The show explores an issue inherent to the history of art : the copy as the basis of artistic apprenticeship and as a constant of artistic creation. In the sixties and seventies, various artists challenged the definitions of authorship and originality within an economy of mass production. Adopting a conceptual approach ( Art & Language, Olivier Mosset ), they created works identical to the originals, which would come to embody postmodernism and, in particular, “ appropriationism ” in the eighties.
Seconde main dares to display side by side these “reproductions” with the museum’s originals. Thus, a Picasso from the museum’s collection is juxtaposed with appropriationnist Mike Bidlo’s Not Picasso. In addition, a “ look - alike ” may also represent an original : Sherrie Levine’s historical series After Walker Evans allows the presentation of Walker Evans by proxy (both artists are absent from the permanent collection). Finally, this hanging provides the opportunity to highlight the differences between these apparently similar practices. Indeed, many artists have reproduced and reinterpreted the same artists, such as Duchamp or Warhol – who were the first to separate the question of authenticity from that of originality. These works, which at first glance may seem identical, are often fundamentally different ( General Idea, Gavin Turk ).
In the context of the globalized art market, today’s artists are expanding upon these practices to include having their works produced in China or delegating their production to artisans ( Jonathan Monk, Zheng Guogu ). Furthermore, various strategies of originality ( unlike the work of forgers ) reveal the formal differences from one copy to another : such as the choice of the work, the title, the technical medium, the scale ( Maurizio Cattelan, Richard Pettibone ), the presence or absence of a signature ( Karina Bisch ). These distinctions, therefore, facilitate the emergence of the second “ I ” or “ author, ” whether individual or collective, who is gradually recognized and integrated into the history of art.
The artworks from the museum’s collection are thus confronted to works that have been borrowed especially for Seconde main as well as pieces brought from storage for the occasion, some of which had formerly been attributed to a major artist. The exhibition Seconde main proposes to thwart the public’s expectations and habits regarding attribution, chronology and relations of filiation. Visitors are invited to take a critical look at what they see and to associate different generations of artists, like so many veiled anachronisms ( for example, Kasimir Malevich reappearing in Belgrade in 1985 ).
Seconde main raises the question of the always significant choice of
reproductions and their contexts, whether it be former Eastern Europe or in a more international context ( like Braco Dimitrijevic’s drippings ) ; or the West ( as in France with André Raffray, Ernest T or Richard Baquié engaging with Duchamp or Picabia ) , the United-States ( mainly offering replicas of European avant-garde immigrants or Pop Art ) ; as well as Asia, where the relationship to fakes and copies is historically and culturally quite different ( for example, the Chinese Yang Zhenzhong printing out a Cindy Sherman photograph found on the Internet, or Gabriele di Matteo commissioning Italian artisans to do replicas of best-selling contemporary Chinese paintings, in a nearly perfect jeu de miroir) .
If originality – in the sense of singularity – and copy can coexist, thereby blurring boundaries and identities, these artists are often driven by a variety of motives. Their practices can be punctual or regular, subtle or obvious. Whether disrupting the linearity of official Western art history discourse or disturbing the often blind and amnesiac way it operates, these postures can be viewed as philosophical and political stands ( against the male hegemony of the art world or as critical of the art market mechanisms based on the signature, for example ). Rather than “ art for art’s sake, ” this “ art about art ” – far from being decadent, or incestuous – engages with appropriation as camouflage and potential resistance (i .e. Claire Fontaine’s concept of the readymade artist ). The issue of diffusion ( Pierre Leguillon ) may be regarded as a guarantee of posterity ( according to Bruno Latour’s theories ) as much as the death sentence of the sacrosanct idea of unicity.
In the age of reproduction, no longer mechanical but digital, artists are increasingly turning to the idea of regeneration by way of distant and witty citation ( Yann Sérandour, Olivier Babin ), between erudition and free reactivation. The exhibition thus instigates a reflection on the history of a collection and its gaps, the fantasized idea of an ideal or “ complete ” set of works ( sometimes thanks to the reconstitution of a lost work by Clément Rodzielski ), revealing the ups and downs of attributions and authenticity, the fluctuating character of catalogues raisonnés. This alternative history of art elicits a reexamination of our values and criteria of judgment.
Unexpected and surprising, this treasure hunt leads the visitor through a deliberately astounding thought process aimed at deconstructing the idea of a necessarily “ pale ” copy. Seconde main offers the opportunity to address the issues surrounding the copy, and to a certain extent the fake and forgery – one of the most fascinating and taboo topics in the history of art, in contrast to the more widely accepted practices of the cinematic remake or the interpretation of a musical score.
Mathieu Klebeye Abonnenc, Saâdane Afif, Art & Language, Olivier Babin, Fayçal Baghriche, Richard Baquié, Mike Bidlo, Karina Bisch, Pierre Bismuth, Glenn Brown, Maurizio Cattelan, Nicolas Chardon, Braco Dimitrijevic, Eric Doeringer, Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, Elmyr De Hory, Jean-Olivier Hucleux, General Idea, Pascal Goblot, Bertrand Lavier, Lefevre Jean Claude, Pierre Leguillon, Guillaume Leingre, Thomas Lélu & Jean-Max Colard, Alexandre Lenoir, Real Lessard, Sherrie Levine, Kasimir Malevitch, Sophie Matisse, Gabriele Di Matteo, Philippe Mayaux, Mathieu Mercier, Jonathan Monk, Olivier Mosset, Simon Nicaise, Hugo Pernet, Richard Pettibone, André Raffray, Clément Rodzielski, Tom Sachs, Yann Sérandour, Reena Spaulings, Claire Fontaine & Bernadette Corporation, Sturtevant, Ernest T., Philip Taaffe, Mario Garcia Torres, Gavin Turk, Yang Zhenzhong, Raphaël Zarka, Zheng Guogu
Curator general: Fabrice Hergott
Curator of the exhibition: Anne Dressen
in collaboration with Sébastien Gokalp, assisted by Olivia Gaultier
Courtesy Gallery Caratsch, Zurich
Courtesy Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, New York
Courtesy Shangh’art, CC Gallery Shanghai