Art & Culture

Maison Guerlain x FIAC: ’When Material Becomes Art'

22 International artists come together in an exploration of materiality in art
Reading time 34 minutes
LAUREN MOFFATT Compost VIII 2021 4K Video

For the 14th consecutive year, Maison Guerlain joins FIAC’s private itinerary with the new exhibition, “When Material Becomes Art”, running October 21 until November 14 2021, at 68 Avenue Des Champs-Élysées. This year, Guerlain, who since its founding has championed new forms of avant-garde expression and artistic innovation, invites the public to view an unprecedented new exhibition exploring materiality in art.

As artisans of the perceptible, the artists featured draw from their bodies to bring life and flesh to their emotions, ideas and commitments. Throughout the exhibition raw material as a medium in its natural, organic, mineral, artificial, industrial and even digital form is transformed, reimagined and enhanced to bring to life the palpable and lasting traces of each artist’s critical spirit and imagination.

From raw to virtual materials, the exhibition spans three levels of the Guerlain House bringing together sculptural works, paintings, photographs, installations and certified NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens) which have been specially produced for the occasion to showcase the potential of this creative territory.

In addition, the NFT-certified digital works presented throughout the exhibition will be sold in aid of the GoodPlanet Foundation, chaired by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.


Art is the act of enhancing technique through love, said Nuno Oliveira! Beyond the artistic discipline itself, art therefore speaks to the senses and creates emotion. This is art’s purpose, it is what separates it from sheer function, it’s what creates its assertiveness that can’t be ignored!

One thing’s for sure, art is produced by will, it’s what makes humans quintessential. But “conceived of as power that doesn’t produce a reflection” does art oppose nature?

With the exhibition “When Material Becomes Art”, Guerlain calls on the ways art and nature are allied. Here, the House reaffirms the extent to which its own art, that of perfumery, relies on nature as a vital, yet fragile resource and ecosystem. For nearly two centuries Guerlain’s creative daring, unique expertise and unwavering commitment to the sublime quality of raw materials has been fuelled by its constant desire for innovation, while resolutely respecting balance and sustainability. Thinking about art and natural material together means taking the era you live in by the hand and leading it towards the future.

Here, we find tangible works that draw us back to the concrete raw materials as well as an array of intangible, sometimes unfathomable digital works. Behind each creation the artists explore these questions, musing in each their own way and via their own intimate visions and beliefs.

To question materiality as an element in artistic creation is to question the world, our resources and the dangers we are confronted with. Art cannot be dissociated from the world that surrounds it. Not now, or ever.

The exhibition, «When Material Becomes Art» certainly poses more questions than it can answer. And this is its goal, to put into motion a truth that is conscious and respectful of its environment.

A combat that Guerlain is waging with strength and determination.

For 14th annual contemporary art exhibition at the Guerlain House, "When material becomes art" questions the transformation of material, how inspiration the transformed and how creative ideas are made material.

Which comes first, the material or the art? It’s a question akin to the classic chicken and egg conundrum. Yet, this is the vast subject that we explore in this exhibition: Do you need material to make a work of art?

At risk of surprising you, the answer is no. You don’t need material to make art, or put differently, not every artist needs material (in its palpable sense) to create a work of art.

Does this mean that an artist’s creative idea can exist independently of their chosen medium?

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PHILIPPE FAVIER ST (Pétales de roses), detail | 2009 | Paint, paint on glass, flower petals 45 x 56 x 5 cm | The Florence and Daniel Guerlain Collection, Paris

This is truer for some than for others. In fact, recent art history is filled with examples of works that are part, or even entirely immaterial.

Since the second half of the 20th century artists have tended towards reducing material to its absolute minimum, going as far as to abandon it altogether. Among some of the most radical examples of this was Yves Klein, who from 1955 onwards, distilled his works into single monochrome canvases, and in 1958 mounted an exhibition on “the specialisation of sensibility in the raw material state into stabilized pictorial sensibility” at the entirely empty Iris Clert gallery.

Klein’s work found its counterparts across the Atlantic, where artists such as Bruce Nauman, Joseph Kosuth and Sol Lewitt looked at ways to reduce the visible parts of their work, favouring the idea behind the work itself (conceptual art) or even the idea that preceded it, and thereby pushing the actual performance of the piece to the background. More recently, this leads us to the work of Tino Sehgal, who markets his intangible work without leaving a trace.

