Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

Hubert Duprat

Presented by the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, this is Hubert Duprat’s first major retrospective in France. Drawing on various photographic and sculptural ensembles and the reactivation of site-specific works, the exhibition retraces the career of this French artist who was born in 1957 and for over thirty years has been honing his practice like a researcher – one, as he himself puts it, more gifted for the hunt than for the capture.

Here we have a summary of the lines of force of a body of work both openended and rhizomatic, a unifying of the monumental and the miniature, of purity of line and mannerist virtuosity. Sumptuous, demanding and complex, the Duprat oeuvre also draws inspiration from chance and the empirical, combining discovery of objects, remnants and texts in a testing-out of matter, technique and dexterity.

The artist is equally happy in the natural world or working with weird minerals (iron pyrites, calcite, ulexite, etc.), species that defy classification (amber, coral, etc.) and everyday industrial materials (polystyrene, concrete, paraffin, modelling clay, etc.) His repurposed processes come largely from the crafts – marquetry, goldsmithing, upholstery – but also from such vernacular domains as string art.

Duprat’s creative quest focuses on material culture, on artefacts and specialised objects from fields as diverse as early wood-based industries, ancient ruins, and the religious and decorative makings of the 16th and 17th centuries. In revealing the reach of this anthropological prospecting, the exhibition calls into question the objects our world is made of. 

The studio is one starting point for Duprat. In the early 1980s it gave rise to a host of speculative pieces successively taking the form of a camera obscura, tinted marquetry panels and quirky concrete recreations. Rarely shown since their creation, these pieces are given a core place in the exhibition.

In defiance of the laws of gravity a concrete structure based on the plans of a previous studio slots neatly into the structure of the museum.

At the very beginning the functioning of Caddisfly larvae inspired one of Duprat’s seminal works. Observing the way this insect builds a cocoon out of materials gathered from its watery surroundings, the artist provides it with flakes of gold and pearls, thereby delegating to it the making of a delicate case. Specimens housed in a fishtank offer a perfect in vivo view of their skills in action. The ensemble titled Miroir du Trichoptère/The Caddisfly’s Mirror – two thousand prints, photographs, objects and films representing nearly thirty years of exploration – will be give a space all of its own in the midst of the permanent collection.

With this exhibition the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris is presenting an overall vision of a long-term oeuvre, a body of work rooted in duration, unmoored to movements and classifications and finding its significance in exploration and questing.

The exhibition catalogue features numerous contributions from critics and writers including Patricia Falguières, Pierre Senges, Roland Recht, Anna Gritz, Nicole Caligaris and Martin Herbert. Generously illustrated, this landmark volume provides an overview of Hubert Duprat’s output backed up by photographic coverage of the exhibition and hitherto unpublished archival material.