Jean-Michel Othoniel at Albertine Books
On Thursday, September 10, 2015, Cultural Counselor Bénédicte de Montlaur delivered the following remarks before a discussion between celebrated French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel and Met Museum Curator of Decorative Arts Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide. The artist and curator discussed a beautiful new catalogue on artist Jean-Michel Othoniel’s new fountain sculpture in the gardens of Versailles: Les Belles Danses, Versailles: Dans Le Bosquet du Théâtre d’eau redessiné par Louis Benech. The event was held at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and at the reading room and bookshop, Albertine, in New York.
Good evening everyone. As the Cultural Counselor for the French Embassy, I am very pleased to welcome artist Jean-Michel Othoniel and curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide to celebrate the beautiful new catalogue on artist Jean-Michel Othoniel’s new fountain sculpture in the gardens of Versailles, Les Belles Danses.
All of us here tonight are gathered for a common reason: we love visual arts. I think it is safe to say that Versailles makes us dream, as it has been doing since the 17th century. It is very timely that we have this event on Versailles tonight, as it coincides with the 300th anniversary of the reign of Louis XIV. Celebrations are happening all over France, especially in Versailles, which is an important landmark and the 3rd most visited tourist destination after the Louvre and Eiffel Tower.
I want to thank Emmanuel Perrotin of Galerie Perrotin, Peggy Leboeuf and Daniel Samba who helped us organize this event, as well as Rima Abdul-Malak and Dorothée Charles, who also worked hard on the event.
Jean-Michel Othoniel is an influential French artist who uses diverse materials and old world artisanal techniques whose current project responds to the court of Louis XIV. He investigates both the ntimate and the monumental; the body, movement, and choreography. He is a unique artist who works closely with highly specialized artisans, and he frequently experiments with materials such as wax, sulfur, or glass. His most iconic work is undoubtedly the Palais Royal metro station entrance in Paris, called the Kiosque des Noctambules, created in 2000 at Place Colette. The station has become a landmark, created with metal, aluminum, and Murano glass.
His work has been exhibited at prestigious institutions around the world including the Fondation Cartier, Centre Pompidou, and here at the Brooklyn Museum. In the past few years alone, his sculptures have been in Miami, to Columbus, Savanah, and this fall in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. As Cultural Counselor, traveling around the US, you can’t miss his work.
Most recently, his work was exhibited in the US at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston—the show was really extraordinary and included a great short film on the sculpture that we are discussing tonight. While Othoniel was in Boston, he discovered a very rare book on choreographer Raoul-Auger Feuillet, dance master for the court of King Louis XIV. So there is a very strong link between the U.S. and Jean-Michel Othoniel’s work.
This installation marks a groundbreaking moment for Versailles, but is also a part of the history of artistry at the Palace. Versailles has a tradition of fostering artistic creation that dates back to the court of Louis XIV. Under the direction of Jean-Jacques Aillagon and then Catherine Pégard, in recent years, Versailles has commissioned numerous works by contemporary artists such as Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, and Xavier Veilhan. Their goal was to renew the great tradition of Versailles as a center for contemporary art. However, Jean-Michel Othoniel’s sculpture is the first permanent, site-specific installation to grace the gardens of the Palace in over three centuries.
The artist got this opportunity because he won an international competition for a commission to revitalize the Water Theatre Grove along with landscape designer Louis Benech.
We are fortunate to have Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide with us tonight to illuminate how this project inscribes itself into the history of the Palace. Daniëlle is a Curator of Decorative Arts at the Met, currently studying 18th century Versailles for 2017 Met exhibition. She is responsible for the French, English, and Dutch furniture collections and the French period rooms, at the Met—our neighbors—just across the street. She has lectured and written extensively on various aspects of European decorative arts and was the co-curator of an exhibition at Bard Graduate Center on the origins of French decorative arts at the Met.
Daniëlle is currently preparing an upcoming exhibition called “Visitors to Versailles, 1682–1789” that will explore the rich history of artistic production during the rule of “Le Roi Soleil,” Louis XIV, and the many distinguished visitors that came to the Palace at the time.
We will now hear from these two exceptional minds, as they discuss the numerous echoes between the period of Louis XIV and Othoniel's work and how they reverberate today. I hope that you will all enjoy this evening with Versailles, its gardens, and its history.
Watch the conversation with Jean-Michel Othoniel and Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide here.