In 2009, the Pompidou Centre hosted the exhibition “Vides” (Voids) in ten of the National Museum of Modern Arts’ rooms, where in an unprecedented way it brought together exhibitions that rigorously sought to show nothing and left the spaces empty of what they were designed for.

In parallel, with the birth of new technologies between 1980 and 1990, new “material” has left analogue material behind in favour of digital material.

With the emergence of this new genre of work, questions surrounding ownership have arisen. Until the early 2010s, digital files could be endlessly duplicated so that their creators were rendered anonymous and sometimes even forgotten.

The arrival of the first NFTs – “non-fungible tokens” – is revolutionising the art world. This technology ensures the traceability and authenticity of digital files via individual secure codes. Blockchains – participatory, decentralized computer codes which allow transactions to be certified – introduce the concept of scarcity to digital art and in so doing enables it to have the same standing as analogue art. Artistic material has therefore become plural, at once tangible and intangible, and as dichotomous as our ever-changing, contemporary world.

So many major questions in the world are reflected through materials: from the climate crisis, with recycling and upcycling; the development of new cutting-edge technologies, with hybridisation; religion and beliefs with the use of religious symbols and articles of worship; and with the use of materials that have been historically attributed to one specific gender, globalisation and women’s place in society.

CONSTANCE VALERO De Nectar et d’Ambroisie 2021 | Interactive augmented reality experience | Courtesy Constance Valero

The focus of the exhibition “When Material Becomes Art” sits in stark contrast to current thinking on immateriality and revisits the notion of the artist as an alchemist. We think about material as more than a support and consider the creative act as being only made possible through being able to confront material. In short, the term “plastic artist” itself can be justified by this notion of plasticity through which everything is made malleable.

Beyond materiality, the question that interests us most is the transformative, creative act and artistic execution that it takes to create a piece of work. Throughout the exhibition, the artistic process is made visible so that once it is unmasked it becomes lived experience. Via subtle dissonances the eye becomes activated to question visual and artistic habits.

However, material alone isn’t enough. Only creative intervention can transform material into a surface upon which societal questions can be projected. And only then can it speak to a diverse array of subjects such as the climate crisis via upcycling; societal change via new technologies; a crisis in religion and belief via artists’ use of religious symbols and articles of worship; and the position of women in society.

Among the 22 artists presented within the exhibition, each artist’s approach is as diverse as their thought processes and individual achievements. The viewpoints adopted by the artists illustrate the concerns of our changing society and ask the same questions that are being posed by many great thinkers. After all, a real artist is essentially just a philosopher who sculpts their thoughts and ideas.

Ecological fragility is reflected in the work of Favier and Cognée with their use of transformed, evolved living matter. For Cléron and Libertiny, it is the bee, the guarantor of our entire ecosystem – an idea which is particularly dear to Guerlain – who becomes the focus of their work. Another endangered species emerges in Sabatté’s uniquely alarming and fragile work. Armour, meanwhile, thinks about the similarities the materials in our body have with those in the mineral universe, and looks to high tech alchemy in her work in much the same way as Bul does. Dakpogan becomes an archaeologist for society today, using dialogue between cultures as a theme. This also becomes the subject of Silva’s work, which reflects on loss of knowledge and intergenerational ties. Russell takes on the art of conversion in the quest for beliefs and spiritual heritage. Ideas surrounding the quality of objects, artistic expertise and a frantic slowdown in consumerism are found in diverse and exciting works by Delvoye, El Zein and Carbonell. Finally, Muniz disrupts our many established visual habits, something which is essential for challenging us as viewers and increasing our ability to see. From conversion to mutation, adaptation to metamorphosis, throughout the exhibition themes of change come together in a world that stands on the threshold of a new era.

Dana-Fiona Armour

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Haut und Knochen 2021 | Silicone, PVC, calcium carbonate, pigment, pork gelatin | Courtesy of the artis

Born 1988 in Willich (Germany). Lives and works in Paris.

Dana-Fiona Armor studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, where she graduated in 2019. In an era of bio-editing and object-oriented ontology – a school of thought which rejects human existence’s privilege over non-human objects’ existence –, Armor creates hybridisations between humans and objects. Putting humans and objects on the same plain, she creates hybrids, merging organic elements with the rigid forms found in minimalism and conceptual art. Her work is also characterised by its fusion of medicine, science and art. She has even collaborated with researchers and doctors on some of her projects.

