The proximity of a great institution like the Centre Pompidou is a powerful source of inspiration, anticipation and perhaps sometimes even intimidation for young artists. Simon Fujiwara has already developed a significant reputation on the international scene. His work combines autobiographical elements and considerations of art and societies. He likes building cosmologies around personal memories, like his abandoning of a career as an architect when, at the age of 18, he discovered the Rogers and Piano building. The artist proposed he take up residence in the Fondation Galeries Lafayette and give himself six weeks to create nothing less than a “New Pompidou”.
For the first time, an artist set up a research unit, a workshop and plaster shop on the ground floor of our building to produce a major work destined to be presented in another institution: in this case in the Centre Pompidou itself, for the fifth edition of the Nouveau festival.
The production residency, as well as its crowning with a parade that brought the work to the exhibition room, proved one of the highlights of the Anticipation programme. This project allowed the objectives of Lafayette Anticipation, Fondation d'entreprise Galeries Lafayette, to be better defined, for example as a space for welcoming, production, know-how and exchange. At 9 rue de Plâtre, Simon Fujiwara benefitted from the technical expertise of the Production Manager as well as a master plasterer. The presence of this young, internationally reputed artist, for an extended period, provided not only time for work, but a space for life and dialogue with all of the Lafayette Anticipation team. Finally, this residency, under the banner of the Nouveau festival, confirmed the vocation of Lafayette Anticipation, Fondation d'entreprise Galeries Lafayette, to work in coordination with a network of institutions, in Paris and all over the world.
The rumour is still circulating, provided we know where to look for it, that Pontus Hulten wanted to create a replica of the Centre Pompidou. Since the eighties when this desire is said to have germinated, the daydream has found its way to Simon Fujiwara. The artist, a trained architect, shares a particular history with the building constructed on the Marais* in 1977. When he discovered the work of Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini during a class trip, the apprentice-builder was not only struck, but crushed by the structure’s grandeur. At that moment he swore he would never become an architect, stole a rose from the Centre Pompidou terrace, dried it and preserved it as a testimony to his vow of chastity. In the empty building of the future Lafayette Anticipation, Fondation d'entreprise Galeries Lafayette, a few metres from this thwarted romance, Fujiwara broke his promise. He understood that with his rose the immensity of the Centre Pompidou had faded, and decided to present his vision in a single work, a pot-pourri, a shrine to Paris, to the Marais*, to love and architecture mixed with intimate memories.
“New Pompidou” is a plaster sculpture, moulded on a gerberette, a steel element inspired by the German engineer Heinrich Gerber (1832-1912) which precisely articulates the Centre Pompidou’s structure. This surprising, gargoyle, phallic form, a jewel of industry, acts, for Fujiwara, as a sarcophagus for the petals of his forgotten rose. The artist needed eight weeks to flesh out the rumour of a new Centre, situated in the imagination of its legendary and late Swedish director. The imminent resurrection of this “New Pompidou” celebrates the death of a Paris which is no more, of a dissipated knowledge, a vanished history, a love that has been extinguished…a little death carried in procession on the evening of Saint Valentine’s day. Simon Fujiwara chose to move his work from Lafayette Anticipation to the Nouveau Festival gallery on the 14th of February.
After giving a performance, in deathly silence, in his fragile workshop, the artist had the plaster mass carried in Wagner brass. Stumbling trumpets, his gerberette, part fossil or paleontological discovery, memorable bones, a dead and living organ, left the marshlands so as to be able to better return to it.
* In French, “Marais” means marshland
A project by Simon Fujiwara.
For the 5th edition of the Centre Pompidou’s Nouveau festival.
14th February 2014: Performance between Lafayette Anticipation, Fondation d'entreprise Galeries Lafayette and the Centre Pompidou.
10th March 2014: Projection of the film (18 minutes) at Lafayette Anticipation, Fondation d'entreprise Galeries Lafayette.
Acknowledgments: Bernard Blistène, Florencia Chernajovsky, Rafaël Grynberg, Linus Gratte, and Maria Bartau (Simon Fujiwara Studio).
Assistant: Yan Tomaszewski ; Creation of moulds: Pierre Imberteche and Yvan Hart; Film images: Xiaoxing Cheng with Alexandre Sénéquier ; Photographs: Nicolas Giraud for the performance and Hervé Véronèse for the images of the work at the Centre Pompidou