Critics’ Picks

View of “Second Hand,” 2010. Center: Mike Bildo, NOT Picasso (Girl with cock, 1938), 1987.

View of “Second Hand,” 2010. Center: Mike Bildo, NOT Picasso (Girl with cock, 1938), 1987.


“Second Hand”

Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris
11 avenue du Président Wilson
March 25–October 24, 2010

“Second Hand” brings together works loaned and pulled from the museum’s storage, works made from 1960 to the present by a range of international artists on the theme of copy and imitation. The special dynamism of this show results from the curatorial strategy of “infiltration”: The “Second Hand” works are scattered among the permanent collection, which is a survey of major twentieth-century movements. So, for example, between oil paintings by Pablo Picasso and Robert Delaunay hangs an imposter: Ernest T.’s Le Voleur de femme (The Female Thief), 2002, looks at first glance like a typical naive turn-of-the-last-century jungle scene by Henri Rousseau, but is in fact part of a series in which the artist imagines lost or missing Rousseau paintings based on their documented titles. The playful interspersing of the “look-alikes”––which are identifiable by a little sticker next to each work—makes the spectator hyperaware of copy and originality in the “genuine” masterpieces of the permanent collection.

One sees pastiche and forgery (a faux Modigliani by legendary forger Elmyr de Hory), reconstruction and re-mediation (André Raffray’s colored-pencil renderings of works in oil and collage), sly critique and sincere tribute (Glenn Brown’s recent sculptural work in oil paint is shown alongside the stuccolike Eugene Leroy canvases that influenced his technique). Artists such as Sherrie Levine, Mike Bidlo, and Sturtevant who are known for consistent practices of re-representing famous works from the modern canon make repeat appearances. (“Second Hand” curator Anne Dressen also curated Sturtevant’s solo show here earlier this year.) But far from relying on these familiar examples, the exhibition draws attention to the seemingly infinite permutations of its theme as method and to the theme’s continuing salience to contemporary artists as much in East Asia as in the West.