“Equating sculpture to a dissection protocol aimed at establishing a new relationship between the artist’s body and their work, Dana-Fiona Armor practices ‘metabolisation.’ Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that occur in living beings so they can stay alive, reproduce and develop. Armor’s work therefore materializes throughout the body of her art phenomena that occur in other human or non-human living environments. She uses blood, skin, animal organs, as well as synthetic materials interchangeably, because drawing clear boundaries between the ‘natural’ and the ‘artificial’ is no longer possible.” Nicolas Bourriaud

Jean-Charles Blais

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Sur mesure 1997 | Tulle, wool, cotton 65 x 35 x 15 cm | The Florence and Daniel Guerlain Collection

Born 1956 in Nantes. Lives and works in Paris.

Jean-Charles Blais began his career in the 1980s using recycled materials such as newspapers and torn fragments of posters. Using an approach instigated by the New Realists, he transforms public spaces with his numerous in situ creations. As well as experimenting with posters and printed images, Jean-Charles Blais has also worked with fabrics and stitch work.

In 1981 he participated in the“Finir en beauté” exhibition, which was the founding event for the Free Figuration movement in France. In 1987, the Pompidou Centre devoted an exhibition to him. At the end of the 1980s this recognition earned him a commission for the National Assembly metro station. In the early 1990s Blais used new media, as shown here, before expanding his work to also include sculpture.

Another turning point in the artist’s career coincided with his discovery of digital technology which he has developed a passion for. Today, Jean-Charles Blais mainly uses digital images and, since the 2000s, projections of visual works in his exhibitions. With enigmatic shadows and lights that overlap and move in a strange dance, these latest digital works form a logical continuation of his work with the found objects he long turned to in order to deconstruct the traditional medium of painting and reject art fetishism.

Lee Bul

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Perdu XL 2020 | Mother of pearl, acrylic, wood panel on steel frame 226 x 68 x 65 cm | Courtesy Thaddaeus Ropac, London, Paris, Salzburg, Seoul

Born 1964 in Seoul (South Korea). Lives and works in Seoul.

Lee Bul is one of the most radical and internationally recognized figures in Korean contemporary art today. She studied sculpture in Seoul in the late 1980s. At the time, she created street performances wearing monstrouslooking organic shapes that challenged both patriarchal ideals of the female body and its control over public space. Her work then evolved into an interest in biotechnology and contemporary utopian body liberation, notably through the figure of the cyborg.

Her new series, Perdu, mixes biomorphic and cybernetic forms with her lively and delicate drawings from the late 1990s. These seemingly two-dimensional works have a sculptural dimension. By pouring acrylic paint mixed with fragments of mother-of-pearl shells into moulds, Lee Bul creates each design by sanding down the surface to achieve extremely light bas-relief, before then adding colour. Composed of both organic and inorganic materials, the artist’s otherworldly visions feature fragmented futuristic bodies that appear to be captured at different distances and from different points of view. Her anthropomorphic forms are presented as both beautiful and disturbing creatures who appear to have something to say about society’s shortcomings.

Nacho Carbonell

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Table Cocoon 16 (44/2016) 2016 | Metal mesh and frame, cork, silicone cable, light sources 235 x 100 x 80 cm | Courtesy Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Born 1980 in Valencia (Spain). Lives and works in Eindhoven.

Nacho Carbonell graduated with a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from Cardenal Herrera University in Spain in 2003. He then received a second degree with honours from the Design Academy of Eindhoven, the Netherlands in 2007. Known for his tactile approach to sculpture, Carbonell, plays with texture, experimental techniques and natural materials. He sees objects as “living organisms” that come to life and surprise with their behaviour. For Carbonell, establishing a relationship with his work is an integral part of his process. He creates objects with his hands in order to infuse them with his personality. He describes his pieces as “communicative objects that awaken feelings and the imagination... that allow you to escape the everyday”.

Carbonell’s designs are made from locally sourced materials he finds near his studio in Eindhoven.

For his sculptural cocoon lamps, the artist created tree-shaped sculptures held by steel branches and adorned with cocoons. The cocoons are made from a steel mesh covered with his own plaster made using a mixture of sand and textile hardener. The sculptures seem other worldly in composition and invite magical realism in the way they imitate and transcend the natural world.


