Abraham Poincheval — Stone & Gold


Drawing, performance, mixed media

Abraham Poincheval
Stone & Gold

Ends in 26 days: June 22 → August 17, 2024

In the form of a sculpture and a pair of drawings, two of Abraham Poincheval’s performances are revisited in the Semiose Project Room: Pierre (2017) and L’Homme Lion (2020). The fundamental element that these installations have in common is that they were conceived as inhabitable spaces within which the artist lived. While the artist’s works are often characterized as spectacular performances involving voluntary confinement, their starting point is always an aesthetic vision that in turn gives rise to a sculpture and the inspiration for a performance—a vision intimately linked to an irrepressible desire to be at one with both nature and art.

Pierre is a unique piece sculpted from Volvic lava, and is a scaled down version of the rock in which Abraham Poincheval spent seven days in isolation during his exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo (Paris) in 2017. The center of the rock was hollowed out to accommodate the artist’s body in a seated position, while leaving sufficient space for him to perform essential, everyday functions and to contain the bare necessities required to live self-sufficiently. From Dürer’s Vitruvian Man (1490) to Ana Mendieta’s Siluetas (1973-1978), and from cave-painted hands (c. 200,000 BC) to Yves Klein’s Anthropometries, the inscription of the contours of the human body in nature or space has been a fundamental aspect of the history of art, as primitive as it is direct. Pierre preserves a ghostly trace of a past action. Inspired by science fiction narratives, whose protagonists voyage through time, Abraham Poincheval conceived Pierre as a unique kind of space capsule, intended to envelop him on an immobile journey through the eons of the mineral’s existence.

Semiose 13 medium
Vue de l’exposition Abraham Poincheval, Stone & Gold, Galerie Semiose © Semiose, Paris

L’Homme Lion (2020) also explores the concept of traversing and experiencing time. It depicts an enlarged version of an ivory statuette dating from the Aurignacian period (40,000 years BC), 32cm high and carved by the first Homo Sapiens to arrive in Europe. It was discovered in a cave in Hohlenstein-Stadel in Germany and represents a lion-man (Löwenmensch). This hybrid divinity is the oldest known anthropomorphic sculpture. In 2018, this fascinating archeological object inspired Abraham Poincheval to produce a 3.2-meter-high reproduction, in which he lived in reclusion for a period of seven days. This performance allowed the artist to conjure up an imaginary world of magical communication between humans and animals through the contemplation of exchanges of substance or appearance. The alterity he experienced is exemplified in the drawing Lion Man in the Tusk (2020), which shows a lion-man emerging from a cross-section of a mammoth skull. In this schematic drawing that encapsulates the essence of thought process that led to the artistic oeuvre, the half-man half lion is superimposed on the body of the animal whose tusk was used to provide ivory. The second drawing, inscribed on gold and silver leaf, shows the full height of the sculpture, onto which the artist has superimposed his own body. These drawings reveal the processes of transformation that lie somewhere between alchemy and metempsychosis and that are at work in these overlays, where soul and mind migrate between the two entities.

The drawings are meticulously engraved on cardboard covered with gold and silver leaf: the technique employed reproduces that of the parietal painters, while the material—cardboard from boxes used for the transportation of objects—is a subtle reference to the Aurignacian period, which spanned the whole of Europe and was characterized by extensive migrations of humans, the exchange of objects and great refinements in cave decorations.

Whether the body is depicted as seated or upright, these sculptures are essentially about becoming one with the object. They equally concern the drawing of the body’s silhouette within the object—the body, it goes without saying, that is also the subject of the performances. These events obviously require total commitment on the part of the artist, who experiences altered states of consciousness, conducive to meditation and introspection, always in close communion with the sculpture itself.

Semiose 2 medium
Vue de l’exposition Abraham Poincheval, Stone & Gold, Galerie Semiose © Semiose, Paris

This exhibition in the Semiose Project Room echoes the current exhibition La Collection : Rendez-vous avec le sport The Collection: A Sport Meeting (6 May — 9 Sept) at the Fondation Louis Vuitton (Paris), that coincides with the passing of the Olympic flame and brings together works from the Foundation’s collections by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Omar Victor Diop, Andreas Gursky, Roman Signer and Abraham Poincheval with his installation Walk on Clouds (2019). Suspended high above the Earth, filmed by drones, the artist strolls through the cloud canopy. Risking both body and soul in this work, the artist has produced a performance that is both dreamlike and a feat of extreme sporting prowess.

Coinciding with the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, Abraham Poincheval’s La Bouteille Message in a Bottle will be moored and inhabited by the artist on the Canal St Denis in Paris, from July 25 through August 3. The vessel measures 5.8m in length and 1.9m in diameter and will be equipped with the bare necessities to sustain life. La Bouteille is a perfectly literal translation of the idea of casting a message in a bottle into the sea, except it will remain moored on the quayside, as the artist once again eulogizes the concept of a voyage without movement.

Other upcoming events involving Abraham Poincheval include the presentation of his video Walk on Clouds, which is featured in the exhibition Cloudwalker at the Voorlinden Museum in the Netherlands (April 2024 — January 2025). The artist’s work will also be displayed at the Bangkok Biennale in the fall of 2024.

04 Beaubourg Zoom in 04 Beaubourg Zoom out

44, rue Quincampoix

75004 Paris

T. 09 79 26 16 38

Official website

Etienne Marcel
Hôtel de Ville

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 7 PM
Other times by appointment

Venue schedule

The artist