Lucy + Jorge Orta | Jean Revillard | Camille Roux | Edith Roux |
Benjamin Sabatier | Julien Serve | Zoë Sheehan Saldaña | Paul Souviron |
Contemporary art through the prism of economic actualities
This exhibition sets out to explore the way today’s artists relate to the world of business, and to the economic sphere more generally, in the age of globalization. Two kinds of approach are evident:1. Artistic capture of the world of business, the economy and production.2. Games with economic indicators and the world of business.The emphasis on creativity and the vision of the artists contacted for this show help humanize the world of work and the economy. They reinstate human beings as conscious, lucid and concerned players.But why this exhibition? To demonstrate that the economy is not absent from the concerns of many contemporary To show how the artistic vision of the economy eventually “humanizes” it. By imitating it, bysubverting it, by broadening its practices sometimes to an absurd extent, by making it a subject not of tension but of relaxation.In the symbolic systems obtaining in our societies, a great deal of importance is accorded to politics, but much less to the material economy. If the economy does not, or not always direct politics, the fact is that the economic dimension is never secondary. Materialism doesnot exist as such: the economy, too, “writes” its symbolism, and never fails to be inscribed in representations of the world, beyond its concrete reality. It is normal, in this light, that artists should be interested in it – the artists we have chosen for this exhibition.Curiously, however, the history of art is sparing in works on economic themes. And when such works are found, moreover, their main point is to damn the economy, arguing thatwork and material exploitation degrade humanity. This banishing of the economy is one of the themes of early Christianity: Christ drove the merchants from the Temple and, in so doing, affirmed the primacy of the symbolic over the economic.As we know, Protestantism deeply changed our relation to the economic. For Protestants, economic success was conditioned by religious morals: success at Beruf (work) was a sign of election. This positive redefinition of the economy did not, however, mean that art suddenly started paying homage to it. Only a handful of works were produced on the subject of the economy before the 20th century: a few portraits of bankers in Flemish painting, a few representations of merchants, of cities and human activities; views of markets, fairs and ports.
It was not until the coming of modernity that the economy began to be more substantially and also incisively represented in the field of art. This representation took two directions: a sibylline direction (playing with the economy) and a critical one (its role was devalued, it was stigmatised). On the sibylline axis, we might mention Marcel Duchamp, who in 1919 paid his dentist with a cheque that he himself had drawn, and Yves Klein, with his Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility – gold leaf exchanged for a simple piece of paper mentioning the transaction. And of course, the famous Merda d’artista series by Piero Manzoni, some 90 cans which the facetious Italian prankster filled with his excrement and sold for their weight in gold. As for the critical axis, this put forward the idea that the economy was the root cause of material and therefore social inequality between humans. A whole world of “social” painting, driven in part by the communist ideology, grew up on this concept, depicting exploited workers in degrading workplaces. The economy as a human calamity.
And what of the economy for today’s artists?
Artists’ views have matured. They are wary of caricatures and simplifications. Lucid, often measured, sometimes engaged, artists today are concerned above all to show the nature of the economic sphere. Going beyond clichés, they also enjoy playing with economic themes, subverting economic principles, and also creating parallel economic circuits, notably by means of participatory art. This is art that produces a singular mutation in contemporary man’s relation to materialism. It rematerializes the economy in deviated forms. It invites us to look more closely at the real economy. The artist here demonstrates that he is neither hypnotized nor mystified by the economy. His position is active, on his own scale, using his own weapons.