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Compression 1970 | Compressed insecticide cans 36 x 36 x 20 cm | Courtesy Galerie GP & N Vallois, Paris

Born January 1, 1921, Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône), died December 6, 1998, Paris

In 1960, César witnessed the arrival of the first American industrial compactors to France.“Gigantic devices that swallow an entire car and spits out a tonne of bundled metal.” Fascinated by the power of machine over matter, after attempting to exhibit an entire mountain of compressed cars, César displayed three as independent sculptures.

The scandal it provoked was immediate, as was the rejection that ensued. Only Pierre Restany supported his radical New Realist compression work, praising the unique artist’s protean pieces via his famous «Homo Faber / Homo Ludens» theory.

For several years César’s detractors formed two camps: those who considered his work to be a sham, and those who refused to consider his continued work (until 1965) with welded iron. Yet it was the simultaneity of these practices which he expanded upon in 1966 that made César a unique example of creativity within the history of sculpture.

From 1970 onwards, he developed an entire series of “domestic” compressions with light metal objects such as aerosol cans (as with the mosquito repellent shown here) using the pattern and colours of the compressed objects to play with their outer appearance and create pieces of always the same size.

Céline Cléron

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La Régente 2006 | Fabric, beeswax and honey, acrylic tubes, wood, glass | Sculpture: approximately 35 x 54 x 45 cm | Glass display case: 160.5 x 72 x 61.5 cm | Guerlain House collection, Paris Courtesy Galerie Papillon, Paris

Born 1976 in Poitiers. Lives and works in Paris.

Céline Cléron’s artistic work centres on objects and sculpture that use a multiplicity of materials and supports. She creates hybrid works inspired by everyday objects and their evocative power, the past, the history of art, archaeology, science, animals and life’s cycles.

Her use of animal figures offers a way for the artist to discuss human nature and mankind’s relationship to nature which is based on domination and predation.

Across time and cultures, in art and religion, plants and animals have been used as vectors of metamorphosis. As such, they hold a prominent place in the artist’s work where they form a funny, skilful, strange and dreamlike bestiary.

La Régente was created after she discovered that the word “ruche” (beehive) describes both a bee’s habitat and the honeycombed lace collars that were worn during the Renaissance, also known as “ruche” collars. Over a several month period, Céline Cléron left La Régente inside a beehive for bees to adorn. At the end of the summer of 2006 she then took the sculpture from the beehive now steeped in wax and honey. Here, a connection is forged between humans and animals to create a semi-precious, semi-abhorrent sculpture. By bringing together bees with theatrical costume design, history and nature collide through the image of the Queen and her power, which while natural for bees, is more complex in humans.

Philippe Cognée

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Amarylis rouge 5 2019 | Wax painting on canvas 200 x 200 cm | Courtesy of the artist and Templon, Paris

Born 1957 in Sautron (Loire-Atlantique). Lives and works between Nantes and Paris.

For many years Philippe Cognée seemed obsessed with everyday life. He became known for his paintings of refrigerators and dishwashers which were framed in flush, monochrome-like fashion. His subsequent observations of the world make use of photography, video and Google to create large compositions featuring towers, buildings, supermarkets, roads, desert suburbs and anonymous crowds which border on abstraction. His language speaks through melted wax, which he heats and crushes using an iron before tearing it off with plastic film, resulting in a rich texture and sensuality that sits in stark contrast to the seeming uniformity and bleakness of reality.

By embracing the theme of flowers, Philippe Cognée seems to look to another form of banality. However, his dried and wilted sunflowers, peonies and amaryllises, appear so enlarged and distorted by wax that they become barely recognizable. Meanwhile, his encaustic technique has become increasingly complex. Brushed on, or splattered in drips before being smoothed with an iron in artificial waves, the wax offers a liminality that echoes the in-between nature of flowers that hang between life and death.

Together, his multiple flowers combined with rural landscapes, refer to nature in all its magical mysteriousness, as fragile as it is indomitable. Something perhaps learned from his childhood in Benin.

At a time when the question of decline, both civilizational and environmental, plagues society, Philippe Cognée offers a jubilant and subtle retort with his “poetics of decadence.”

