The Must-See Exhibitions During Paris Gallery Weekend 2020

After three months of closed galleries and museums, exhibitions in the French capital are open again and Oriane Durand picks the best shows to see

BY Oriane Durand in Critic's Guides | 03 JUL 20

 ‘Dimensions of Reality: Female Minimal’, 2020, exhibition view, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Pantin, Paris. Courtesy: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London/Paris/Salzburg; photograph: Charles Duprat

‘Dimensions of Reality: Female Minimal’
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Pantin
5 June – 25 July 2020

‘Dimensions of Reality: Female Minimal’ brings together the work of 14 women artists from Europe and America, each of whom has contributed to and expanded the field of minimalism. The exhibition presents a wide array of sculptures, installations, paintings and photographs dating from the 1920s to the early ’80s. With their selection, curators Anke Kempkes and Pierre-Henri Foulon offer a rewriting of of art history, which – even today – often neglects the contributions of women to avant-garde movements. In addition to installations by Rosemarie Castoro, which combine minimal forms and repetition with a vegetal and mineral vocabulary, works by several artists, including Liliane Lijn and Kazuko Miyamoto, stand out for their lyricism and currency. A particular highlight is Maria Lai’s Legarsi alla Montagna (To Tie Oneself to the Mountain, 1981), a work animated by community spirit. Commissioned to create a war memorial for her hometown of Ulassai, the Italian artist instead proposed a monument to the living. Here, a series of ten photographs, subtly hand-tinted with blue marker pen, commemorates her action of using a blue ribbon to bind the hilltop village and its inhabitants to the mountain, with the fabric passing from house to house to the summit.

Miriam Cahn, sarajevo, 1995, oil on canvas, 45 × 38 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Romainville

Miriam Cahn, ‘Notre Sud’ (Chapter Two)
Galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Romainville
2 July – 31 July 2020

Naked bodies veiled and unveiled, slumped and fornicating, hard and wet, ecstatic and violated, giving birth and pleasure, with vulvas that return the gaze, taut and shiny: these are the subjects of Miriam Cahn’s latest exhibition, ‘Notre Sud’, at Galerie Jocelyn Wolff in Romainville. While the subject of sexuality is not new to the septuagenarian Swiss artist, she is even more interested in it today. In an interview with Art Basel in 2019 she said that ‘as a woman and a feminist, there is a real issue about sex as confrontation of power.’ Cahn has lost nothing of her anger and liveliness. Her canvases and paintings on wood – with their bright, high horizons on which bodies and genitals are foregrounded – play on the ambiguity between carnal sensuality and butchering, violence and tenderness, pornography and eroticism. Confrontational yet spectral and diaphanous, her work scrutinizes the complex power play between sex and aggression.

Eliza Douglas, 'Lord of the Fucking Wasteland', 2020, exhibition view, Air de Paris, Romainville. Courtesy: the artist and Air de Paris; photograph: Marc Domage

Eliza Douglas, ‘Lord of the Fucking Wasteland’
Brice Dellsperger, ‘Solitaires’

Air de Paris
20 June – 30 July 2020

Like punching bags or animal carcasses, the 11 canvases by Eliza Douglas in ‘Lord of the Fucking Wasteland’ hang from the ceiling of Air de Paris’s first-floor gallery on large metal chains. Each depicts a segment of a crumpled T-shirt printed with images of manga superheroes, the walking dead or race-car drivers. Dominating the space like slick advertising hoardings, Douglas’s hyperrealistic paintings make us consider the cynical production and consumption of mass-marketing images. Beyond its remit to sell, such imagery is soon rendered obsolete by time and emotionally powerless due to its overabundant presence.

Brice Dellsperger, 'Solitaires', 2020, exhibition view, Air de Paris, Romainville. Courtesy: the artist and Air de Paris; photograph: Marc Domage

On the gallery’s second floor, Brice Dellsperger’s exhibition, ‘Solitaires’, reflects on normalized gender as represented in Hollywood. A series of gouaches on paper accompany two new works in the artist’s ‘Body Double’ series (1995–ongoing). The video installation Body Double 36 (2019) references an aerobics-class sequence from the 1985 James Bridges film Perfect. Enacted by Jean Biche – a trans performer who embodies both the teacher and the participants – the scene oscillates between humour and exacerbated narcissism. Body Double 37, for its part, takes up a scene from Brian de Palma’s Dressed to Kill (1980), with the artist himself embodying the two characters: a psychologist disguised as both a (different) man and a woman. This unsettling work raises important questions around gender fluidity and identity.

