Sunday, October 6, 2013

Versaille Part 2: It's definitely not Koons or Murakami.

Giuseppe Penone, Le Foglie Delle Radici,
2011, bronze, plant, and earth
One of the most pleasant days of my trip to Paris was spent in the gardens of Versailles. You can read about it here. In this post, I want to talk about the featured summer artist at Versailles. Before I get to that, a little fine-art griping. Over the past several summers, Versailles has hosted some of the biggest blockbuster exhibits of their respective years. I wanted desperately to see two shows in particular; namely the retrospectives featuring the works of Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami. This summer, the visiting artist was someone I'd never heard of; Giuseppe Penone. (Although since I visited this show, I've seen Mr. Penone's name all over the place including.)  So I was less than excited for the show.

Penone's sculptures definitely don't have the in-your-face spectacle that the work of Koons and Murakami would have had.  And yet, by the time I'd experienced these monumental, quiet works I was a fan of the artist. The sculptures are a strange fusion of bronze and natural materials, often combined in a way that make it hard to determine where the bronze ends and nature begins. I was also frequently delighted with the wonder of the installation.  Many of these works involve very large trees. I can only imagine the efforts made to place these trees in a way that makes them look like they've been a part of Versailles for years.  That brings me to my final point about the work; these sculptures feel surprisingly at home among the meticulously tended  plants, fountains, and sculptures of Versailles. Their unexpected view of nature feels like a perfect contemporary addition to the artistry of the traditional gardens.

Sure, if I had to pick I'd choose to see Koons or Murakami at Versailles. But I'm happy to have been introduced to the inspiring sculptures of Giuseppe Penone's and I will actively seek out his work in the future. Here are a few photos from the installation.

Giuseppe Penone, Albero Folgorato,
2012, bronze

Giuseppe Penone, Elevazione,
2011, bronze and trees

Versailles Penone, installation view
Giuseppe Penone, Spazio di Luce, 2008, bronze

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