Meredith Martin

  • Hôtel de la Marine, Paris. Photo: Frédéric Soltan/Getty Images.
    slant September 22, 2021

    Loose Threads

    THIS SUMMER IN PARIS, two museums installed versions of the same artworks—eighteenth-century French tapestries from a royal series known as the “Nouvelles Indes” (New Indies)—to tell very different stories about European legacies of race, slavery, and colonialism. One version hangs in the lavish period rooms of the new Hôtel de la Marine in the Place de la Concorde, while another was part of an exhibition devoted to the forty-two-year-old Congolese artist Sammy Baloji at the École des Beaux-Arts. Despite the fact that both sets of hangings came from the Mobilier National and were on view only

  • Jean-Jacques Lequeu, Il tire la langue (He Sticks Out His Tongue), 1777–1825, pen, ink, and wash on paper, 13 5⁄8 × 9 1⁄4".


    IN JULY 1825, eight months before his death, the French architect Jean-Jacques Lequeu donated several hundred of his meticulous pen-and-wash drawings to the Bibliothèque Royale in Paris (now the Bibliothèque Nationale de France). Representing more than four decades of work, and spanning the fall of the Bourbon monarchy, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic era, and the Restoration, Lequeu’s corpus reveals a maximalist artistic vision unlike any other. Made in near-total isolation in a cramped Parisian bachelor pad furnished with little more than a table and chair, a mattress, and a lone coffeepot,

  • Pablo Bronstein, Red Objects in a Museum Interior, 2012, ink and watercolor on paper, 43 1/8 x 49".

    Pablo Bronstein

    In this survey of Bronstein’s architectural drawings, expect a broad range of the London-based Argentinian artist’s whimsical, mashed-up re-creations of grandiose Baroque palaces and piazzas, ornate Rococo interiors, Georgian town houses, and postmodernist cityscapes, all channeling the work of such visionary designers as Filippo Juvarra and Jean-Jacques Lequeu. Also encompassing installation and performance, Bronstein’s practice suggests the power of architecture to dictate human behavior and transform our experience of the social. It is therefore fitting that this

  • Takashi Murakami, Superflat Flowers, 2010, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, carbon fiber, steel, acrylic. Installation view, Château de Versailles, France. Photo: Cédric Delsaux. All works by Takashi Murakami: © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd. All rights reserved.

    contemporary art at Versailles

    DISPLAYING CONTEMPORARY ART at historic sites has become a widespread trend, one that reached a new high (or low) last November, when Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull began its five-month run at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Yet despite Hirst’s talent for grabbing headlines, his installation has been eclipsed by debates surrounding the recent exhibition of twenty-two works by Takashi Murakami at the Château de Versailles. Shortly after the September opening of the show, members of the former French royal family, backed by a right-wing organization called the Coordination Défense de

  • the Rococo

    AROUND 1720, the French artist Jean-Antoine Watteau painted a signboard for his dealer’s shop that depicted an idealized view of the gallery on Paris’s Pont Notre-Dame. Downplaying its commercial status, Watteau portrayed the shop as a setting for elite sociability, while heralding the new aesthetics of the Rococo, then known as le style moderne. At the signboard’s right, a trio of elegant customers ignore the old-master paintings on the walls and politely converse with a gallery assistant about a gilded table mirror and other objets d’art. Behind them, two visitors, one a man and the other a

  • Meredith Martin on Jean-Baptiste Oudry

    BEFORE BARBARO or Dolly the cloned sheep, there was Clara, an Indian rhinoceros who reigned as the biggest celebrity animal in mid-eighteenth-century Europe. Escorted by her Dutch owner, Clara toured the continent between 1741 and 1758, enchanting kings, commoners, and artists alike due to her exotic pedigree, surprisingly docile nature, and ability to slake an Enlightenment thirst for firsthand observation, in this case of an animal that had not been seen in Europe in nearly two hundred years.

    During a 1749 engagement at Paris’s Saint Germain fair, an annual Dionysian event improbably held during