On this first day of cold autumn weather, British sculptor Antony Gormley could only be delighted to find all the roses of Musée Rodin still in full bloom. His exhibition of 75 sculptures and models in conversation with Rodin’s masterpieces is the event of the week, just before the openings of Paris + by Art Basel and Peter Doig at Musée d’Orsay, which have attracted contemporary art collectors to Paris. Rush to se it.
Most of the works have already been exhibited around the world, including Critical Mass II, 1995, a sixty piece installation in the chapel, which converses with “Gates of Hell”, the large bronze monument by Rodin in the garden, which he considers to be a meditation on our fallibility. Entirely transformed into a white contemporary art gallery, the space lets Gormley’s bronze bodies dance in the air or pile up on the ground, and the chapel has never looked better. The idea of the show emerged in 2017 when Catherine Chevillot, the then curator of Musée Rodin and Sophie Biass-Fabiani, asked Gormley to exhibit here. Represented by Thaddaeus Ropac, he had never been shown in a French museum since he had pieces exhibited in Rennes in the mid 1980’s and in Saint Etienne.
It is a tradition for the museum to exhibit contemporary sculptors and Barbara Hepworth was probably the first one to be shown in 1949. The way the artist organized the twelve positions of the body in the courtyard is very whimsical and there are six more “Insiders” in iron in the “Gallery of Marbles” which dialogue with Rodin’s marbles. Another installation outside is made of T shaped stainless steel bars and stands on top of the wall next to the “Gates of Hell”. It shines discreetly in the sky.
Antony Gormley speaks a charming French and expressed his profound gratitude for the honor of being able to converse with Rodin in this “temple” where one hundred years after his death, he is invited to recreate “a pulse” of his own. They communicate through the materials of sculpture and he is showing little plaster models made in 2022 in the showcases where Rodin has his small pieces. Upstairs, in front of a painting of Rodin in his studio by René Avigdor, he exhibits Face III, a pile of blocks in cast iron.
Gormley said how “L’âge d’airain” (The Age of Bronze) had struck him and changed his way of looking at sculpture. The young soldier (modeled on a Belgian soldier) stands with no weapon in his hand and is completely bare. It is an incredible challenge and a constant inspiration for him. Next to it, he chose to install “Burst” the bursting inside of a man, showing the interiority of his hero.
The exhibition is beautifully designed and the pannelled rooms of Hotel Biron are a perfect frame for Gormley’s cast iron sculptures. Both spaces are very different in atmosphere, and the garden is of course the bonus, with the well kept lawns (mowed by a robot) and the English borders. The whole visit is a treat.
Musée Rodin until March 3.
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