The Musée Guimet joins the Centre national des arts plastiques to present together, in the areas of the museum’s permanent collections, monographic sets by Asian artists or artists influenced by oriental art and represented in the CNAP’s collections. For this first experience the choice fell on Chen Zhen (1955-2000), one of the most emblematic artists of the 1990s. Five major works will be displayed in the Chinese art rooms. Of world renown, his work has been mainly displayed in contemporary art museums in Europe, the USA, Canada, Japan, Korea, China and Israel. As a regular guest of biennial events in Lyon (1996), Shanghai (1997), and Venice (in 1999 and 2009), his works were more recently shown at the Museum of Modern art, in Paris.
Between tradition and modernity
It is rather audacious to present a contemporary artist in the middle of the collections of the Guimet museum, but he fits in perfectly with the institution’s new scientific and cultural policy of opening up to « La Fabrique contemporaine de l’art en Asie » (The contemporary Creation of art in Asia). The visitor is invited to run his eye over the permanent and broken lines between tradition and modernity, in other words, over the entire artistic and cultural history of the Asian nations. The two public institutions of the ministry of Culture and Communication, the Centre national des arts plastiques (CNAP), a collection without a museum, and the Guimet museum, a true centre of knowledge of Asian arts and civilizations, have associated themselves to this fascinating project.
Dialogue between the far-East and the West
Chen Zhen’s work speaks for itself. It is universal, but also deeply Chinese, and it crystallizes the centuries-old dialogue between the Eastern and the Western worlds in powerful and original protocols, borrowed from the entire universe of forms, materials and sounds. Since his arrival in Paris in 1986 up to his death, Chen Zhen relentlessly introduced a trans-cultural dialogue that goes beyond any classification. Born in Shanghai (1955) and naturalized French, Chen Zhen came from a family of doctors. At the time of globalization, he focused on the encounter between Chinese traditions and the principles of Western society. These works clearly underline the purpose of man’s situation and his future in «shared life», conceptualized around his ideal where «Art has the power to go beyond politics and science, and in doing so to reveal man’s good consciousness».
Purification and simplicity
Chen Zhen, Round Table, 1995, (FNAC 02-532), Centre national des arts plastiques - ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, Paris.© ADAGP/CNAP
Presented within the musée Guimet, Chen Zhen’s works enter a spiritual and formal relation with those of the permanent collection. The Cradle refers to the permanence of life’s cycle while Round table, arranged in the rotunda of the museum, summons the themes of communion, unity and harmony, in reference to «Guanxi». Chairs and table symbolize the ideal human order, developing the ideas of mutual respect, equality and multiculturalism. The notions of ritual transitions, of purification and simplicity are so many different ways to approach the works displayed, such as Funeral Stele/Coffin, Hibernation/Rambling and Altar n°9.
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• Jacques Giès, President of the musée Guimet
• Caroline Arhuero, Documentary Studies, in charge of contemporary art at the musée Guimet
• Sébastien Faucon, in charge of the CNAP collections.
• Musée Guimet
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