Monumenta 2014 — Ilya et Emilia Kabakov — L’étrange cité



Monumenta 2014 — Ilya et Emilia Kabakov
L’étrange cité

Past: May 10 → June 22, 2014

Since 2007, Monumenta, a major Paris-based arts event, has been commissioning internationally renowned artists to create large-scale installations for the nave of the Grand Palais — a vast building measuring 35 metres high with a glass rooftop that covers 13,500 square metres. Anselm Kiefer, Richard Serra, Christian Boltanski, Anish Kapoor and Daniel Buren have successively risen to the challenge to create works for Monumenta.

For the event’s sixth edition, Russian-born artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, celebrated internationally for their large-scale projects and ambitious installations, will invite viewers to lose themselves in the maze of an imaginary town: “The Strange City”.

Grand palais monumenta ilya et emilia kabakov etude pour une vue d ensemble de l etrange cite 2014 medium
Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, Étude pour une vue d’ensemble de L’étrange cité — Monumenta, 2014 Dessin Courtesy of the artist & Grand Palais, La nef, Paris

Commenting on the installation, Emilia Kabakov said : “Some years ago, someone asked us if we thought that art could influence politics. We answered no. Our opinion has not changed but during all these years, we have worked with ideas based around the imaginary and utopia. We sincerely believe that art, which occupies an important place in our culture, can change the way we think, we dream and we act. It can change the way we live. This time, we would like to create more than an installation ; we would like to conceive something very different: constructing The Strange City is to insist on the experience rather than on the form of a project; it is to ask you to slow down in your real life, to call on your emotions, on your senses and on your memories. We invite you to come to the Grand Palais to enter The Strange City, a fantastic space born of a collective imagination, and to think and reflect about art, about culture, about the daily life and about our present and our future.”

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Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, Peinture avec tache noire n°2 — La Chapelle sombre, 2009 Courtesy of the artist & Grand Palais, La nef, Paris

“The Strange City”, conceived for the nave of the Grand Palais, draws on references from the Renaissance, Romanticism and modern science. It is composed of eight large constructions. The visitor can absorb its calm and peaceful environment by wandering around the structures, with each edifice presenting its own unique world. In the northern part of the nave, a gigantic dome projects colour and light variations onto an open gate which visitors have to go through. They then reach a labyrinth-like space surrounded by a double circular enclosure. Inside, there are five distinct edifices bearing mysterious names: “The Empty Museum”, “Manas”, “The Centre for Cosmic Energy”, “How to Meet An Angel?” and “The Gates”. Outside, there are two further constructions. “The White Chapel” features paintings confronting an array of subjects contrasted with large areas of white light, leaving room for one’s imagination, while “The Dark Chapel”, reveals gigantic paintings on black backgrounds, mixing baroque references with personal memories.

Including paintings, curious objects and models, the works installed inside “The Strange City” highlight the core issues that preoccupy the Kabakovs.

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Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, Comment rencontrer un ange ?, 2014 Dessin Courtesy of the artist & Grand Palais, La nef, Paris

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov evoke images of progress, of science and of man’s evolution that have had disastrous consequences. Across spectacular installations, permeated with humour and poetry, they have set up a catalogue of ideas over the years showing how mankind has tenaciously pursued achievements that are more or less useless. They show how man is intent on surpassing himself, like a character who builds a huge ladder in order to get close to an angel and then throws himself into his arms.

Jean Hubert Martin, the curator of the exhibition, explains :

“With spectacular and mysterious atmospheres, the journey through “The Strange City” is like a great, epic tale. The Utopian city to which we are invited addresses Man’s aspirations and his quest for a hereafter, for the metaphysical. The metaphor for life and its mystery is communicated through the senses.”

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The artists

  • Ilya & Emilia Kabakov