Un ciel pour Michael Biberstein

Exhibition

Painting, sculpture

Un ciel pour Michael Biberstein

Past: March 1 → May 3, 2014

When he suddenly passed away on May 5, 2013, Michael Biberstein had been working on a project for several years which was very close to his heart: the creation of a ceiling or “Sky” for the Santa Isabel Church in the Campo de Ourique district of Lisbon. When talking about this Church, which was completed in 1741 except for a ceiling that remained unpainted due to lack of finances, Michael Biberstein described it as a “precious stone kept inside a black box with a dull, dark-grey cover”.

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Michael Biberstein, Vue de l’intérieur de la maquette de l’Église Santa Isabel à Lisbonne © Michael Biberstein Estate. Courtesy of Galerie Jaeger Bucher/Jeanne-Bucher, Paris — Photo : © Rui Semedo da Luz

In order to raise the funds necessary to launch the first phase of the project — the repairing of the cover and roof of the Church — an architectural wood model scale 1:8 was built and presented to the public in Lisbon two years ago.

As we approach the final phase of the project, this model will be presented at the gallery, allowing the visitors to enter the structure and observe the artist’s proposed artwork for the Church from within. The model will be presented along with a selection of seminal works by Michael Biberstein from the 1980s until the present.

This exhibition aims to help raise the necessary funds in order to complete the final step of the project that Michael Biberstein has called "My Ceiling”, and which his friends and admirers now call “Mike’s Ceiling”, more than 250 years after the Church’s construction.

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Michael Biberstein, L’artiste dans son atelier au Portugal en 2008 Courtesy Galerie Jaeger Bucher / Jeanne-Bucher, Paris © Michael Biberstein Estate — Photo : © ricardoquaresmasvieira.com

A Sky for Santa Isabel

Faithful to Leon Battista Alberti’s rules, the architectural elements of the Santa Isabel Church are, visually, heavier and darker than the lower part of the church and gradually draw our eyes upwards. There is, therefore, no doubt that the Church ceiling is supposed to complete this feeling of movement towards light, with a view to reflecting and uniformly distributing this light to the space below. Starting from this, Michael Biberstein worked tirelessly with a view to giving this Church ceiling it’s original meaning. In order to replace the dark, cold and suffocating roof with a warm and vibrant sky, opening onto the cosmos, Michael Biberstein created a ceiling whose vibrating colours extend those of the church’s marble walls, in a progression from cold to warm tones. This opening of indigo sky is intended as a dive into deep space, much like his paintings that turn towards the sublime, dedicated to introspection as much as contemplation.

The visual transformation and the spacial resonances of his ceiling, which he was in the process of creating, place him, through the immanence of his painting, face to face with the alchemic and transcendental qualities of a world in which he fundamentally believed.

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Michael Biberstein, Maquette de l’église et Église de Santa Isabel à Lisbonne, 0 © Michael Biberstein & Galerie Jaeger Bucher / Jeanne-Bucher, Paris

It’s important to state that the Santa Isabel Church in Lisbon is unique in that it has the longest nave of all the churches in the capital. Even if Michael Biberstein’s Sky represents only a part of the whole project to rehabilitatethe church, it is clear that, given the size of the ceiling, it will have a very large impact on the building’s interior. The change of atmosphere in the interior space will be absolutely exceptional, as if a window has been opened onto the sky in a room that was plunged into darkness behind thick curtains for more than 250 years.