Jean-Michel Othoniel: Treasure Gardens

[CULTURAL ISSUE] Seoul Museum of Art

2022. 6. 16 – 8. 7
Jean-Michel Othoniel

Gold Necklaces, stainless steel, gold leaf, variable dimensions, 2021

From June 16 to August 7, 2022, Jean-Michel Othoniel will present, for the first time in Korea, a series of new works. The Seoul Museum of Art is surrounded by gardens, including one belonging to the imperial palace, and is the artist’s honor and privilege to show a series of sculptures in this garden, placed on the water.

Golden Lotus, 2019 © Othoniel Studio Jean-Michel Othoniel Adagp, Paris, 2022
Installation View

The metaphor of the garden is at the heart of the artist’s work, and the artist’s works are displayed in these very real gardens that we pass through to reach the museum. Suspended from the trees or posed on the water, his monumental sculptures, made of gigantic pearls covered with gold leaf or with metal polished to a mirror finish, welcome the visitor as if in an enchanted fairy-tale. The artist has always linked the sensory garden to his spiritual garden. The garden of a thousand species at the Deoksugung Palace, also known as the “Palace of virtue and longevity,” offers him the perfect setting for his poetic reveries.

Jean-Michel Othoniel has always been fascinated by flowers and their stories, and he invites us here to contemplate his Golden Lotus, installed on the water, and to meditate in front of his rosaries, suspended from tree branches like forbidden fruit. These artworks reflect the pure and the sacred, the beautiful and the enchanted.

The exhibition Treasure Gardens continues in the museum galleries. We are greeted by two large-format abstract sculptures – self-supporting knots placed alongside the staircase like two guardians of a consecrated site.

LA ‘ROSE DU LOUVRE’ Paintings on canvas, black ink on white gold leaf, 164×124 cm, 2019

In the first gallery, the artist reveals his great love of flowers in large paintings made on a background of white gold leaf. These works reflect his passion for roses, particularly apparent in the paintings he created for the Musée du Louvre in Paris, but also in a new series created especially for Seoul inspired by the plum blossom, a symbol of resistance and fertility. Like the flowers themselves, these canvases herald the end of winter and the joy of rebirth, the end of a difficult period and the hope for a better world.

LA RIVIÈRE BLEUE (BLUE RIVER) Aquamarine blue Indian mirrored glass, 2.62 x 6.9 x 0.6 m, 2022

In the second gallery, visitors are welcomed by an immense Blue River composed of thousands of hand-blown silvery, shimmering glass bricks. Aquamarine blue in color, this brick floor acts as a dazzling base for a large installation entitled Noeuds, which gathers together more than twenty works in the shape of suspended knots. Symbols of infinity, they are multiplied in the thousands of reflections seen in the mirrored beads with which they are composed. With these mathe- matical knots, Jean- Michel Othoniel comes together with Korean culture and its heritage through the traditional art of maedup, weaving in this way his fantastic web between cultures and freeing imagination from all boundaries.

Precious Stonewalls, 2021 © Othoniel Studio Jean-Michel Othoniel Adagp, Paris, 2022

On the walls of the same gallery hangs a new series of his Precious Stonewalls, small, uniform blocks elaborated in infinite combinations, each with the same number of glass bricks. These minimal works, shimmering with color, diffract the light like altars emanating a sacred flame.

The last room is articulated around a monumental work, a pile of metal bricks forming a shelter. Agora is a den, a grotto offering visitors the possibility to enter, to distance themselves from the world, to feel protected or to come together, perhaps just for the simple pleasure of meeting, listening and sharing.

Oracle, 2019 © Othoniel Studio Jean-Michel Othoniel Adagp, Paris, 2022

Around this major work, a brand-new series of minimalistic works entitled Oracle concludes the exhibition. Linear modules of color hung on the walls, they recall minimalist sculptures by Donald Judd or Carl Andre, and propose visitors the moment of suspended time needed to interpret the prophetic word.

The artist is passionate about the signs nature offers us – the sound of wind in the leaves, of birds in flight, of the marvels that surrounds us and that we must learn to know again; Othoniel has long been working to re-enchant the world.

Jean-Michel Othoniel, 2021 © Jean-Michel Othoniel Adagp, Paris, 2022

Seoul Museum of Art
61, Deoksugung-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea

Deoksugung Palace Garden, Seoul
Sejong-daero 99, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea

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