Bertrand Lavier: Medley
May 2 - September 5, 2014
Opening: May 2, from 6 - 9. p.m. in the presence of the artist
Opening times during the Gallery Weekend:
May 3 and 4, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Kewenig is pleased to announce its first solo exhibition with Bertrand Lavier (b. 1949,
Châtillon-sur-Seine) in Berlin, which will be opened during the Gallery Weekend.
Bertrand Lavier is one of the most inventive and influential French artists of his generation.
Since the 1970s he dealt conceptually with the notion of reality and its representations and
later on broached the issue of the relationship between art and reality, investigating the
mechanisms that can transform daily objects or borrowed elements from art history and
pop culture into art. Lavier got well known for blurring the line between painting and
sculpture by thickly coating everyday objects with acrylic paint – be it a fridge, furniture or a
piano – and thus turning these still operating and clearly identifiable objects into artworks.
His "objets peints" which he created since the early 1980s are always Janus-faced - their
double identity refers both to the painted image of an object as well as to its real identity.
They show an ongoing reflection on the basics of painting and short-circuit stereotypes in
connection with painting. Similarily, with his assembled pieces, in which Lavier combines
industrial objects like a fridge with a Ferrari car wing to a new entity, he provokes questions
about artistic creation, its media and authorship.
Not formally trained in art, Lavier studied at the School of Horticulture in Versailles, where
he discovered and deepened his interest in hybridization. “If you combine an orange with a
mandarin,”he once said, “you get a tangerine. It's really a fifty-fifty mix of the two fruits.
Similarly, when I paint a piano or put a fridge on a safe, the result seems to float between
two separate things. Under the layers of paint is the real piano, but you can also
concentrate on the paint as paint. One could say that my works are like tangerines.”
None of Lavier's works is though regarded as being finished. In this sense an exhibition and
its space is an opportunity for him to revive his concepts: "I make exhibitions: I don't
produce images, I don't have a studio" (1984). Rather than inventing objects, he
conceptually repositions them, giving them at the same time a rematerialization which
distinguishes him from the classical conceptualist approach of the dematerialization of
The exhibition "Medley" brings together major new and historic pieces of his different
strategies and systems of display, formulating a formal and conceptual situation.
A grand piano is painted all over with brilliant black and white acrylic paint (Bechstein,
2013); ready to be played. A nickel plated bronze cast of an originally wooden Oceanic
sculpture resembles both modern and archaic artworks, and is opposed to a mirror painted
with transparent acrylic paint. The mirror creates both an artificial and artistic reflection
and lets us think of the different levels of perception. Another room shows new and historic
works of the series "Walt Disney Productions". Referring both to the perception of
contemporary art and to the imagery of popular culture Lavier created the first pieces of this series in the 1980s after a Walt Disney cartoon from 1947 entitled "Traits très abstraits",
which told of Mickey and Minnie's visit to a museum of modern art. Lavier isolated the
narrative's paintings and sculptures and enlarged them to the presumed format. In doing
so, he short-circuited the cycle of representation by making tangible what until then was
merely decor and fiction. In the works and their special exaggeration of clichéd forms and
colors one could immediately recognize the vocabulary of both pictorial and sculptural
modern art. Using technical reproduction methods, he turns the abstract pictures and
sculptures into reality, thus taking conceptions on modern art from a popular context and
humorously reintegrating them into a museum context.
Bertrand Lavier lives and works in Paris and Aignay-le-Duc. His work has been exhibited in
numerous leading museums in Europe and in the United States, including the Centre
Pompidou (1991); the Castello di Rivoli in Turin (1996); the ARC/Musée National de la Ville
de Paris in Paris (2005); the Guggenheim Museum New York (1998); the PS1 New York
(2000); the Mamco Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Geneva (2001); the
Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art in Prato (2007); the Villa Medici in Rome (2009),
the Musée Hermès in Seoul (2010) and the Musée d'Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne (2011).
His work has been included in the Documenta in 1982 and 1987, and in the Venice Biennale
in 1976. The Centre Pompidou honored him with a major retrospective show "Depuis 1969"
His work has been shown twice in solo exhibitions at Kewenig in Cologne - in 2006 with his
exhibition "Bertrand Lavier. Lumières d'étoiles" showing neon works that refer back to the
constructions of Frank Stella and in 2009 with "Sociétés Générales", an installation
consisting of eight large ceramic tableaux depicting the logos of globally active banks which
was first shown in 2009 on the historic garden facade of the Villa Medici in Rome.
Lavier's work is present in prestigious private and public collections as e.g. the Castello di
Rivoli, Turin; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; the
Generali Foundation, Vienna; the MUMOK in Vienna; the Neue Galerie, Graz, the
Consortium, Dijon; the Musée d'Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne, and many others.