Antoine Grumbach — Les Yeux du Ciel


Architecture, urban art, drawing, installation...

Antoine Grumbach
Les Yeux du Ciel

Past: September 16, 2023 → January 15, 2024

I see the eye of the one who sees my eye
Antoine Grumbach

Véronique Jaeger is pleased to announce the second part of the annual ENCHAN-TEMPS cycle, the exhibition Les Yeux du Ciel devoted to artist-
architect Antoine GRUMBACH, opening on Saturday, September 16, during the Heritage Days.

Antoine Grumbach (1942) is an artist-architect and urban designer who graduated from the Ecole des Beaux-arts in Paris in 1967 and received the Grand Prix National d’Urbanisme et d’Art Urbain in 1992. His international achievements are countless, as are his major architectural and urban planning projects, which include the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence, the new inhabited bridge over the Thames in London, as well as the restructuration of Shanghai’s historic district, Greater Moscow, the Paris tramway and the Greater Paris “Seine Métropole” project… and including his teaching activities for over forty years at the Ecoles nationales d’architecture in Paris-La Villette and Belleville, the Ponts et Chaussées and the universities of Harvard, Princeton, Essex and Toronto. Well-known as an urban fixer, Antoine Grumbach sees the city as continuous, infinitely complex and perpetually unfinished, envisioning its development and renewal without necessarily anticipating its demolition or replacement; he sees modernity not as a rupture or restoration, but rather as a skillful interweaving of past and present. Recognized for his significant reflection on the perpetual incompleteness of cities, and concerned with the enhancement of the environment, he has been involved in the junction of the Metropolis with the territory of Nature for decades, first in Greater Paris, then in Greater Moscow. This reflection, nourished by his long experience as an architect and urban planner, led to the realization that by 2050, the majority of the planet’s inhabitants will be living in metropolises, and that it is therefore essential from the outset to integrate territories of Nature into these cities. He found that they are inseparable from the Earth, and that inert soil from construction excavations in the Ile-de-France region, which represents 10 million m3 per year (equivalent to 4 Khufu pyramids), was a useful material for creating landscaping and remedying soil pollution as we move into the Anthropocene Epoch. An “urban fixer” Antoine Grumbach is also a visionary, not only because of his visualization of his Yeux du Ciel, his Belvédères de Paris and his thoughts on the Seine Métropole. The project conceived by his wife, landscape architect Lena Soffer Grumbach, titled Axe de lumière (Axis of Light), emerges from this thinking as well. It combines geometry with geography, enabling the landscape of the Seine River to be taken over by places that link Nature and Culture.

Like such Land Artists as Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer, Robert Morris or Dennis Oppenheim, Antoine Grumbach conceived a work of Aerial Art, entitled Les Yeux du Ciel [The Eyes of the Sky], a gaze at Earth that can be visited both from the inside as well as the outside since it is offered up to the sky, in the manner of the Nazca Lines, a group of geoglyphs in the desert of Peru.
Les Yeux du Ciel are located at Villeneuve-sous-Dammartin, on the axis of the runways of the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport, on a plateau measuring 1.6 kilometers long, 800 meters wide and 30 meters high. It is one of the largest sites for the reuse of excavated soil in the construction industry developed by the company ECT. Driven by the belief that inert an excavated Earth from construction sites throughout his life as an architect is not waste, but a noble and fertile material that can be recycled, Grumbach approached the company ECT, which manages this soil, with a proposal for a work of Aerial Art that reconciles circular industry, landscape and monumental art. On landing as well as on takeoff, airline passengers will see two wide-open eyes celebrating the welcomes and farewells of travelers to the Paris region. The two eyes, each measuring 400 × 170 meters, will be surrounded by trees in the middle of cultivated fields, on an open-air / outdoor theatre represented by a mound laid out in grassy tiers.

The first Western eye, Icare, will be inaugurated in automn 2023 in conjunction
with the gallery exhibition. This eye has been imagined as an open-air museum celebrating the union of earth and sky, accompanied by a collection of large images of geoglyphs from around the world. This site will become the world’s first museum of aerial landscape art. The design of the iris pays homage to aeronautical flight, and is directly inspired by the prehistoric monument at Stonehenge in Britain. Two sets of panels in concentric circles present on one, the exploration of the sky from antiquity to the present day; and on the other, a selection of large reproductions (7.20 × 3.60 meters) of Aerial Landscape Art, from prehistoric geoglyphs to the most recent examples. In the center, a recessed half-dome shows a map of the sky.

