22 May 2021 - 17 January 2022
Presented in the Rotonda, in the monumental heart of the Bourse de Commerce, the most famous installation by Swiss artist Urs Fischer, Untitled (2011), is shown here for the first time in France. Fischer has redesigned it to suit the scale of the space: a "public square" covered with a dome, reaching almost 40 metres in height.
Composed of wax sculptures, Untitled (2011) is a group of monumental candles lit on the first day of the exhibition. It is a life-size replica of a famous sculpture from the Mannerist period: Giambologna's The Abduction of the Sabine Women (1579-1582). Here, we see an effigy of artist Rudolf Stingel (Urs Fischer's friend and peer) contemplating seven different chairs (ranging from an African stool to a banal plastic chair or an airline seat).
The large sculpted group rests on a plinth inspired by those found in Italian public squares. All of the seats dialogue with the iconography of the large marouflaged canvas on the dome above. Symbols of contemporary globalization, they respond to the representations of inter-continental commerce and trade in the late 19th century, marked by the colonial ideology and popular culture of the time. Four of the chairs are models chosen by the artist from the collections of the Musée du Quai Branly: Jacques Chirac: a Mandé seat from Mali, an Ashanti chair from Ghana, a Bwa seat from Burkina Faso, and an Oromo chair from Ethiopia, while the airplane seats and garden chair, on the other hand, evoke travel and the standardization of our contemporary world.
Before being lit, this ensemble of candles encapsulates mastery, realism, verticality, and virtuosity but over the course of the exhibition, as the candles burn, these values are inverted by the workings of chance and entropy: the sculpture becomes informal, even formless. The wax liquefies, and that which seemed perennial and genuine, turns out to be fragile and fictitious. Untitled lasts as long as the wicks of the candles continue to burn, images of a fiery beauty, even in their futility. While the ensemble is inscribed with an unusual plastic force in the tradition of the memento mori, it does not only foster a sense of melancholy. Initially whole, then gradually disintegrating or trickling away, the work, despite its transformation, continues to enchant the space and the viewer. The installation is a monument to impermanence, transformation, the passage of time, metamorphosis, and creative destruction.