The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature opens its doors to the work of Sean Landers (b. 1962), a leading figure of contemporary American art and figurative painting from October 17th, 2023 to March 10th, 2024. The museum’s visitors will be able to discover the work of this major artist, through an exhibition of his animal portraits. The exhibition marks the return of Sean Landers to France, following his retrospective in 2020 at the Consortium Museum in Dijon.
Following exhibitions by Eva Jospin, Carolein Smit and Vincent Fournier, exploring mediums as diverse as cardboard, ceramics and photography, the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature is returning to painting, while pursuing its ambition to discover singular figures of contemporary art, always bearing in the mind the dialogue between humans and the living.
The exhibition features some thirty works, mainly from private collections. Bronzes complete the visitor’s tour, and three animal portraits have been created especially for the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature.
Figuration as a Political Choice
Inspired by European painting—from Renaissance portraiture to 19th-century Romantic landscape to the Surrealists—Landers’ animal paintings highlight both a political and an aesthetic affirmation of the artist’s choices. Educated at the Yale University School of Art in the 1980s, Sean Landers explains his adoption of figuration as an alternative stance, a dangerous path that was then fatally irresistible: “Doing figurative painting when I was in art school was the “wrong” choice to make at the time, when minimal and conceptual art were popular. We thought it was absurd, laughable, and so of course, how could I resist it? “
The Animal Kingdom as a Mirror of the Self
A conceptual artist, Sean Landers uses his personal experience as subject. Somewhere between biography and fiction, he stages his life as an artist in a mode of self-exposure that resonates with the way we share our lives on social networks today: artifice, tricking, pretense . . . With humor and perhaps irony, he challenges the artist’s ego in The Urgent Necessity of Narcissism for the Artistic Mind (Jaguar), where a jaguar with pink and green tartan fur has become Narcissus, literally drinking his reflection in a pond. In the background, like a diorama from a natural history museum, a forest of tree trunks develops as a narcissistic echo, engraved with the artist’s first name repeated ad infinitum: Sean, Sean, Sean . . .
For over ten years, Sean Landers has been developing his series of tartan-furred animals. This incongruous, trompe-l’œil use of tartan is a double reference to Magritte: to his so-called “la période vache” of 1948, when, in a deliberately coarse style, he undermined the notion of “good painting”; and to the tartan slippers the Belgian surrealist wore to paint.
A Presentation in Dialogue with the Museum’s Collections
The temporary exhibition room at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature will be entirely devoted to this series. While upstairs, in dialogue with the permanent collections, including its animal portraits by Chardin (1699-1779), Oudry (1720-1778) or Desportes (1661-1741), and the naturalized animals, the visitor will set off to meet a parade of creatures as marvelous as they are mysterious: lion and monkey with fake wood fur, rabbit or rooster staring back at their observers, perhaps questioning their own humanity.
The exhibition opens with other series that punctuate Sean Landers’ artistic career, demonstrating the extreme importance of text and the written word in his relationship with Surrealism: a forest of birch trees with trunks covered in writing carved into the wood, or a library displaying fanciful titles like riddles or confessions by the artist.
Curators: Christine Germain-Donnat, chief curator and director of the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, and Rémy Provendier-Commene, Deputy to collections of the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature.
Exhibition catalog text: Frédéric Paul, Chief Curator, Centre Pompidou
With the support of the Rodolphe Janssen (Brussels), Capitain Petzel (Berlin) and Friedrich Petzel (New York) galleries.