Calixte Dakpogan

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Iy-Sakete 2009 | Plastic, aluminum, copper, glass 40 x 27 x 15 cm | Courtesy Galerie MAGNIN-A, Paris

Born 1958 in Pahaou (Republic of Benin). Lives and works in Porto-Novo, Republic of Benin.

Calixte Dakpogan grew up in the Goukoumé area of Porto-Novo, a district dedicated to Ogun, the iron god worshiped by the Dakpogan family. His ancestor Sagbo Ayato held the envied position of blacksmith at the court of King Toffa in Porto-Novo.

Calixte Dakpogan’s first creations were inspired by the early 19th century Fon statues which many 20th century European artists hailed as emblematic modern figures. During the 1990s he produced works mainly made from recovered metal welded together to create anthropomorphic figures.

In the 2000s, he started to mix salvaged materials with colourful everyday objects and inexpensive jewellery imported from Asia, which when simply and carefully assembled form heads and bodies. Adopting a relevant and timely blend of African and Western culture, his creations abound with talent, humour and history, showcasing contemporary creativity and an astounding inventiveness.

“All my sculptures speak to my country, Benin, my culture and my environment as well as my beliefs and vision of the world.”

Wim Delvoye

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Rimowa Classic Flight Multiwheel 971.52.00.4 2014 | Engraved aluminum 55 x 41 x 27 cm | Courtesy Perrotin

Born 1965 in Wervik (Belgium). Lives and works between Ghent, Belgium, and Brighton, UK.

Wim Delvoye re-appropriates then subverts styles and motifs taken from art history to enhance seemingly innocuous, but unconventional objects and even living subjects.

Known for naturalising pigs which had been tattooed in China and his mechanical reproduction of the digestive system which produced real excrement in exhibition spaces, his highly eclectic and subversive practice employs many expressive mediums, including drawing, sculpture and installations.

Constantly oscillating between opposing universes such as the sacred and the profane, and the local and the global, he uses unexpected hybrid means to sarcastically tackle the many myths that fuel contemporary society – from religion and science to capitalism. Whether re-appropriating Rorschach’s inkblots from psychological tests and turning them into elegant bronze idols, or taking cement mixers and transforming them into neo-Gothic cathedrals made from laser-cut steel, most of his works combine craftsmanship with state-of-the-art technologies.

Throughout his work Wim Delvoye deconstructs our perception of familiar objects. He takes mass market consumer objects such as suitcases and makes them into craft objects, blending the idea of mass production with the meticulous craftmanship of artisans. The ornamental dimension to his work is one of the main ways Wim Delvoye enhances the mundane. His work questions what that separates a worthless object from a prestigious one and what distinguishes popular art from elitist art.

Najla El Zein

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Hay 2014 | Pentelic marble, hay 25 x 22 x 35 cm | Courtesy Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Born 1983 in Beirut (Lebanon). Lives and works between Beirut and Amsterdam.

Najla El Zein’s work explores the relationship between form, function and space. Intrigued by their dialogue with each other, Najla’s pieces explore the importance of an object’s expression in ways that stem from her personal observations and experiences.

A graduate of the Camondo School of product design and interior design, Najla’s work takes up the challenge of transforming a simple idea, object or material into a cosmic experience. Reinterpreting conventional materials by using them in atypical contexts, her creations become intimate experiences.

Influenced by her studies at the Camondo School as well as her years spent in Paris and Rotterdam, Najla El Zein has opened a workspace in Beirut, a city that continues to inspire her with its paradoxical emotions and memories that creep into her work process.

Carved from white Pentelic marble, Hay picks up on the typological image of the brush in a way that invites its viewer to touch and caress it. With each stem carefully chosen to be hand-planted into the stone, the result brings two natural materials together to form one living object.

Philippe Favier

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ST (Pétales de roses) 2009 | Paint, paint on glass, flower petals 45 x 56 x 5 cm | The Florence and Daniel Guerlain Collection, Paris

Born 1957 in Saint-Etienne. Lives and works between Paris, Nice and the Vercors.

Imbued with an imagination informed by photography, cinema and poetry, Philippe Favier’s universe borrows from everyday life and art history alike – from macabre medieval dances to exotic Orientalist representations. His work is created through an ongoing process of collecting objects. Philippe Favier finds old cards, catalogues, photographs and family albums which he embellishes and transforms.

