|Maurizio Cattelan, Others, 2011|
I took my friend Harriet to see the new exhibitions at the Bourse de Commerce last night. As we walked along the outside of Tadao Ando's concrete cylinder, laughing at some of Bertrand Lavier's objects in the display cases that have been there since the building's days as the Bourse, marvelled at the fresco depicting trade in the colonies, and the magnificent reflections of the early evening sun shining through the latticed roof of the dome, I thought that this magnificent building should be the mandatory first stop on every tourist visit of Paris. Visiting the Pinault collection is pure pleasure. It is, perhaps, the most comfortable and welcoming modern art museum in a major city. It's difficult to describe how delightful it is to wander the exhibitions and the building itself.
|Charles Ray, Boy With Frog, 2009|
We stopped in front of a Lavier piece of two crystal vases accompanied by the text "only one of these vases is real" to have a long discussion with two other visitors about which they thought was real. Being the know all, I was convinced as soon as I saw the display that the two vases were identical, and Lavier had simply included the text to keep us guessing. As Harriet pointed out, if only one was real, what kind of real would that be? In fact, whether or not the vases were real or fake was not the attraction of the display, but rather, the point of the piece was its play with our heads and temptation into animated conversation with strangers. This level of visitor engagement is maintained throughout the exhibitions on the first and second floors.
|Ryan Gander, With /.../.../..., 2019|
I remember a friend bemoaning that she didn't really understand the Urs Fischer statue in the collection's opening exhibition. However, I am pretty sure that a lot of the art on display at the Pinault is not that difficult to "get". Ryan Gander's stuttering Animatronic Mouse who has gnawed its way through the gift shop wall, or Marizio Cattelan's pigeons looking down from the third floor railing are exactly what they appear to be. The mouse and the pigeons are intruders into the precious world of art, making fun of its seriousness, showing us all that laughter and wonder are valid responses to art.
|Roni Horn, Dead Owl, 1997|
The two temporary exhibitions also encouraged a frolick with art, eliciting physical and emotional responses. Roni Horn and Felix Gonzalez-Torres' exhibition on the ground floor created a lovely dialogue between the two artists. My absolute favorite piece was Horn's Dead Owl, 1997. The two fluffy white owls are both adorable and creepy. Their soft silken feathers make them like dolls sitting on their perches. But the title reminds us, they are dead, stuffed animals. The owl was photographed in Iceland, a country for which Horn has an ongoing fascination. But as an American, I am sure, Horn is aware of their symbolism within Native American culture as harbingers of death. Making the owls even more cuddly and curious, but simultaneously, unnerving is the fact that when standing in front of them, our eyes never rest. We constantly flit between one photograph and the other, comparing them, looking for differences, as if expecting them to reveal the answer to a puzzle. Of course, walking from side to side, the eyes of both owls never leave us, following our every move. Being watched by art works is always the most unsettling experience in a museum.
|Charles Ray, Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley, 1992|
There is a large Charles Ray exhibition in the level two galleries, complementing the Centre Pompidou's spring exhibition. Ray also has three pieces under the dome in the main circular gallery: a child, himself and an old, reconstructed truck. Ray's works are also unnerving, but unlike my experience of the Pompidou exhibition, my resounding response to the pieces on display at the Pinault was his obsession with naked male bodies, especially his own and those of young boys. It's true that a lot of his works re-conceive religious and classical sculpture, they also play with the traditional display of sculpture. In addition, Ray manipulates spaces and size and makes our movement through the gallery visible through the changing size of the sculpted figures when seen from different perspectives. But these works are not only working on an intellectual level. Ray has an obsession with pubescent male bodies and sexual fantasies, and you don't need an art history degree to get that!