Critics’ Picks

Saâdane Afif, Stratégie de l’inquiétude (Strategy of Unrest), 1998, wood, resin, paint, 59 x 118 x 118”.

Saâdane Afif, Stratégie de l’inquiétude (Strategy of Unrest), 1998, wood, resin, paint, 59 x 118 x 118”.

Monaco

La Carte d’Après Nature

Nouveau Musée National de Monaco | Villa Paloma
56 boulevard du Jardin Exotique
September 18–February 22, 2010

At the entrance to the belle epoque Villa Paloma, newly christened the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, a vinyl seven-inch record twirls, emitting sounds recorded on site by Swedish artist Henrik Håkansson—fragile, chaotic birdsong, occasionally drowned out by the engine of a distant sports car: After all, it’s Monaco. The leisure kingdom of less than a mile square provides contextualizing dualities—artifice and nature, luxury and humility—for this major, four-story inaugural exhibition curated by photographer Thomas Demand. Demand’s own large-scale C-prints cloak the artificial in the self-evidence of photography: The lush green forest in Lichtung, 2003, is an elaborate paper and cardboard set, built, photographed, and destroyed. In many ways the show’s central figure is another photographer, Luigi Ghirri, long cherished by artists, whose color landscape series makes the ordinary strange. His images on view, displayed in viewfinder frames contributed by Demand, include a white wooden chair in a forest clearing in Vienna, 1984, and works from Ghirri’s career-long behavioral catalogue of potted plants imbued with eerie volition, like a rosebush pouting behind a gate in Modena, 1973. Strangeness is the link here between nature and its representations—see Saâdane Afif’s wooden table-size model of a wave, Stratégie de l’inquiétude (Strategy of Unrest), 1998, or Ger van Elk’s The Well-Shaven Cactus, 1970, a video of, yes, a cactus being shaved. Magritte’s La Carte d’après nature (The Map After Nature), a collaborative journal in postcard form published from 1951 to 1965, inspires the show’s tone and title, while also informing Demand’s curatorial approach for this exhibition, in which an artist solicits work but also intervenes.