In his early work Favier took cut-outs and highlighted them in acrylic and coloured pencil to create scenes with historical or mythological overtones. To this he soon added the cold enamel techniques that are still apparent in his work today.

His small works seem to go hand in hand with his personality. Hating to leave the house, he creates miniature worlds where everything appears in miniscule form. Plunging the viewer into a barely visible Lilliputian universe, his works require minute attention.

For ST (Pétales de roses), the piece shown, he used a perfumer’s sieve to slip a gold-covered rose petal on to the work to create a mysterious, intimate and unforgettable treasure.

Tomáš Libertiny

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The Honeycomb Amphora I 2020 | Sculpture “Made by bees” and various materials 47 x 42 x 147 cm | Courtesy of the artist

Born 1979 in Slovakia. Lives and works in Rotterdam.

Titled The Honeycomb Amphora, this work was created with the help of a swarm of some 60,000 bees that the artist enlisted to build this complex and intriguing structure by placing it inside the beehive. This tacit agreement between the artist and nature bears witness to Man’s coexistence with the planet and all its incredible alchemy. In ancient Greece amphora served many functions beyond simply preserving food and drink. Some were made for libations, offerings and special celebrations. This piece produced by bees takes its inspiration from Nola amphoras, the Athenian amphoras featuring red figures depicted in war-like rituals and divine scenes from Athenian and Etruscan civilization. The base is made from reclaimed wooden beehives stacked one on top of the other slightly askew. This totem-like base serves as a pedestal and an imaginary altar for the wax artefact to rest on and reflects the meaning of the word relic, “reliquiae”, which according to its Latin etymology means what remains, what is allowed to belong to the past and what is abandoned.

Vik Muniz

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Maïakowski, after Rodchenko (Pictures of Caviar) 2004 | Digital C print Image: 180.5 x 121 cm | Frame: 187 x 128 x 5 cm | Courtesy Galerie Xippas

Born 1961 in São Paulo (Brazil). Lives and works in New York.

Born into a disadvantaged family from São Paulo, it was not from museums but books borrowed from the public library or his high school that Vik Muniz discovered art. Throughout his work Vik Muniz borrows and manipulates images from art history, media and everyday life.

At first glance his work seems unlike photography, and more like that of a magician or virtuoso. Using everyday materials such as chocolate, diamonds, pigment, plasticine and even dust, Muniz transforms any material into a medium. He reconstructs images from memory before photographing them and then discarding the original.

From masterpieces to famous figures, he redesigns and reinterprets everything he sees and touches. While Vik Muniz’s photographs refer to a collective cultural heritage, they also challenge the viewer by playing with perception. While reinforcing our sense of the familiar, Vik Muniz “tricks the eye” and encourages our ability to look at things in a new light: “vision is above all a form of intelligence, and being able to recognise or identify things is a type of comfort.”

Zhuo Qi

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Je suis fatigué 2012 | Porcelain and stoneware | Variable dimensions | Courtesy of the artist

Born 1985 in Fuxin (China). Lives and works in Paris.

Zhuo Qi is originally from China (Fuxin), and regularly travels to Jingdezhen, a city filled with porcelain factories that generate the mountains of debris from which he gets his raw material.

Following studies at Le Mans Beaux-Arts and the Haute École d’Art et de Design in Geneva, he continued researching ceramics at the National School of Art in Limoges, where he experimented using factory furnaces.

Combining Chinese and French expertise, he has developed a technique of his own: a radical and performative use of porcelain as both the material and subject. He transforms traditional ceramic shapes to create affecting, troubling sculptures that are radically foreign to the object’s usual function, which he also collects and restores.

“His Je suis fatigué series of vases experiments with the material’s possibilities, taking it to the extreme. Normally considered failed porcelain, destined to collapse on themselves because the potter had not used enough material or had been too ambitious with the height, the work’s title provokes a smile and a lesson in humility. Yes, they look like the work of a beginner… However, surprisingly it’s by throwing the vases on to the ground as soon as they come of the wheel that the trick of the eye is achieved.” Nathalie Viot

Georgia Russell

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Belief VII 2013 | Cutout paper (Totem) 150 x 60 x 60 cm | Galerie Karsten Greve Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz

Born 1974 in Elgin (Scotland). Lives and works in Méru (France)

Georgia Russell works with surgical precision, borrowing the scalpel from its normal medical function and using it as an artistic tool. To achieve her three-dimensional paper work, she meticulously cuts and scores drawings, journals, photographs and sometimes even entire books, transforming conventional objects into fantastical works of art. She sources her materials from second-hand and antique stores.

