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Africa, Picasso and racism: Five art exhibits to see in Paris this spring

Claude Germain, Primae | Chéri Samba's "J'aime la couleur" (2003)
5 min

A look at five must-see art exhibitions in Paris this spring, from French artist Abraham Poincheval’s eccentric Oeuf (“Egg”) at the Palais de Tokyo to the thought-provoking “Us and Them” at the Musée de l’Homme.


Oeuf (“Egg”)

It may be too late to see French performance artist Abraham Poincheval entombed inside a giant limestone rock for a week (he emerged from the installation, aptly titled “Pierre” – or “stone” – on March 1), but it’s not too late to watch him try to hatch a nest of hen’s eggs.

As part of his next solo performance at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Poincheval will sit or lie beside the eggs in a vivarium until they hatch. “By replacing an animal, he will experience a gestation time, varying between 21 and 26 days,” the museum said, adding that the piece was inspired by French author Guy de Maupassant’s 1885 short story, “Toine”.

Oeuf (‘Egg’)” at the Palais de Tokyo runs from March 29 “for a probable duration of 21 to 26 days”.

Art/Afrique, Le Nouvel Atelier

By Zanele Muholi
By Zanele Muholi

It’s hard to imagine what could follow on from the stunning success of the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s “Icons of Modern Art. The Shchukin Collection”, which drew a record 1,205,063 visitors. But the upcoming show “Art/Afrique, Le Nouvel Atelier” (“Art/Africa, The New Workshop”) looks full of promise.

Divided into three sections, it brings together dozens of contemporary artists from sub-Saharan Africa. The first exhibition, “The Insiders”, features selected works from the collection of French businessman Jean Pigozzi, including pieces by celebrated artists such as Seydou Keïta and Chéri Samba. The second, “Being There”, is dedicated to artwork from South Africa, and explores how perspectives have shifted over multiple generations, especially in the aftermath of apartheid. The final section, “Africa in the Fondation Louis Vuitton Collection”, showcases a number of oeuvres by African artists working outside of the continent, including African-Americans.

Art/Afrique, Le Nouvel Atelier” at the Fondation Louis Vuitton runs from April 26 until August 28.

Primitive Picasso

By Pablo Picasso
By Pablo Picasso

Picasso-lovers will be thrilled to discover this exhibition, which explores the artist’s fraught relationship with non-European art. Although Picasso was reluctant to acknowledge the influence it had on his work (he once quipped, “Negro art? Don’t know it”), his personal collection featured pieces from all four corners of the world. The show not only documents Picasso’s fascination with different cultural aesthetics, but also offers a comparative look at his work and creations by non-European artists.

Primitive Picasso” at the Musée du Quai Branly runs from March 28 until July 23.

Mécaniques Remontées

In his largest exhibition to date, Zimoun will take over the CENTQUATRE cultural centre in northern Paris with his minimalist sound sculptures. The Swiss artist uses everyday materials, such as cardboard boxes and plywood, to construct his installations, which combine architecture, movement and sound. “With my work, you hear what you see and you see what you hear,” he explained.

"Mécaniques Remontées" at the CENTQUATRE-Paris runs from March 25 until August 6.

Nous et Les Autres

Less visual art than a theoretical exploration of the origins of prejudice and racism, “Nous et Les Autres” (“Us and Them”) runs the risk of being ultra-French in both form and approach. Yet given the rise in populism in many countries around the world right now, its subject matter couldn’t be more relevant. The exhibition draws on several areas of research – including anthropology, biology, sociology and history – as it seeks to answer the complex questions of where prejudice and racism come from. It also aspires to foster a better understating of what constitutes our perception of the “other” by placing visitors in contextual situations, such as a café terrace or an airport boarding gate, and asking them to observe discriminatory behaviour within French society. Whether the exhibition succeeds in its mission remains to be seen, but at the very least it tries.

Nous et Les Autres” at the Musée de l’Homme runs from March 31 until January 8, 2018.

Other notable exhibitions:

Eli Lotar (1905-1969)” at the Jeu de Paume runs from February 14 until May 28.

Rodin: The Centennial Exhibition” at the Grand Palais runs from March 22 until July 31.

Beyond the Stars. The Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kandinsky” at the Musée d’Orsay runs from March 14 – June 25.

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