The Fondation Louis Vuitton calls itself a “resolutely forward-facing” institution, and, at least insofar as visitors can see a Maurizio Cattelan horse hanging over a video game installation next to an Yves Klein painting, this certainly seems an accurate description. The latest exhibition to be put on at the foundation is an appropriately curious patchwork. “In Tune with the World,” on until August 27, is split into two parts, the first of which is dedicated to the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, the second of which, is about “man living in the universe” and includes 28 French and international artists. In its entirety, the show takes up four floors and the outdoor grotto.
Chiefly curated by Suzanne Pagé (with curatorial help from Angéline Scherf, Ludovic Delalande, and Claire Staebler, and art advice and set design from Marco Palmieri), the show questions the human relationship to the environment, “highlighting the interconnections between humans, animals, plants, and even inanimate objects.” In a conversation with the scholar and curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist on the evening of the exhibition’s opening, Murakami discussed his interest in how humans have carved out their space in the universe. “What most interests me is the structure of a society, how a society is founded,” he said in Japanese, which was translated to French.
In this exhibition, as always, Murakami’s work looks like a demented, animated Disneyland — fantastical beasts with manga-esque proportions, allusions to Buddhist and Taoist icons, ancestral versus modern technologies. Here, especially, his works speak to Japan’s historical traumas — to the Second World War, to devastating natural disasters. On show for the first time as well is his “The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg,” a twisted, psychedelic take on 18th-century Japanese paintings.
Murakami is the perfect fit for a show that wants to get at the deepest, most existential questions, while also being housed in the opulent Frank Gehry-designed Fondation. Murakami is the ultimate sellout and is well aware of it. He’s helped make shameless capitalism an art form in itself, like a Supreme bag or a Gucci graphic tee.
“The theme my generation explored was the relationship between capitalism and art,” Murakami has earlier said. “In that sense I couldn’t use that many narrative motifs. So Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, and myself, we were trying to link art, which fundamentally has no value, with capitalism to show how it can be seen as valuable.”
The second part of the exhibition — “man living in the universe” — is inspired by Roland Barthes’ quote in “Camera Lucida,” “I have determined to be guided by the consciousness of my feelings.” The three floors of works are structured around ideas of emotional kinship. For instance, the first floor is dedicated to “irradiances,” with the works of Matthew Barney, Mark Bradford, Christian Boltanski, Trisha Donnelly, Jacqueline Humphries, Pierre Huyghe, James Lee Byars, François Morellet, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Shimabuku, Anicka Yi, and Klein, all tied together by Dan Flavin’s “Untitled.” One of his earliest fluorescent-tube artworks, “Untitled” taps into the idea of the Sun, of light, and of the most primal of human forces.
On the floor below, the ground level, the section is titled “Here, Infinitely” and includes works by Cyprien Gaillard, Wilhelm Sasnal and Adrián Villar Rojas. Rojas’ marble “Untitled” sculpture stands out most. From his 2017 series “Theater of Disappearance,” the sculpture is made to look like the last-remaining remnant in a post-apocalyptic universe. Sasnal’s “Bathers in Asnières” complements it, looking closely at destructions not of the future but of the present, re-interpreting Georges Seurat’s pointillist paintings to question memories of a decimated post-war Poland.
But it’s the final sequence, at the Fondation’s pool level, that’s the most powerful. With works by a both Contemporary and Modernist giants — Giovanni Anselmo, Ian Cheng, Andrea Crespo, Alberto Giacometti, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Pierre Huyghe, Mark Leckey, Henri Matisse, Philippe Parreno, Bunny Rogers, Kiki Smith, Klein, and Cattelan — the section is called “The Man Who Capsizes,” which explores the humans’ ability — and inability—to mesh with the world we’ve created. Anselmo’s “Entrare nell’Opera,” for instance, is an altered photograph that shows the silhouette of a person disappearing into an infinite landscape. Gonzalez-Foerster’s “Fitzcarraldo” shows the flickering hologram of a person, and Matisse’s “Blue Nude with Green Stockings” is a body made of paper cutouts, fêting the transcendental nature of dance.
“In Tune with the World” is far from a typical exhibition. At times it can seem like too much of a hodge-podge. Even with four curators (perhaps because there are four curators), its arguments sometimes become convoluted, lost, or simply prove too vague to hold everything together. But with 29 artists over four floors, it’s an impressive lassoing together of bold ideas.
Murakami, especially, is not to everyone’s taste. But this is a show most especially about the current and future state of the world, and few encapsulate that as well as a capitalist-obsessive who’s made a fortune off of buyers unsure whether to take his work as an ironic wink, or, more distressingly, as prescient reflection of where we’re all ultimately headed.
“In Tune With the World” is on view through August 27 at Fondation Louis Vuitton, 8, Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi
Bois de Boulogne, 75116, Paris. http://www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr
Click on the slideshow for a sneak peek at the exhibition.
Founder: Louise Blouin