Works in Progress

From may 6th to september 4th, 2011

Rodin and the Ambassadors

Works in Progress, Rodin and the Ambassadors examines the way in which Rodin’s work is perceived and strives to show not only how his sculpture developed but also how it was and continues to be reinterpreted. The exhibition compares 100 or so works by Rodin (1840-1917) with about 30 post-1945, modern and contemporary works.

An unprecedented approach

This unprecedented approach sets Rodin’s works in the context of critical analysis made since the postwar period. It considers both acclaimed pieces such as The Age of Bronze, The Kiss, Balzac and Walking Man and models found in his studio after his death. Much has since been learnt from studies of these models. A reassessment of Rodin’s art naturally stems from the work of critics, art historians and curators who have introduced the public to an enriched oeuvre by including the plasters, fragmentary figures and assemblages. A sort of work in progress, Rodin’s creativity draws on a tradition that he made his own while transforming his studio into a vast recycling and rehabilitation workshop, as well as using his own sculpture as a matrix to be endlessly reproduced, reborn, reassembled and recomposed.

A new way of looking

This reappraisal of Rodin’s work also owes something to art, i.e. the production of several artists from the postwar period to the present day. Their preoccupations – not only with material and modelling but also with highlighting fragments or combining different components – have had repercussions on the manner in which Rodin is considered and contemporary art is viewed. From Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) to Urs Fischer (born 1973), each of these artists has become an “ambassador” for a certain way of looking at the world, at art, at present and past works. 

An exhibition in 11 sections

Aligning itself with the processes used in sculpture, such as choice of material, finishing, polishing, assemblage or series, to name just a few, the exhibition does not seek to establish links or affiliations but rather to question notions of permanency, variations and shifts in meaning. The choices made – an exhibition in 11 sections and the selection of works by Rodin and 21 other artists to be displayed – are intended to create a contrast, a certain tension, between them, without seeking historic or formal justifications.

Take, for example, Rodin’s assemblages exhibited opposite Bruce Nauman’s Butt To Butt, or Balzac’s Dressing Gown standing face to face with Joseph Beuys’ The Skin, or, in the “Series and Variations” section, the 28 busts executed for the portrait of Georges Clemenceau shown alongside the 64 wax sculptures that make up Ugo Rondinone’s Diary of Clouds.

The exhibition continues in the main courtyard of the Hôtel Biron, where three monumental works by Urs Fischer in cast aluminium will be exhibited for the first time outdoors between The Thinker and The Gates of Hell.

Allowing the works to dialogue between themselves, this exhibition enable visitors to choose their own way around and form their own free associations.

An extension in the Hôtel Biron: Douglas Gordon

They may then continue their visit in the Hôtel Biron, where, upstairs on the first floor, a work by Douglas Gordon is on view: Predictable Incident in Unfamiliar Surroundings (1995) is based on rare scenes featuring a “kiss” from the famous American television series Star Trek. Through the principle of repetition, this video installation echoes and prolongs the exhibition ‘Works in Progress, Rodin and the Ambassadors”.


The musée Rodin thanks its partners

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