The second Eastern eye, Dédale, will open in 2025-26. The Eastern iris will provide a lookout point, an observatory of the sky. Surrounding the tree-lined belvedere that overlooks them will be four labyrinths made of the materials used to build the plateau where they are located and a garden labyrinth that echoes the tradition of parks. The viewpoint in millstone will be equipped with a table map in enameled lava on its periphery, with a description of the landscape and the history of the site and beyond, literary quotations and sketches. In the center, a Ginkgo Biloba, a tree symbolizing resilience and longevity, as the first tree to grow back in Hiroshima a year after the nuclear bomb destroyed the city. This exceptional, monumental Aerial Landscape Art project, built on Earth and designed with terrestrial materials, to be seen both from the ground and from the sky, also makes it possible for the private company ECT to affirm its position as a patron of the arts, alike the great patronage in the Renaissance. Starting from Antoine Grumbach’s principle I see the eye of the one who sees my eye, this architect-artist thus situates himself in the Millenary history of the great terrestrial tracings visible from space, such as the Nazca Lines which will be seen by the 170 million travelers taking off or landing from Roissy CDG in 2026. An artwork made by Man with the materials of Earth and for the Earth.

As part of this artist-architect’s exhibition Les Yeux du Ciel, the gallery is also presenting sculpted clay and marble models of the eyes from this work produced in painted ceramic tiles or azulejos by the Viúva Lamego manufacture in Portugal. Founded in Lisbon in 1849, the historic Viúva Lamego workshop is one of the world’s leading producers of azulejos tiles. Major national and international architects, designers and artists, both modern and contemporary, have created (and continued to create) projects in azulejos in collaboration with Viúva Lamego, including Vieira da Silva, Rem Koolhaas, Yayoi Kusama, Hervé di Rosa, Antonio Segui, Maria Ana Vasco Costa, Joana
Vasconcelos, Zao Wou Ki…
For a sculpted model made in raw earth, the gallery called on another extraordinary artisan, Rachid Mizrahi, a master craftsman specializing in earthen constructions who worked with Dani Karavan on his first earth sculptures starting in 2013; he also collaborated with Celeste Boursier-Mougenot for the Venice Biennale in 2015 and recently designed furniture for the train station in Nîmes with the Canopée agency. The marble edition of Les Yeux du Ciel was created in collaboration with Giorgio Angeli, a prestigious contemporary workshop specializing in stone masonry and stonecutting founded in Tuscany in the 1970s. The many international artists who have worked with the Giorgio Angeli studio include Isamu Noguchi, who began working with them in the 1960s, and in particular for his work Slide Mantra, designed for a park in Miami and also presented in the American pavilion at the 1986 Venice Biennale. Antoine Grumbach’s exhibition places the gesture of the human hand at the heart of the elements of nature and the living world in many different forms of expression: Land art/Aerial art, Environmental art, arts and crafts, sculpture… as well as the materials used to create his works: earth from the Ile-de-France, wood, clay for the azulejos, marble…

he exhibition also features the drawings, photographs and films from Les Yeux du Ciel, as well as a selection from the 105 drawings from the Encyclopédie Vagabonde. Antoine Grumbach’s work has always developed on an intimate scale through drawing, pencil in hand, guided by the bedrock
of memory, filled with the imagination and poetry of word and shape associations. Large-scale texts and drawings have always accompanied his “vagabondage”.
(…) I’ve always been fascinated by the encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert: the countless plates and technical drawings, accompanied by erudite texts, make up a kind of collective memory that fascinates me. (…) This aspect of incompleteness captivates me, because today all knowledge is incomplete and fragile (…) Faced with the avalanche of images evoked by these reflections, I tried to take them by the hand, the hand that writes and draws, to conceive of images, which are without subject, which do not make a statement, which are open to all possible interpretations, in a sense letting my spirit wander. This unfinished ensemble of automatic writing and drawing forms a kind of encyclopedia of my wandering imagination (…) Ruins, the ‘primitive hut,’ imaginary constructions and piles of earth often find their way into my drawings (…), says the artist.
For Antoine Grumbach, drawing is both an experiment and an analysis of experiences: its immediacy and transparency allow for all degrees of montage, collage, transposition and recuperation in relation to the “found” present and the “re-found” past. In this sense, rather than traditionally conceived architecture, Antoine Grumbach’s drawing shows us, through its fluidity, how the history of the work and the resulting construction is both recorded by automatic writing and projected simultaneously into the future of the past.
In Partnership with ECT and the Films d’ICI, two movies realised by Richard Copans and Alain Nahum entitled ‘The Eye of the Sky” have been produced for the gallery and will be shown during the exhibition in order to introduce a view from the sky of the first eye, ICARE, as well as a short interview with Antoine Grumbach.

The exhibition highlights the career of an “artist-architect” who has sustained constant reflection on spatial planning, on the junction of the urbanization of a metropolis and its natural territories, in a skillful interweaving of Culture and Nature, and who envisions a metropolitan Land Art capable of encouraging the discovery of the ‘Greater Paris’ project by appropriating the surrounding landscapes by its inhabitants. Antoine Grumbach creates a space that encompasses, that radiates, a kind of thinking that is visualized, materialized and projected, thinking about the Opening, combining acquired knowledge and discoveries made along the way, an Opening onto all possible interpretations and perpetual incompleteness, like a universal encyclopedia that never ceases to be unfurled.
The work of Antoine Grumbach and his drawing of the eyes, hills and convolutions of the Seine on a surface of earth reflects the same creative process as that of drawing on a sheet of paper, Tracing, Drawing Writing, since the territory he creates is an instrument on the drawing board, where the unfinished and the reparable are always welcome and welcomed possibilities. The creative process, whether in a city, in a landscape or in the private space of a sheet of paper, consists in the elaboration, composition, evocation and invention of an original work of art, the fruit of both the knowledge acquired in different fields and of wandering imaginations in automatic writing open to multiple possibilities.