Her piece Belief VII is one in a series of totem poles carved from ancient Scottish Bibles that the artist has taken and given new form. Produced in 2013, the work showcases a unique approach to materiality that juxtaposes stunning transformations with the preserved essence of the material. Russell appropriates the printed word in much the same way she did when she first moved to France and was confronted with foreign language. The pages become crisscrossed shreds reminiscent of how deities in indigenous religions cross through many ancestral rites. The aura of the book is enhanced through its transfiguration. By deconstructing and metamorphosing the usual foundations of the book’s materiality, Georgia Russell shares her imagination with the viewer, creating a poetic interaction between art and language.

Lionel Sabatté

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Loup du 02/03/18 2018 | Dust on metal structure 33 x 43 x 25 cm | Courtesy Ceysson & Bénétière

Born 1975 in Toulouse. Lives and works between Paris and Los Angeles.

Sitting at the heart of Lionel Sabatté’s work is life and the way materials change with the passage of time. For several years, the artist has worked with collected materials that hold with them traces of lived experiences, such as dust, ash, charcoal, dead skin and tree stumps. Combining these elements unexpectedly the works carry both a sense of delicateness and a “disturbing strangeness”, giving life to a hybrid bestiary featuring creatures from the abyssal depths as well as small oxidized island birds, bears, wolves, emus, owls and even unicorns. Using painting, drawing and sculpture together, Lionel Sabatté attempts to put his work in permanent interconnected dialogue with each other.

His research on the mineral and the animal gives rise to poetic, sensitive, disruptive works which engage in an overall reflection on the human condition and the place we occupy in the environment. This is demonstrated with La Meute (wolfpack) made from dust which was exhibited at the Museum of Natural History in Paris in 2011 and has become emblematic of his work that considers environmental questions.

Ana Silva

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Enfant 003 2020 | 1960s fabric, embroidery, drawing 203 x 56 cm | Courtesy Galerie MAGNIN-A, Paris

Born 1979 in Calulo (Angola). Lives and works in Lisbon, Portugal.

As a child living in Angola, Ana Silva displayed a healthy appetite for creation. Isolated 20 kilometers from the nearest village, living on the farm where her father grew coffee, she read a lot and, to use her own words, created “weird things”. She subsequently went on to study at the ArCo Higher School in Lisbon. First and foremost Ana Silva expresses her creativity through a plurality of materials.

From canvas and wood, to metal, acrylic and fabric, the materials that surround Ana inform her art. Hunting through the markets of Luanda, she sources raffia bags and placemats which she then applies intricate memory work to.

“I cannot separate my work from my experiences in Angola when access to materials was difficult due the of the war of independence and the civil war.”

Alongside various techniques (sculpture, painting, drawing, installations, collage, oxidized metal), she adds stitch work and pairs lacework with African colours and fabrics. For Ana Silva, art bears witness to her mixed culture.

Her Enfant (Child) series speaks to a youth denied a carefree childhood because of the necessity to go and fetch water for the family. Despite an abundance of water, a lack of infrastructure means many women and children must travel many kilometres every day to get water.

This year, the Guerlain house has commissioned four artists to create a series of original NFT-certified (non-refungible token) digital works, that will be put on sale. The full proceeds from the sale will benefit the Goodplanet Fondation headed by Yann-Arthus Bertrand, and will be used to finance a regenerative agriculture laboratory garden and a 28-hectare biodiversity reserve.


Liu Bolin

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The last warrior 2021 | Photography | Courtesy of the artist

Born 1973 in Shandong Province, eastern China. Lives and works in Beijing.

Liu Bolin is a Chinese artist who mixes performance with photography in the spirit of protest. Bolin first studied at the Shandong Arts Institute, before receiving his master’s degree in sculpture from the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts. To create his work, he often looks to sites filled with the symbols from the Chinese Cultural Revolution, or which speak to the huge changes that have occurred in the country since the fall of the Mao Zedong regime.

