After a year of absence Monumenta is back this year at the Grand Palais in Paris. This time they invited the Russian born couple Kabakov, who now live in the US. You first see a huge coloured cupola emitting organ like music, that gives the feel of a huge organ in a church like place, that teams beautifully with the architecture of le Grand Palais. It is this interaction, between the huge monumental space of le Grand Palais and the preferably larger than life installations of the artist that forms the attraction and success of Monumenta. In contrast the rest of the installation looks a bit disappointing at first, especially in the space provided.
Luckily the interior of the different rooms that make the Strange City the Kabakov’s erected, make up for the sting of disappointment many will feel when entering the area. The rooms do ask for some effort from the viewer to be drawn into the imaginary world the Kabakov’s created. And the fantastic aspect of the installation is also the weakness of the work. If the viewer is not capable or willing to use his imagination much of the message and wonder will be lost. There is also humor in some aspects of the work, you hear many people grinning when reading the manual on how to become an angel. (physically-mentally) I especially loved the room where the person tries to get in contact with his guardian angel. The installation in the middle is wonderful and makes you dream. I also liked the room with the huge paintings by Ilya. But there was little relationship with the rest of the installation.
Visiting Monumenta is as always a fun adventure of discovery, and I enjoyed the works an sich, but missed the communication of the installation with the monumental building provided to the artists. A missed chance, why didn’t they instead of making the scale models, work out one of the installation of the models in a larger than life scale filling the huge space provided? Like the model where the person tries to meet his angel? (but who am I..)
You can combine your visit with the retrospective exhibition on Mapplethorpe that also runs at le Grand Palais at the moment. If you like photography and are not to easily put of my more explicit images, this is an exhibition for you. You might think some images are pornographic but they are not erotic at all. They are just very well made, and in this age of digital photography and photoshop, many younger people might be completely ignorant of the difficult process of making this kind of perfect images at that time. Photography was real workmanship in the eighties, with hours spent in a black room, with a lot of trial and error to come to the perfect result. His way of taking pictures of people that are as much art as the statues of Michelangelo and Rodin he tries to emulate are a wonder to look at. You can do some star gazing too, because he portrayed many of the more famous on this earth. And if you then have some time to burn, visit the Musée Rodin, which is always a delight to visit, especially the gardens, but where now also runs an exhibition on Rodin-Mapplethorpe, with many photographs that you also find in le Grand Palais, but the interaction with some beautiful statues of Rodin is very intriguing and maybe even more interesting than the photographs alone in le Grand Palais. So if you are not visiting Monumenta, it might be a good idea to just visit the Musée Rodin and see Rodin and Mapplethorpe at the same time.