Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
Since 2006, the Palais de Tokyo has presented sweeping exhibitions offering a look at emerging French artists. Its first iteration, “Notre Histoire,” was followed by “Dynasty” in 2010. This year, curators Franck Balland, Daria de Beauvais, Adélaïde Blanc, and Claire Moulène looked beyond a specific generation—and even the borders of France—in “Future, Former, Fugitive: A French Scene.” Taking over the entire museum is the work of 44 artists or collectives born between the 1930s and 1990s.
Whitewaller spoke with two of the curators, Balland and de Beauvais, to hear how the show’s broader scope offered a chance for discovery.
WHITEWALLER: The exhibition is wide-reaching in nature, showcasing the work of artists in France and abroad. Given that, what was the starting point for such an ambitious focus?
FRANCK BALLAND: We chose artists, first of all, because they were stimulating and sensitive to the world. Most of them are kind of discreet, but very present in different, more local scenes all around the country. Some of them have studied in France, moved abroad afterward (for instance in Germany, The Netherlands, or England), but still have this very special connection with France.
DARIA DE BEAUVAIS: There’s this kind of back and forth because today it’s difficult to find what a national art scene is. We have also invited artists from abroad who have settled in France. Of the artists we invited, fifty percent are living in Paris and fifty percent in other cities in France or abroad.
WW: Were there any moments of discovery when choosing the artists?
DB: We are Paris-based and have been traveling all over the country to meet with artists. There are many other cities with good art schools, artist-run spaces, or museums, creating different ecosystems. Some artists have decided to live in smaller cities for different reasons and it is important to highlight that not “everything” happens in Paris. We have also traveled in Europe where these artists were based.
WW: In your prospection, did you find common threads between the artists?
FB: We were not trying to find a specific topic. What we discovered during this prospection was the kind of questions that are important for the scene. There’s an interest in news, what’s happening in the world, climate change, the impact of social media on the way we are living. But artists are still concerned about life, death, the human condition, the moment. Artists here are connected to reality and to the world.
DB: As well as to their inside world, at the same time. Some artists look inward; there’s an obsession that really fuels their artistic practice. Others will have more timeless works that are very autonomous and mysterious.
FB: It’s not a panorama of the French scene. It’s not a narration, but it’s creating something really close to the present, in a sense.
WW: Can you tell us more about the title of the show, “Future, Former, Fugitive”?
DB: We have borrowed the title from Olivier Cadiot, who is a French poet and novelist; quite experimental, and very important for us. This title talks about the present, except the word “present” isn’t in the title itself. It’s a way to say that what’s happening in the past and what’s happening in the future is really about what’s happening now in society.
The word “fugitive,” as well, is really significant. Because, as we were saying, we have invited some artists who don’t necessarily show their works in lots of exhibitions, but continue, nonetheless, their research and practice in a very autonomous way. They are in a way some kind of fugitives from the “official” scene. It’s a difficult situation, because as curators we pay attention to all the artists we see, but we are very aware of all the artists we don’t see, who are there, nonetheless. With this show, we are trying to highlight some figures that are very important, but not always very public.