From Charleville to Paris, from Naples to Algiers, from Nice to Soweto, and from Santiago to Ramallah, Ernest Pignon-Ernest has been transforming the world’s streets into pop-up works of art since 1966. This unique approach succeeds in attaining a rare balance of activism without concession or denial, and incredibly rigorous artistic expression. Some of his pieces, and particularly the gunned-down figures of the Commune or his wandering Rimbaud, printed in thousands of copies, have become veritable icons of our modern times. In 1995, the MAMAC put on a major exhibition of the artist’s work in the streets of Naples. Twenty one years after this event, the institution is back with a fresh look at the Nice surveyor’s unusual life story in a museum-like first-time retrospective combined with a site-specific project, «Raptures», on display at the Saint-Pons Abbey.
Designed by the artist himself, this retrospective is based on hundreds of documents and works of art, offering visitors the opportunity to explore a work process. The retrospective covers an exceptional life path, a creative process that glorifies memory, myth, poetry, revolt and larger-than-life characters, while keeping visitors on their toes. These images and documents interact with the museum’s architecture and inspire a sense of urban exploration through the effects of perspective and correspondence they exude. Offering up a glimpse of the artist’s political and social interests alongside his artistic standards and relationship with art history and the great artists who came before him, the exhibition is a snapshot of Ernest Pignon-Ernest’s ethical and aesthetic choices.
Rébecca François, conservation officer in MAMAC