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    Versailles Festival 2016

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Murakami Versailles

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The exhibition by Laurent Le Bon, curator of the exhibition

salon de l'abondance Murakami

Murakami Versailles is an exceptional occasion which sees the Château of Versailles reconnect with the artists of its day through the medium of a walk allowing you to (re)discover the known and unknown spaces of the estate.

If there is a place where risks must be taken to create a true expression of our era and not an imitation, which is often easy to do, it is Versailles. Contemporary artistic creation allows another perception of this living, ever-changing monument. It is not a fixed model of one single era, it is difficult to define, but, like every element of our heritage, the fruit of a complex amalgamation of expressions and interventions, contemporary ones included. Artistic creation contributes a little to breaking the clichés surrounding this location which materialise in the uses of the spaces, which are sometimes conventional and narrow. By revealing its complexity, its substance, its different layers which have been buried under habit, it is a question of offering new points of view of a site which everyone believes they already know.

Murakami Versailles is a walk, a trail through the “landscape area” of Versailles. For his first major retrospective in France, in the 15 rooms of the Château and in the gardens, the artist presents 22 major works, , of which 11 have been created exclusively for this exhibition. The general public will be able to view and admire his creations, which are often technical masterpieces. The allegories and other myths of Versailles thus carry on a dialogue with the dreamlike creatures of Takashi Murakami, sometimes inspired by traditional Japanese art. “I seek to produce a creative process which is a bridge between the past and the future” he likes to remind us.

The temporary installation of the works of one of the best-known artists on the contemporary scene, at one of the most visited monuments in the world is a surprising ‘story within a story’. It is the question of the in situ which underlies this proposition. Numerous cultural institutions have attempted ‘clashes’ in recent years between historical heritage and contemporary work. The radicality of this exhibition seems different to us, as much through the chosen location as through the structure of the journey. Echo, dialectic, opposition, counterpoint … it is not our role to decide. This unique experience seeks above all to spark a reflection on the contemporary nature of our monuments and the indispensable need to create our own era. Notre Dame, Les Invalides, the Panthéon, the Louvre, Versailles, to name but a few of the best-known, contemporary in their time, are genuinely multilayered with numerous interventions, beside which Murakami Versailles is on a more modest scale. And yet on each occasion there are the same objectives : never to minimise the singular character of every artistic gesture and never to turn the pure imagination of the creator into heritage.

Some principles which have guided us for this unique three months experience : avoid the trap of contemporary art “integrated” with the historical monument; (re)discover a space; rejoice about working with a living artist and the resulting emotions, failures and surprises; give pleasure. Trust one of the best artists of our time to reveal another Versailles, a Versailles of today, a living monument from the perspective of its utility value; this is the intention of this event. Through sensual pleasures, the walk, a new labyrinth of Versailles, has the purpose of both distracting and entertaining the walker, beyond the clichés. This is an ephemeral extravagance, a risk to be taken. Versailles, formerly a “field of experiments and a multidisciplinary laboratory” for the most audacious creations, notably during parties, deserves this contemporary artistic expression.

Laurent Le Bon
Curator of the exhibition
Director of the Centre Pompidou-Metz

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