20 dec. 2015 – 12 juin 2016
Andres Serrano was born in New York, 1950, of Honduran and Haitian parentage. His photographs have been shown in some of the world’s most prestigious museums, over the last 30 years. Yvon Lambert was one of the first French art collectors to show an interest in his work and reveal the artist’s strong ties to European culture and ancient art. It is therefore only natural that, since 2006, the Collection Lambert has been supporting many of the artist’s works and exhibitions in both France and on the international scene (Avignon, Paris, Moscow, Vence). Our museum has decided to celebrate this emblematic contemporary photographer in collaboration with the Royal Museum of Fine Art in Belgium who will be presenting a large retrospective of his work in Brussels in March 2016.
This show will open a new chapter in our work together and this will continue into the summer of 2016 with the creation of an entirely new project.
The power of classicism in the service of an artwork deeply connected to its own time
Andres Serrano has always had a fiery reputation and we have resisted any urge to minimise that in this show – it will include many of his most powerful and reputed works. As the German philosopher, Theodor Adorno, said: « Art can only stay alive through its resistance to society ». If Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Courbet or Goya deeply shocked their contemporary societies, they all went on to receive later recognition as geniuses and pioneers in touch with the imperious need to be ahead of their time before achieving true recognition and entering the pantheon of great art; they achieved this through technical prowess or by employing radically new ways that to portray contemporary society and fighting against their societies’ established aesthetic concepts. The history of art only progresses through its troublemakers and non-conformists and this becomes increasingly so when the frontier that separates ancient art from contemporary art ceases to have any reason to exist, and this exhibition is a clear demonstration of this.
If these eminently political works disturb and fascinate us through the power of their representation, like a mirror placed against the modern world – American society in particular – they must also be interpreted using the references which remain eternal to art history: those of classical art, notably the baroque. There are two methods which must be kept in mind to understand the incredible consistency of these photographic works.
On one hand, we see revealed the disturbing face of an America which, as it enters the third millennium, shows itself to the rest of the world in an even more conservative, radical and sectarian light than we ever imagined it could – fortunately these days it tries to present itself with an image which tries to display a more peaceful and reconciliatory attitude towards the rest of the world. On the other hand, we see the confirmation of the artist’s very attraction to the great masters of the past, yet Serrano retains only their darkest side (bringing to mind Titian, Delacroix, Tintoretto, Velásquez and even Goya, El Greco, Zurbarán, Gericault or Courbet).
This show includes some older series, such as Fluids, Nomads, Church, Ku Klux Klan (try to imagine this black artist as he finds himself in front of his lens alongside whites who have vowed to exterminate all representatives of African American), Objects of Desire (where firearms are given a disturbing « still life » treatment), Morgue or Comédie Française (produced for the Lambert Collection in 2007), and the most recent, produced in Cuba after the death of his mother, showing his desire to finally get closer to his origins as a descendent of the slaves from Haiti and Cuba for whom Christian passion has always been associated with voodoo traditions. Finally the most recent series produced in the Matisse Chapel, Vence, provides an echo to his series for the Sainte-Clotilde Basilica in Paris over twenty years ago.
The whole ground floor of the museum will be dedicated to this show; the basement level will be reserved for an adult public, where Andres Serrano will present three series as if they were chapters from Dante’s Inferno.