Andres Serrano, a treasure hunt at Petit Palais

White Nigger, (the Interpretation of dreams), 2001

After Kehinde Wiley last October, Petit Palais is now exhibiting controversial American photographer Andres Serrano as a teaser for a treasure hunt on the two floors of its permanent collections. The access is free for all and it is quite fun to rediscover the Greek statues or Luca della Robbia glazed terra-cotta through Serrano’s violent photographs. If you decide to attend FIAC (October 19 to 22) , it is just across the street and definitely a fun adventure.

Carolus-Duran, Portrait of Mrs Edgard Stern, 1889 and Andres Serrano, Bertha (nomads) 1990

The visit led by the artist, elegantly dressed in a white shirt and tight navy blue jacket, started with the American flag stained with blood, which he made just after 9-11. The Honduran/Afro-cuban photographer is well known for his scandalous and provocative portraits of Christ, and he has used his catholic upbringing to illustrate the violence of the world, shooting homeless people and studying his own blackness through different photographs.

Andres Serrano, Debbie Tsosie, Navajo,(Native Americans), 1996

What I found most interesting was his dialogue with 19 th century paintings of elegant ladies like Mrs Stern painted by Carolus Duran and his Nomads photographed in the New York subway. The association sounds a little gimmicky but it works and one looks at the conventional beautiful paintings of the Petit Palais with more attention… The cowboys and Indians picture hanging below a classical portrait of a man has the same effect. It livens up some of the works. I particularly liked the Navajo lady facing Mrs Tuck’s sculpture in a room lined with old wood panelings.

Louis Aimé Lejeune, Julia Still Tuck, marble 1928

Downstairs, I could have lived without Donald Trump’s portrait (already seen a MEP last year) but I loved the photograph of the Octopus head shown with a statue of Jean Carriès by himself and the Gastronome Pelican, a large bronze by Emmanuel Frémiet.

Anything is good if it brings different crowds of young people into museums and this new initiative of Petit Palais will please Nathalie Obadia’s fans. She is Andres  Serrano’s dealer in France.


Octopus Head, 1985 in the galleries

It certainly pleased the artist who talked about his passion for European art and loved the experience. (Petit Palais, until January 14)

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