Philippe Parreno is among the most preeminent contemporary artists in the world today. He has played a pivotal role in defining Relational Aesthetics, which focuses on human relationships and the social settings in which they occur. One of the recurring themes of Parreno’s work is the relationship between a work of art and its observers.
Parreno, along with many of his contemporaries, has redefined that relationship by turning the observer’s seemingly passive presence into an intrinsic part of the work itself. Parreno’s installations and other works are designed to turn the observer into a participant. Parreno suggests that his artistic medium isn’t the particular sculpture or installation per se, rather it is the very practice of putting together exhibitions.
My Room Is Another Fish Bowl
Parreno first exhibited “My Room Is Another Fish Bowl” at the Esther Schipper gallery in Berlin. Other iterations of that installation were exhibited at the Tate Modern, the Brooklyn Museum, the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and elsewhere. The iteration that was purchased by Igal Ahouvi Art Collection was created especially for the 2018 exhibition, “Philippe Parreno: Looking Back on a Future Exhibition.” It was Parreno’s first at a German institution, the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. That exhibition as a whole, and “My Room Is Another Fish Bowl” in particular, examines the complex relationship between man and nature. The windows of the rooms that house the installation are coated with a translucent yellow film that helps create a special sense of tranquility. Hovering quietly in the air are 150 helium balloons that are shaped like tropical fish. The fish swim about peacefully, rising and descending in the air between the walls of the exhibit and the visitors. This also allows the visitors to play a role that makes an impact on the installation itself.
Our Place in the World
The ironic aspect of this work of art, which turns the visitors into an integral part of the exhibition, forces us to reconsider the role that art plays as a political tool. It frames man as being part of nature instead of being above it. To a great extent, this work by Parreno is commentary on Andy Warhol’s famous 1966 “Silver Clouds” installation (Leo Castelli gallery, NYC). Warhol crated “pillows” out of silver-colored Scotchpak, which was manufactured for the US military. The pillows were inflated with helium and placed in a gallery to fill the space of the exhibition. The choreographer, Merce Cunningham, subsequently drew on “Silver Clouds” in one of his dance pieces.
The installations by Perreno and Warhol redefine the active role that a work of art can play in a given space. Both works also test the boundaries between a static work of art and the space in which it is exhibited. “Silver Clouds,” like other works of art by Warhol, examines the ways in which everyday objects can be used to create the illusion of posh wealth. Alternatively, Parreno’s installation seeks to reconsider the observer’s role in the work of art and proposes a new way of taking in and experiencing art.
Igal Ahouvi Art Collection keenly keeps its finger on the pulse of the various currents and trends in contemporary art, and Parreno’s installation serves as an important representation of one of the most prominent contemporary discource of artistic thought. The collection also boasts a second work by Parreno, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from 2008, in which white fireworks light up the daytime sky. That work, in which Parreno applied fluorescent ink to black velvet, was displayed at the Melting Walls exhibition at Tel Aviv University’s Genia Schreiber University Art Gallery in 2014.