After his workshop was demolished in 2005, his work became distinctly more political, taking the form of silent protest against the state. He produced a self-portrait of himself motionless and covered in paint camouflaged amongst the rubble of his studio. Mixing performance with photography, he then embarked on a series called Camouflage. For almost 10 years he has also worked on a series entitled Hiding in the City, which has garnered him worldwide acclaim.

His work is structured around four main themes: politics and censorship, Chinese tradition and culture, consumer society and freedom of the press. For this exhibition Liu Bolin has created a new device using 23 phone cameras. By positioning the camera lens of each phone against the screen of the next, he has created a digital tunnel. As an image passes through this tunnel it becomes transformed to create a new image.

By the end of the experiment the two images appear vastly different, yet they retain the same colours, pixels and metadata. Through this transformative process, Liu Bolin questions our relationship to reality. As technology makes the invisible visible it prompts us to think about perception, the essence of life and images. This exhibition offers him the opportunity to present his experience and compare the two images.

Lauren Moffatt

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Compost VIII 2021 | 4K Video | Courtesy of the artist

Born 1982 in Australia. Lives and works between Valence (Spain) and Berlin (Germany).

Lauren Moffatt is an Australian artist who works with immersive environments and experimental narrative practices. Her work, often presented in hybrid iterative form, explores the paradoxical subjectivity of connected bodies and the blurred boundaries between digital and organic life.

Her Compost series, from which Compost VIII is taken, explores cycles of growth and decay in nature and how different ecosystems are interlinked via human movement and behaviour. These augmented reality works featuring video and virtual photography bring visibility to how processes in the natural world are reflected in our imaginations and the digital environments we inhabit.

For many years Lauren Moffatt has worked with images in space and images with volume. With her Compost series she explores the theme of slowing down and regeneration through video game technologies.

The images presented follow numerous pathways, some made accidentally, some thanks to dialogue with machines.

By creating a type of digital strangeness using effects that combine the sublime with digital flaws, the artist’s work brings disorder and indeterminacy to the living.

Sabrina Ratté

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Florescendi 2021 | 4K Video | Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Charlot

Sabrina Ratté Born 1982 in Canada. Lives and works between Montreal and Marseille.

Sabrina Ratté is a Canadian artist living between Montreal and Marseille. Her work focuses on several explorations of digital imagery via analogue video, 3D animation, photography, printing, sculpture, virtual reality and installations.

Continually integrating new techniques, the themes that run through her work include the psychological influence of architecture, the influence of the digital environment on our perception of the world and the relationship we have with the virtual aspects of our existence.

In 2019 and 2020 she was nominated for the Sobey Prize. Her work has been exhibited at the Laforet Museum (Tokyo), the Pompidou Centre (Paris), the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec (Quebec), the Thoma Foundation (Santa Fe), the PHI Center (Montreal), the Whitney Museum of Art (New York), the Chronus Art Center (Shanghai) and the Museum of the Moving Image (New York).

Inspired by the work of writers Donna J. Haraway, Ursula K. Le Guin and Greg Egan, Florescendi launches viewers into a speculative future, where samples of extinct plant species are preserved and displayed in a virtual archive room.

Using montage and other visual strategies, this archive room is sporadically transformed by the interferences caused by memories that emanate from the plants, and which reveal traces of a past that continues to haunt. Simulating ecosystems that fuse technology and organic matter, Florescendi places the past and the future into the perpetual tension of the present.

Constance Valero

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De Nectar et d’Ambroisie 2021 | Interactive augmented reality experience | Courtesy of the artist

Born December 20, 1997. Lives and works in Paris.

Constance Valero is a 23-year-old artist. Her work centres on ephemeral digital spaces that transport viewers into worlds of wonder. She co-produced Japosta, which was exhibited at the Grand Palais as part of the museum’s Palais Augmenté (Augmented Palace) exhibition in June 2021.

De Nectar et d’Ambroisie is a tribute to the tenacity of living beings. Driven by a desire to create wonderful aesthetic spaces, the work represents the supremacy of organic life and the way insects orchestrate and create grandiose spaces.

The fragility of the structure with its fine lace-like construction, contrasts with its vast detail, reminiscent of the toil and lack of idleness required to produce honey. The work also includes thinking on substance, matter, living things as an object and their reactions. While honey is usually found sheltered inside the hive, here with De Nectar et d’Ambroisie, it is the honey itself that provides the shelter and the reward.

All images: Courtesy of Guerlain

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