PRINT January 2002

World Report

Palais de Tokyo and Le Plateau

Enfin. On January 19, the long-anticipated Palais de Tokyo opens its doors as the world’s first art center to welcome visitors “from midday to midnight.” Located in the building adjacent to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Palais is not just a late-night haven but “a site for contemporary creation”—literally. Complete with its own artist-in-residence program, it is described by directors Nicolas Bourriaud and Jérôme Sans as an interdisciplinary laboratory in tune with emerging global and local cultures. Architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, inspired by the Djemaa el-Fna square in Marrakech, have created bazaarlike open spaces where visitors, artists, and artworks can mingle freely.

Not surprisingly, the opening program reflects this diversity and plenitude. In addition to a themeless international exhibition featuring twenty artists, from Virginie Barré to Jun’ya Yamaide, there are solo shows by Mélik Ohanian, Navin Rawanchaikul, Monica Bonvicini, and Meschac Gaba, who brings his “Musée d’Art Contemporain Africain” to Le Salon, one of the Palais’s many projects. Another, Le Stand, will be temporarily taken over by the editorial team of the journal +3301, while La Plateforme offers an open forum for the local Parisian art scene. There’s also a line of artist-generated productions: Tokyo TV, Tokyo Book, Tokyo Web, and Tokyorama (artist-guided activities).

If the Palais were not exhilarating enough, on the same weekend Paris welcomes another site for contemporary art—Le Plateau, which inaugurates its space in the Nineteenth Arrondissement, far from the city’s museum clusters. Exemplary of a recent surge in grassroots arts organizing in France, Le Plateau is the product of a six-year struggle between inhabitants of the neighborhood surrounding the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont and a powerful real estate firm that tried to transform nearby abandoned television studios into luxury apartments. Led by artist Éric Corne, the association Vivre aux Buttes-Chaumont succeeded not only in stopping the original development project but also in radically expanding its function. For the coming year, Corne and Bernard Goy, director of Paris’s FRAC (Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain), will preside over Le Plateau’s 6,400-square-foot exhibition space, which will feature contemporary projects as well as selections from FRAC.

Given Le Plateau’s populist origins, the opening events, from January 17 to 20, promise to bring together both local riverains and art insiders for videos and performance by Fiorenza Menini, drawings by Frédéric Bruly-Bouabré, and a variety of experimental films. Spirit-muse Robert Filliou provides not only the center’s slogan—“L’art est ce qui rend la vie plus intéressante que l’art” (Art is that which makes life more interesting than art)—but also the departure point for its first international group exhibition “Premiers mouvements,” which runs from March 7 to June 1.

Jennifer Allen is an art critic based in Berlin.