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Stranger Than Fiction: Philippe Parreno

Philippe Parreno brings magic to his art.

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Philippe Parreno in his studio.

Photo By Stefano Bianchi

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Scoop issue 09/29/2008
Within the heart of Paris’ garment district, in a dark 18th-century building, Philippe Parreno’s intricate wood reliefs provide the entryway into the artist’s sun-filled thirdfloor studio where he creates his works. Or, in his view, magic.

“I believe in magic more and more. Maybe I am going to turn into a magician and grow a long beard,” says Parreno, whose work relies on the juxtaposition between reality and fiction. “There is no difference between magic and art—the way you affect consciousness.”

His oeuvre ranges from installations to drawings to performance pieces, and much of it is collaborative. For instance, his award-winning documentary film, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, which transformed the rigmarole of a soccer game into a piece of art, was made with his friend, the artist Douglas Gordon. The film is as long as a game, but the perspective is unique: Parreno focuses only on French soccer legend Zinédine Zidane.

The latest show of his work continues his collaborations—sort of. In the forthcoming exhibition at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, “theanyspacewhatever,” which runs from October 24 to January 7, Parreno’s work will be shown along with that of Gordon and eight other artists including Maurizio Cattelan, Pierre Huyghe, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Carsten Höller and Angela Bulloch, all of whom are better known in America. “The 10 artists grew organically, and have shared sensibilities and conceptual practices,” says Nancy Spector, the Guggenheim’s curator of contemporary art, who describes Parreno’s work as having a “poetic” and “ephemeral” quality. “[The artists] create by moving beyond representation. It comes at you in a peripheral way,” she says.

The exhibition, sponsored by Hugo Boss, will present a genealogy of the artists’ shared history through site-specific installations of new, often self-reflexive works. Parreno plans to erect a large black marquee outside the museum that will be illuminated. “It will be like a big theater, a ghost of a marquee instead of a marquee itself—like a really shiny black construction that pops up from the construction of Frank Lloyd Wright, but there are no words on it, so it’s like the label becoming more important than the work itself,” he says, adding he will lend his voice to the audio guide that will accompany the exhibition.

“I try and focus on my own practice and obsession, which take many different forms,” explains Parreno. “Anything which changes consciousness, any use of signs, colors, words that affect consciousness whatever the format is.”

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