The exhibition of works from Antoine de Galbert’s collection will be open only until 10 January at the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź. Shortly before the closing of cultural institutions in November, I had the opportunity to see works by Kader Attia, Christian Boltanski, Miriam Cahn, David Goldblatt and Roman Signer. The exhibition left a burden of responsibility for what we are doing to others, dealing with the historical impact and heritage we are bound to leave to future generations. The Burning House exhibition poses important questions about the role art, including critical art, can play in shaping our attitudes. Is the influence and impact of art real, or is it rather a barometer pointing to specific phenomena and attitudes?
I had the opportunity to talk about the exhibition with the curator, Maria Morzuch. For those who missed the chance to see the exhibition live, we have a photo report of all of the works.
Dobromiła Błaszczyk: Before we move on to discussing the exhibition, I’d like to ask a few questions about Antoine de Galbert’s collection and the story behind it. When did Galbert start collecting and was it his individual choice, or is it related to the programme and functioning of La Maison Rouge in Paris which was operating between 2004 and 2018? What is the current status of the collection after La Maison Rouge was closed?
Maria Morzuch: Antoine de Galbert has been collecting contemporary art for 30 years. This phenomenon and Galbert’s open approach resulted in establishing La Maison Rouge in Paris, an art establishment open to the public with an intense and versatile range of exhibitions.
The collection still exists, even after a decision was made to limit the operation of La Maison Rouge to a foundation organising exhibitions in various places worldwide, and lending individual works.Roman Cieślewicz, Phosphore Einstein, 1980, collage
Parag Sonarghare, Untitled, 2016, acrylic on canvasHungry for more?
DB: The exhibition is a selection of works from Antoine de Galbert’s collection. This selection creates “an atlas of artists’ responses to conflicts”, as we can read in the description of the exhibition. I wonder if Galbert’s entire collection is centred around the issue, or is it a choice and thematic focus for the purpose of the presentation in Łódź?
MM: The works showcased at the “Burning House” exhibition at the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź are only a part of the collection – the part which highlights the issue of hostility policy and trauma of the 20th and 21st centuries.
For example, last year’s presentation of the collection at the Musee Grenoble, entitled “Souvenirs de voyage” had a completely different focus.
DB: I think that the structure of the exhibition, its time span from World War II to contemporary times, emphasises this never-ending story, recurring generation by generation without territorial limitations… without end … without any reflections or conclusions – it’s always happening… Don’t we feel a bit helpless and indifferent in this surge of catastrophes, violations of human rights and increases in the level of poverty and famine – this uninterrupted flow of “even worse” information?
“Burning house. Selection from the Antoine de Galbert collection” exhibition, the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź.
Elika Heydayat, Untitled, 2010, collection of Antoine de Galbert, photo: Arthur Toque
Lars Fredrikson, Untitled, 1965, collage and paint on canvas
Evariste Richer, Souvenir, 2009, a slice of fossilized palm, cristallization of salt
Christian Boltański, Heart, 2005, lightbulb, audio
Kader Attia, Untitled, 2017, combined techniques, 2 prosthetic legs, chair.
Anonymus, A Portrait of John Davidson Rockefeller, 1932, black and white photograph
Parag Sonarghare, Untitled, 2016, acrylic on canvas
Jean Michel Alberola, Hope on a Thread, Hope has a Thread, 2006-2009, neon, electric wire, transformer
MM: The history of trauma includes various circumstances that different generations, nations and communities were exposed to directly, or experience as stories of the past. These stories resonate as a testament to humanity.
No, they do not make us indifferent. A visit to the Hiroshima Museum can’t desensitise you, as you are confronted with specific suffering which stays in your mind forever.
DB: “For us everything is concentrated on the spiritual, we have become poor in order to become rich.” This is the title of Jean Michel Alberola’s work, and a quote from Friedrich Holderlin’s writing. Wealth and poverty, scarcity and thoughtless waste of excess wealth, egotism and lack of empathy – violence. Which aspects did you want to highlight while creating the concept for the exhibition?
MM: The exhibitions shows a map of hostility policy, from both a historical and contemporary point of view, from Johannesburg to the Middle East, the lasting and ongoing consequences of decolonisation, binding Africa and Europe, the tragedy of immigration and the consequences of American policy in remote parts of the world.
Antoine de Galbert compared the choice of works for the exhibition to the history of Poland and at the same time to artists such as Kobro, Szapocznikow, Strzemiński, Kantor, Grotowski, and Wajda. Poland was a victim to the European nightmare of the 20th century. First it endured the traumatic Nazi crimes, then it was entrapped behind the iron curtain of Soviet Russia. However, there was always a spirit of freedom present.It emphasises the totally different experience of Poland compared to Western Europe. That is why, although the work you have mentioned is important, it is also worth noting the works by a Roma artist Ceija Stoja, who survived the horror of concentration camps as a child. A lot of time passed before she began dealing with her personal trauma through art. After the exhibition in Łódź, her works will be taken to the artist’s individual exhibition in Malmö.
Last week we visited Vienna. We also had a private view at Palais Rasumofsky where collection Sanziany is located. Collection SANZIANY, at the Palais Rasumofsky, is one of the biggest private museums in Austria. Adrian Riklin and his partner Antonis Stachel share their home with more than 2.000 works of art and are famous for the most entertaining guided tours. See our photogallery and learn more about this amazing art collection.
DB: There is a bomb ticking in every work. And I am not talking only about the photographs showing the explosions of atomic bombs taken by the Associated Press, or an object showing the territory of France made of matches (Claire Fontaine “France [Burnt/Unburnt]”). The flame of discord is also burning in the silence of suburbs suspended in time and monotonous everyday life. Is the “Burning House” everywhere, in each of us?
MM: No, this “Burning House” does not need to be inside of us. This image by the French artist was taken from Internet resources (which is opposite to the usual sequence). The example of the object from the exhibition, “France [Burnt/Unburnt],” is very interesting; it burned completely during the performance in other editions. A given political order in an affluent democratic European state might suddenly lose its balance, depending on the results of election, changes to the tensions in society or an unexpected crisis.
DB: Is there a way out of the situation? At first sight, the exhibition does not provide any summary or remedy. It is rather a tactical demonstration of vile behaviour. Or perhaps it’s the opposite – the exhibition indicates a way out. Maybe Christian Boltanski’s “Heart” is the key.
MM: Yes, heartbeat in Boltanski’s work will captivate everyone for a moment – in a personal capsule, it becomes their own unique experience of the silence and sound of life.