Francis Alÿs is known for his discreet performative solo actions as well as for coordinating large-scale collective allegorical events. In Le temps du sommeil, the centerpiece of this exhibition, he presents a work whose subtlety and inscrutable quality make it a paradigmatic example of his oeuvre at large.
“Le temps du sommeil” (1996–) is a series of 111 paintings created over the course of two decades. They are deliberately unfinished: Alÿs occasionally alters or even overpaints individual panels—a stamp visible on the painting notes the date of each new intervention. They depict miniature scenes and often look like snapshots of simple gestures and activities that, upon closer inspection, appear to be fairly absurd. A man in a gray suit is the protagonist in many of these tableaux, sometimes joined by other actors in similar outfits, while a few pictures also feature a woman, often in a red dress.