Critics’ Picks

View of “Takeshi Kitano,” 2010.

View of “Takeshi Kitano,” 2010.


Takeshi Kitano

Fondation Cartier Pour l'Art Contemporain
261 boulevard Raspail
March 11–September 12, 2010

Takeshi Kitano, well known as the director of art-house films like Sonatine (1993) and Fireworks (1997), and additionally famous in Japan as actor, writer, and television personality, insisted that his first retrospective be addressed to children. His slapstick aesthetic presides over the top-floor carnival, which includes a giant steam engine whose sole purpose is to power the needle stitching a little band of cloth, and a glass case displaying seventeen machine-animal hybrids, such as a firefly on skis destined for use by the Japanese army. But along with these gags and their deeper digs at industrialization, warfare, and pedagogy, Kitano stages a relationship to artmaking in general that uses kid-friendliness as a deliberate shield: He paints his portrait in a stereotypical artist’s beret, and he pokes fun at modernist heroism with Monsieur Pollock, 2010, a battery-operated ball that shoots paint at random as it rolls around on a blank canvas. The exhibition’s title, “Gosse de peintre,” means either “painter’s kid” (Kitano’s father was a housepainter) or “kidlike painter,” which describes the style of twenty-four paintings, made between 2008 and 2009, that depict couples and recurring animals in kindergarten colors with dots for eyes, dinghies for mouths. To underline the paintings’ amateur status, they abut a room marked “The real work of Takeshi Kitano,” where his antic Japanese television shows loop. The clips progress from Kitano as self-debasing clown (prancing in costume to canned laughter) to sinister orchestrator––his contestants scream in terror, launched through fire or caged with a crocodile, as he looks on with a fixed, childlike smile.