Yves Michaud, whom I wish to warmly thank for accepting to curate here at the gallery a new encounter between contemporary artists and art history. Yves Michaud, born in Lyon in 1944 and educated at the École normale supérieure, is a Professor of Philosophy and Doctor of Literature. He has taught at universities in Clermont-Ferrand, Montpellier, Rouen, Berkeley, Edinburgh, Tunis, and Sao Paulo. Since 1985, he has been a professor at the Sorbonne in Paris. In his capacity as an art critic, he was the director of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris from 1989 to 1996. Furthermore, he was the creator and organizer of the Université de tous les savoirs, as well as the Chief Editor of Cahiers du Musée National d’Art Moderne at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris from 1986 to 1990. His areas of interest are aesthetics, contemporary art, and cultural philosophy. As the author of numerous publications on art, luxury and politics, his latest book ‘Narcisse et ses avatars’ (Grasset, 2014) examines in twenty-five sections the swings of our society, from A for Avatar to Z for Zapper, over P for People, and Q for Quantifier.
Returns on a still life with Yves Michaud bring to light the works of twenty-four contemporary artists. They are painters, photographers, sculptors and visual artists. They come from Belgium, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, and of course Lebanon; to celebrate art and creativity in a region that is as violent as it is fascinating!
I here present Live still life! and Precious & nothing.
Alice Mogabgab Karam