I had never been to the Van Gogh Foundation despite growing up in this culturally-rich city, so I took the opportunity to be holidaying in the South of France to go. I was really happy to have the chance to visit three strong exhibitions presented until 20 September 2015: Van Gogh Drawings: Influences and Innovations, Roni Horn: Butterfly to Oblivion and Tabaimo: Aitaisei-Josei.
Van Gogh Drawings: Influences and Innovations brings together around fifty drawings by the Dutch artist, in dialogue with rare works by masters such as Rembrandt and Dürer. Van Gogh admired these artists and this inspiration is deeply reflected through the selection of works on view. He always felt that drawing was the essential start before applying paint on a canvas.
Butterfly to Oblivion featured new works by the American artist Roni Horn who recently had a comparable exhibition at Hauser&Wirth in London. A few of the artist’s landmark glass sculptures were on display and it’s always amazing to spend time “diving” into them. Large-scale drawings and photographs were also on display. The process to make these works is interesting: Horn cuts and reassembles the pieces to design images infused with both tension and unity. The exhibition also features works from her most recent Hack Wit series, in which idiomatic phrases are deconstructed and rearranged to form new poetic and graphic patterns. In a way, she takes inspiration from the “cadavre exquis” method to come up with new meanings. This series cleverly dialogues with Van Gogh’s painting Piles de Romans français, from 1887, the only oil on canvas showcased in one of the most beautiful rooms of the foundations, covered with wood and which contrasts with the concrete of the building.
A bit of history on the building tells us that the work on the Hôtel Léautaud de Donines was initiated with the idea of achieving an architecturally sensitive but potent intervention in a sector classified as a UNESCO world heritage site. Originally constructed in the 15th century as a fortified private residence in 1924 the mansion was turned into the offices of the Banque de France. It is now a whole new space! The Arles’ light that captivated Van Gogh provides the narrative thread running through the design concept by architects Guillaume Avenard and Hervé Schneider of the local architectural agency FLUOR.
Lastly, on view are works by the Japanese artist Tabaimo who takes inspiration from the linear beauty of Japanese prints recalling Hiroshige’s print, earlier on view in Van Gogh Drawings. When Van Gogh moved to Paris in 1886 he was introduced to impressionism and also explored Japonism so it made sense to establish a dialogue with a contemporary Japanese artist.