Pierre Bismuth – Tout le monde est artiste mais seul l’artiste le sait
Centre Pompidou, Paris
October 20, 2021 – February 28, 2022
This exhibition by Pierre Bismuth, who was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1963 and lives and works in Brussels, opens with a title in the form of a paradox, subverting a famous declaration by German artist Joseph Beuys (“Everyone is an artist”). It combines emblematic works by the French artist with others specially designed for the occasion, and offers an original approach to his work, one of the most singular artistic enterprises of the contemporary scene.
Pierre Bismuth has no favourite domain of intervention, but gladly uses film extracts as well as works by other artists and found images. He is the only French artist to have been distinguished by Hollywood with an Oscar (awarded jointly in 2005 to Bismuth, Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman for the scenario of Gondry’s film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Pierre Bismuth has used various subversion strategies to situate a considerable share of his work in the realm of film. We observe this immediately with the vast wallpaper presented on the outside wall of the exhibition, Following the right hand of Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, a monumental enlargement of a drawing made by following the actress’s hand on tracing paper superimposed on a television screen while Billy Wilder’s masterpiece was being shown.
A series of drawings/photograms continues in this vein inside the exhibition, focussing on, amongst others, the movements of Marlene Dietrich, Louise Brooks and Catherine Deneuve. Sigmund Freud, in a short film that survives of him, and Jacques Lacan in an extract from a television interview, are also celebrated, this time via moving images. The films The Party, featuring Peter Sellers, and The Jungle Book by Walt Disney are both used as supports for experiments in linguistic and sound disorientation, sources of misunderstandings that are echoed on a second wallpaper that progressively blends the patronymics of famous artists in modern and contemporary art.
This exhibition notably features two new works: the Saab car that once belonged to a great collector of conceptual art, its completely revamped leather upholstery now adorned with the list of artists who figured in the said collection, and the Fabrique de chocolat (The Chocolate Factory) occupying a corner of the exhibition where Pierre Bismuth’s chocolate will be produced and packaged in the presence of the public. “Bachelors [i.e. the artist] grind their own chocolate”, Marcel Duchamp wrote early in the early 20th century. Pierre Bismuth thus joins a tradition of chocolate-making artists that also includes Ed Ruscha and Dieter Roth. The artist continues this marriage of art and cacao by making his chocolate bars freely available to visitors.