The exhibition will also feature two other major projects in progress:
The Belvédères du Grand-Paris are artificial hills in a 30-kilometer circle around Paris, the “lungs” of the Paris metropolis, with Notre-Dame at its center. The creation of this work reveals a circular economy approach to excavated earth (22 million tons per year). Artificial hills, a barometer of the action taken by the municipal administration, generate a system of symbolic places in the Grand Paris metropolis. The importance of the urban flow of materials is reflected in this series of “green oases” around which urbanization will be able to spread. Located on the boundary between urban areas and farmland and forests, these lookouts offer a variety of landscapes to discover. Each hill will be inscribed like a monumental Janus head, revealing the fragile limits between the two gazes. Les Yeux du Ciel constitutes the first belvedere around Paris. These hills were initially drawn and sculpted in the wet sand of the beaches at Deauville as ephemeral artworks, then photographed before being destroyed by the wind, the sea or passers-by. Photographs and drawings of these belvederes will be exhibited.

The Axe de Lumière imagined by landscape architect Léna Soffer-Grumbach, retraces the historical axis of Paris to Le Havre. A work on the scale of the territory, where each point of the axis that meets the Seine becomes an opportunity to reveal the landscape and the site’s natural elements, Sky/Earth/Water/Light. This was designed to integrate art, culture and nature into Antoine Grumbach’s Greater Paris project, Paris-Rouen-Le Havre, of which the Seine is the main axis. Antoine Grumbach is convinced that the identity of metropolises is shaped by their geographical nature, of which the Seine valley and its watershed are the marker. A model-sculpture by Léna Soffer-Grumbach will depict this Babylonian project which she conceived entirely as a meeting of geometry and geography, from urban Paris to the shores of the English Channel at Le Havre.

The exhibition Les Yeux du Ciel, is the second part of a cycle of three exhibitions in 2023-24 entitled ENCHAN-TEMPS, conceived by Véronique Jaeger, reflecting the gallery’s commitment to questions of sustainable development and the environment and to a reflection on space, movement and memory, in the work of artists whose monumental creations are both deeply rooted in sites of memory on Earth, but is also revealed in their fullness and monumentality when seen from above, from Heaven — artists whose work, unique and profound, made by and for human beings, is fundamentally visionary and inherently valuable.
At a time when we are facing fundamental questions for the future of humanity, including Artificial Intelligence with all its advantages and dangers, global warming and the urbanization of cities transformed into megacities, the gallery is more than ever committed to defending artists who propose a world based on notions of sustainable development, balance and peace, combining in their works past, present and future visions, a world that embodies the major challenges of the 21st century.
Les Yeux du Ciel is the mature work of an artist-architect-urban planner, one who combines knowledge, experience and an inner vision with the projection, perpetual movement and globality of an outer vision, opening up the verdant and artistic perspectives of a majestic work of art anchored in the sustainable development of a boundless Nature-Culture relationship. Purifying the gaze in the search for content and depth, between memory and dream, foundation and projection, to reveal all the actuality of a living work of art, intrinsically open to the relationship between Heaven and Earth. By expanding his outlook and our own, Antoine Grumbach offers the Earth a majestic face: in the Anthropocene Epoch, he invites us to redefine our condition as sapiens, to take flight into space to see how much Gaia — in her intrinsic natural beauty — offers a most emblematic surface, made of all that man has been able to draw, paint, sculpt, build or invent, writes Véronique Jaeger of Antoine Grumbach’s work.

This cycle of exhibitions entitled ENCHAN-TEMPS, inaugurated in February 2023 with the current exhibition Habiter la Terre — Archéologie Intérieure by Dani Karavan and Jean-Paul Philippe, will continue in mid-September with Les Yeux du Ciel by Antoine Grumbach, and will close with the exhibition Le Souffle d’Ici — L’Eau de là [The Breath of Here — The Water Beyond] by Susumu Shingu, sculptor of water and wind with whom the gallery has been collaborating since 2006, who created a Wind Museum in Japan and recently exhibited at the Château de Chambord to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. Susumu Shingu is currently preparing an exhibition with Renzo Piano at the Nakanoshima Art Museum in Osaka, Japan, entitled Parallel Lives, which opens on July 12; they have completed over a dozen projects together. The exhibition will also provide an opportunity to delve deeper into Susumu Shingu’s research into perpetual movement based on the natural energies that drive his sculpture, with drawings, paintings, sculptures and models of his major projects.

  • Opening Saturday, September 16, 2023 3 PM → 7 PM
03 Le Marais Zoom in 03 Le Marais Zoom out

5 rue de Saintonge

75003 Paris

T. 01 42 72 60 42 — F. 01 42 72 60 49

Saint-Sébastien – Froissart

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 7 PM

Venue schedule

The artist

  • Antoine Grumbach