Monday, September 3, 2012

Au Louvre, Wim Delvoye

Delvoye himself has (in a brilliantly amusing interview with Art in America) termed his current exhibition at the Louvre "Wim Delvoye for Dummies," but this lack of vocalised respect for the majority of the Louvre's visitors has nonetheless culminated in an intelligent show that manages a difficult task in a difficult setting. 

On until September 17th, Delvoye's combination of the luxurious and the irreverent works remarkably well in the Richelieu Wing.

Au Louvre doesn't include Delvoye's most provocative (and best known) works, which include tattooed pigs and working digestive systems. As much as Delvoye's oeuvre may often shock those with conservative tastes, his pieces at the Louvre relate to art history.

The most impressive, to my eyes, are the gothic pieces. These include a truck in cut steel, spiraling intricate patterns behind, and intricately patterned rubber tyres lying on the floor nearby. It also includes some architectural pieces, including a small, delicate cut steel pavilion (above). The detail is astonishing, and reading that some pieces took Delvoye up to three years isn't surprising.

The climax of this series is Delvoye's own steel cathedral, taller than visitors, with cut out sections and immense levels of detail. I imagine those just going through the Napoleon Apartments might miss this accidentally; it's necessary to follow the signs that mark the continuation of the exhibition. 

There are a range of other pieces in the show, from taxidermied rabbit slippers to crucified Christ figures folded up almost into decorative rings. Many of Delvoye's pieces take the form of 'spun' sculpture, in which the swirling excess of baroque sculpture is taken further, with forms twisted out of recognition. 

Despite Delvoye's iconoclastic reputation, Au Louvre is the sort of show in which almost everybody is likely to find something appealing. The craft involved in the pieces is astonishing, and the end result is both beautiful and witty. This is also likely the first occasion on which a pig has stolen gasps away from Napoleon III's extravagant chandeliers and velvet curtains. 

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