For its first 2016 exhibition, the Espace culturel Louis Vuitton München is presents “Les Approches” showcasing the artistic positions of the Belgian-born experimental filmmaker Chantal Akerman and the French visual artist Annette Messager. Programmed and produced under the artistic direction of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the exhibition is part of the Fondation’s Hors-les-murs project, introducing previously unseen holdings of its collection at the Espaces culturels Louis Vuitton in Munich, Venice, Beijing, and Tokyo, thus carrying out its intent to realize international initiatives and make them accessible to a broad public.
Les Approches examines existential and autobiographical elements that form a common thread in the artists’ oeuvres, including their mutual quest to both improve representations of women and the position of female artists in the broader critical context of the visual arts since the 1970s.
The ground-floor gallery is devoted to Akerman’s double-screen video projection Femmes d’Anvers en Novembre (Women from Antwerp in November, 2008). It is a visual homage to a woman smoking: a banal quotidian activity and a leitmotif of Akerman’s forty-year artistic practice. Posing the thorny question of women’s ultimate freedom over their bodies, the work is an evocative meditation on borders and boundaries, fiction and narrative, and the intersection of personal history and collective memory. Its rich, painterly atmosphere references French and American film noir, in which cinematography is sometimes prioritized over plot and narrative. The piece exemplifies Akerman’s pioneering work in merging the worlds of cinema and the visual arts through video installation.
The upper gallery presents six works by Messager. Ma collection de proverbes (2012) showcases 13 cliché and demeaning statements about women, conceived as embroideries contained in entomological display cases. The work is both provocative and humorous, combining the quintessentially feminine medium of needlework with a zoological display system, thereby questioning the status of the sewn proclamations as fact or fiction. The exhibition’s namesake work, Les Approches (1973), is an artist’s book emerging from archival explorations. It contains a collection of black-and-white photographs of male attitudes, organized into categories. Mémoire-Robots (2015) juxtaposes the two words of its title. The black veil covering the first term suggests intimate, remembered moments, deeply interwoven in the nets of our lives. The second term is presented in colourful, plush, toylike letters, making the idea of machines without a past, with the power to replace humans, seem deceptively innocuous. These are complemented by three of Messager’s signature sculptures made from marionette puppets, masks, tutus, and other fabrics and found objects, which generate an atmosphere of disquiet, macabre humour, reversed identities, and existential upheaval.
Les Approches is the first of two exhibitions scheduled to take place at the Espace culturel Louis Vuitton München in 2016 to celebrate female artistic ingenuity.
- Chantal Akerman, Women from Antwerp in November (Femmes d'Anvers en Novembre), 2007 © the artist, Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery,
- Annette Messager, Les Approches, 1973. Courtesy the artist and Fondation Louis Vuitton.