Wednesday, March 02, 2016

When contemporary art reminds of philatelic studies

Translation of part an article published on SébPhilatélie, Friday 20th of February 2015.

Despite I profoundly never understand a large majority of what's exhibited in those places, I still try to visit museum of contemporary art when I visit a new town... Often for nothing, but once in a while.

In June 2014, as I discovered Toulouse, I entered the Abattoirs, former slaughterhouse in action from 1825 to 1988, refurbished as an contemporary art museum in 2000.
Two excerpts from Silvia Regenbogenreihe by Franz Gertsch, 2002, under glass at the Abattoirs, Toulouse.
The museum team understands that to catch unwilling people like me, you should show less and change the collections regularly. So, after a disturbing and noisy underground art video experiment, non sense works and reimagined African arts, I quickly found an interesting thing other than the architecture of the building.

A room with nive large panels reproducing the same picture of a woman, Silvia, in a formal pose. The only difference: nine different colors. Considering art alone, neither the French Wikipédia article on the Swiss artist, nor the empty note at the museum, helped me understood...
Franz Gertsch's artwork note as proposed by the Abattoirs Museum.
Let's get to my philatelic emotion inspired interpretation: the repetition of the same picture, reproduced in the most detailed way possible, and trying to find the finest nuance of color: three of outremer blue... or - more evocative for a French philatelist: vermilion.

Isn't that artwork what postage stamp printers have been working on since 1840? What drive specialised collectors and philatelists since James Lindsay, Earl of Crawford, compiled intelligence on anything related to the issuance and printing of stamps? A question of finding and understanding why there are different shades and accidental colors.

As I observe the nine printings, I remember how a mistaken Prussian blue change the history of some very low value French Sage stamps of 1880, or the lengthy debate about the denomination of the British Machin palette, etc.

After some thoughts, humour arrived with a first season scene from television series Ugly Betty that caricatured the snobbishness of naming every tone of red - a scene replayed in the fourth season. And no, I did not think of the fifty shades of grey at the time...

And as I didn't understand the artist's motivation to mutitply the shades of a photographed portrait, I found it marvellous to the French green/red/blue-violet gradings of the Marianne series to distinguish the weight rates... because we don't light ourselves no more by candlelight and surely wouldn't confuse a five cent stamp very light brown of shade with a 250 gram priority letter one in a redder brown tone, worth three euros more in February 2015.

Conclusion of this contemporary art trip: one hour philatelic contemplation, followed by a two hour walk along the Garonne River. I've known worse with that kind of art. And for free as it was an art festival week-end in Toulouse.

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