Alia Farid, At the Time of the Ebb, 2019, video still. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Imane Farès, Paris

Alia Farid
Galerie Imane Farès
4 June – 25 July 2020

A pale-pink light draws you into Alia Farid’s solo exhibition at Galerie Imane Farès, where two videos are being screened. In the first, Maske Paske Wi (Masked Because Yes, 2020), shot in Port-au-Prince and originally commissioned by Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, the camera follows a gang of boys as they organize a dance and costume competition. In the gallery basement, the video At the Time of the Ebb (2019) was filmed on the Iranian island of Qeshm during the annual celebration of Nowruz Sayadin (Fisherman’s New Year). Whether in the Caribbean or the Middle East, Farid explores contemporary urban life in the context of postcolonialism. These works simply and tenderly record scenes of assembly, music, dance and ritual, as both means of survival and forms of resistance.

Gabriel Rico, Crudelitatem (I will say the romans that spread upon the world but it was the world that spread upon the romans), 2017, ceramic, gold, fibreglass, sand. Courtesy: the artist and Perrotin, Paris/New York/Hong Kong/Seoul/Tokyo/Shanghai; photograph: Diego G. Argüelles 

Gabriel Rico, ‘Nature Loves to Hide’
23 May – 14 August 2020

At Perrotin, Mexican artist Gabriel Rico holds his first solo exhibition in France, ‘Nature Loves to Hide’. His works, which are displayed floor to ceiling in four rooms, all involve assemblages of found objects, finely worked original pieces and neon lights. Between shamanism and mathematics, Rico seeks ‘the ideal equation’ – as can be seen, for instance, in the large wall work II Mural (2020) from the series ‘Reducción objetiva orquestada’ (Orchestrated Objective Reduction, 2016–20), which combines different everyday objects with arrows as if every piece on the wall is related to each other.

In addition, as a gesture of support during the current pandemic and ensuing economic crisis, Perrotin has made part of its space available to 26 Parisian galleries. Four consecutive presentations have been organized under the collective title ‘Restons Unis’ (Let’s Stay Together). The third iteration, ‘Sous le soleil exactement’ (Exactly Under the Sun), includes works by Boris Achour (Galerie Allen), who questions the notions of control and privacy within public space, the late Lois Weinberger’s explorations of the relationship between nature and society (Salle Principale) and works by Kapwani Kiwanga (Gallery Jerome Poggi) dealing with power asymmetries . 

Ulla von Brandenburg, 'Le Milieu est bleu', 2020, exhibition view, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Courtesy: the artist and Palais de Tokyo; photograph: Aurélien Mole

Ulla von Brandenburg, ‘Le Milieu est bleu’
Palais de Tokyo
21 February – 13 August 2020

For her exhibition ‘Le Milieu est bleu’ (The Middle Is Blue) at Palais de Tokyo, Ulla von Brandenburg has created a completely immersive experience. The journey begins with a succession of hanging curtains punctured by a large circle that you pass through until you find yourself in a series of five spaces constructed out of monochrome fabrics. Along the way, you encounter sculptures and objects that evoke craftsmanship – huge fishing baskets, for example – as well as others that echo shamanic rituals, such as a scattering of sticks, which recall those used by Joseph Beuys in his performances and installations of the 1960s and ’70s. Von Brandenburg invites us to daydream, to propel ourselves into a theatrical space in which there is no longer any distinction between artwork and prop, interior and exterior. It’s an invitation that reaps rewards for those who indulge in her captivating pastoral.

Three additional must-see Paris shows:

‘The Mouth of the Gifted Horse’, a solo show of work by Wisrah Villefort at Goswell Road until 18 July; Martin Belou‘s solo show ‘Foyer’ at Galerie Sans titre (2016) until 25 July; ‘Your Friends and Neighbours’, a group show at High Art until 1 August.

Paris Gallery Weekend runs from 2–5 July 2020.

Main image: Ulla von Brandenburg, 'Le Milieu est bleu', 2020, exhibition view, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Courtesy: the artist and Palais de Tokyo; photograph: Aurélien Mole

Oriane Durand is curator and writer based in Paris, France.