PARIS — Last month, as FIAC sold contemporary art for millions of euros, its antithesis opened south of the Seine, where former Palais de Tokyo director Marc-Olivier Wahler launched his Chalet Society with an exhibition highlighting the famous Museum of Everything, which celebrates self-taught and folk artists. Quietly rallying against “ambient gloom,” Wahler’s novel nomadic initiative has found its most extensive physical incarnation yet in a former Catholic seminary on the Boulevard Raspail.
“I've been running art institutions and centers for 20 years and I was thinking about the identity of the arts centre,” Wahler told ARTINFO France, explaining the logic that informs the Chalet project. “Galleries, museums, and other institutions have increasingly taken over its work of supporting young artists and staging temporary exhibitions. Yet artists have a certain speed, institutions have a certain speed, and there's always a gap in between. A good arts centre would try to be as flexible and reactive as possible, to fill that gap.”
The Chalet’s program will be a mix of temporary exhibitions, workshops and one-offs. Tatiana Trouvé will have a show there, following the Museum of Everything (which closes December 16). A video archive project is slated and the top floor will be given over to an “Atelier des Testeurs.” “Like magazines test new products, we will test new ideas. We'll take one idea a month and work on it with artists, philosophers, engineers, shopkeepers,” said Wahler.
“The idea behind the Chalet is an open identity, almost like a kind of brand,” he added. “It's a little bit influenced by the development of software. At the beginning, software could function only on a specific platform or architecture, like DOS or Windows or Mac. The more it developed, the more it became independent, adapted to mobile platforms or Linux. The software won against the hardware. For two years we will do specific shows for the architecture of our Raspail space but the Chalet’s identity could be grafted, without losing anything, onto different kinds of architecture. I think it's global and I think it's very important now, this continuation.”
The Museum of Everything’s Paris show is an updated version of its inaugural 2009 London exhibition, with some 500 to 600 works by more than 50 artists. Among the highlights are the original pages of illustrations that Chicago janitor Henry Darger created in secret, recounting a fairytale version of his life story and childhood troubles. There is an installation, previously seen at New York’s White Columns, by sign painter Prophet Royal Robertson, who dedicated his life to the demonization of his wife who left him for another man. Then there’s Aleksander Pavlovich Lobanov, who made himself a proud, rifle-carrying revolutionary hero in his photographs and self-portraits.
Leading contemporary artists, among them Maurizio Cattelan and John Baldessari, have contributed essays in appreciation of different artists in the show. “It’s a big, messy, interconnected weave of inspiration,” said James Brett, founder of the Museum of Everything.
The Paris iteration of the Chalet follows in the footsteps of another Chalet space in Los Angeles, the Chalet Hollywood, run today by artist Piero Golia as a small members club — and further spaces are to come. “When you are a big institution, you always have to think things out a year and a half in advance. I have the luxury of not having anything prepared. Maybe I will meet someone in Istanbul or Korea and maybe decide to do a Chalet, three months later,” said Wahler, noting that Golia’s takeover of the L.A. project could be a model.
“It’s something that I’d also like to see happen in France, the artists taking over a floor and developing it,” he said. “I’ll launch it, curate the first few sessions and then it will be more a matter of quality control.”