Carte blanche à Mircea Cantor — Acte I


Mixed media

Carte blanche à Mircea Cantor
Acte I

Past: March 25 → June 6, 2016

Cantor mircea give more sky to the flags  vue de haut  hd grid Mircea Cantor — Fondation Francès, Senlis En offrant une carte blanche à Mircea Cantor, la fondation Francès de Senlis propose une exposition qui ouvre une fenêtre inattendue sur cet artiste à l'œuvre prolixe.

For their 18th exhibition, the Francès foundation have dedicated the year of 2016 to the work of Mircea Cantor. The Romanian born, Paris-based artist was awarded the Marcel Duchamp Prize in 2011, and performed ’Zera’ at the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain 2015, Paris.


This is the first time that the Francès foundation has given a “Carte blanche” to a major artist from its collection. This annual solo show is in 3 acts.

After exhibiting several monumental works in high profile international venues last year including: the 2015 Venice Biennale, Bâle Unlimited, the Rennie Collection at Wing Sang and the Picasso museum, Mircea Cantor has appropriated the spaces of the Francès foundation to create an exhibition that is at once powerful but also sensitively engaged with this unique context. The foundation — which is dedicated to contemporary art — is housed in an historic building. The walls of Senlis are protected as historical monuments and date back to the XVth century. Tradition, archeology and history combine and resonate with the work of the artist. This evocative context lends itself to the engendering of an authentic, exclusive and personal experience.

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Mircea Cantor, Performance (map), 2016 Courtesy of the artist & Fondation Francès, Senlis

Noted for his ability to make pointed — even searing — insights into our contemporary society in a manner that is often beguilingly seductive in its elegant, aesthetically pleasing execution, Mircea Cantor introduces poetry into some of the most dry and stifling contexts.

In the series Tableaux, Cantor explores the subtlety of physical traces left by individual and collective memory. As with many of the artist’s works, the project functions on multiple levels: artistically (the work is a collective of delicately rendered ink drawings); and socially: the project scrutinises our global economy and encourages us to consider the flaws in its economic models and the detritus overflowing from our mass consumption. Tableaux originated from Cantor’s weekly practice of acquiring the new copy of ’The Economist’ magazine and drawing in Japanese ink over one of its pages. The project was undertaken for the duration of at least one year, but it is a discipline that the artist says he might continue.

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Mircea Cantor, Série Tableaux, 0 Courtesy of the artist & Fondation Francès, Senlis

The Economist has a reputation for the quality of its analyses of world events that specifically relate to economics and international relationships. Cantor’s act of engaging with this particular magazine through the addition of drawing is both a clever and a political intervention as there is a strong historical precedent for artists engaging with publications, and also for creating illustrations for journals and magazines, Toulouse Lautrec being one example.

The Economist was founded in 1843 by James Wilson, a Scottish milliner, in order to campaign against protectionist legislation.

Today the magazine has become an institution of the British and International press. Openly liberal, the Economist’s news articles are always published anonymously. It engages politically, supporting liberal leaders and activists for causes such as gay marriage and ending the death penalty.

To date, Mircea Cantor’s series comprises more than 800 drawings, executed on pages of The Economist that he has specifically singled out. A large selection of these will be exposed in his exhibition at the foundation. By creating an entire wall installation of these works, the artist can gain full possession of the space. His intervention also brings the human hand of the artist to bear on medium that ordinarily is thrown away after reading, and becomes part of our culture of obsolescence. Cantor’s drawings also serve to make us look longer at the articles that inspired his work. We are compelled to consider the stories that he presents for us and to look again at the human cost of political and economic decisions. The artist is perhaps the last guardian of a truly human way of looking and relaying to the world: beyond the lens and beyond the virtual. By choosing a traditional technique, and an ancient gesture, Cantor forces us to see our world with fresh eyes.

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Mircea Cantor, Séries Bellum & Maternitas, 0 Courtesy of the artist & Fondation Francès, Senlis

Cantor continues his focus on the power of human nature and its potential for perpetual renewing, either through physical means such as mutation or biogenetic engineering, or through the sheer power of the mind. The artist believes that the location of this strength and instinct for survival is rooted in man’s primary, animalistic nature.

Cantor has created two series: Maternitas and Bellum that explore the contrasting drives essential to the survival of a species. By depicting animals, the artist is able to create the distance necessary to bring the extremes of human behaviour into sharp focus.

On the one hand we witness the nurturing side of nature in the maternal urges of the mother, on the other we see the ruthless urges of the predator. It is ironic that the more animalistic the act, the more we are reminded of the human potential for brutality and the origins of our urges.

Cantor returns to the heart of the perpetual cycle in which we operate, the fulcrum that pivots between nurture and the need to destroy for survival. The work serves as a provocative metaphor for the history of man, and his struggle — not only for survival, but with his often destructive nature. Cantor again returns to the simple gesture of the line and the inherent power and clarity of oriental calligraphy to communicate with the viewer. This trace itself serves as a signifier and becomes a link between the environment and the being who oversees or controls it. Depiction is about recording, and this, in its way is linked to power, as knowledge is at root of the beginnings of power, and this in turn can lead to control over a selected area.

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Mircea Cantor, Give more sky to the flags, 0 Courtesy of the artist & Fondation Francès, Senlis

Mircea Cantor continues his questioning of the notion of territory by examining the idea of what it means to belong (or not) to a nation. He has created two intertwining flags, the twist being that they do not do the very thing that a flag is created to reveal: the nation it symbolises. These intertwining flags are without identity. Nationless they offer the viewer the opportunity to appropriate the space and express a feeling that is connected to the joy of being human, a rich and poetic moment, undefined by prescribed borders. Cantor invites us to revel in the discovery of the other in uncharted territory.

The flag installation could serve well as a memorial, as the material is durable. It might also invite interaction from those who encounter it, perhaps graffiti from those moved to respond to its celebration of freedom. Aesthetically and formally, the work is developed according to the proportion of the “golden ratio”, used by Leonardo da Vinci. For Mircea Cantor, it would be an auspicious space to meet, mathematically, even divinely ordered and therefore in harmony with all that surrounds it: "Let’s meet at the flags ! ".


From Saturday March 19th to Saturday December 17th, 2016, Mircea Cantor’s radical works will be open to the public, offering a unique insight into the foibles of our human character, our history and its metamorphosis.

By providing Mircea Cantor with this unprecedented Carte Blanche invitation. The Francès foundation is asserting its international ambition. The project has also been realised through collaborations with Dvir Gallery and Jane Neal, a renowned independent British curator, who has written the text for the newly published editions for this exhibition. This exclusive publication of two catalogues in a slipcase is a proposal to visitors to extend their immersion in the works of Mircea Cantor. This is only the first step in the process of giving life to these works which will be reconfigured in other places and other times.

Furthermore, in partnership with the Romanian Institute of Paris, a series of works from the show, notably from the Maternitas and Bellum series, have been selected by la Monnaie de Paris to be struck into special edition coins.

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27, rue Saint Pierre

60300 Senlis

T. +33 (0)3 44 56 21 35

Opening hours

Monday, 10 AM – 6 PM
Tuesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 7 PM

Admission fee

Free entrance

The artist