Art market Magazine October 2014

 
HERITAGE 
 
Othoniel at Versailles 
heir installation…
HERITAGE

Othoniel at Versailles
heir installation is planned for this summer, but you will have to wait until the spring of 2015 to see them in situ in their natural setting. Jean-Michel
Othoniel's three sculptures will take up their final residence at Versailles close to the Three Fountains Grove and a few hundred metres from the Latona Fountain, currently being restored. It is three centuries since the Château gardens last gave a permanent home to a contemporary work. "The ultimate project!" says the 50-year-old French artist happily. This "small miracle" came about over two years ago when landscape architect Louis Benech suggested to Jean-Michel Othoniel that they take part in the international competition for redeveloping the former Water Theatre Grove. This was built in 1671 by Louis XIV, then totally revamped by Louis XVI as the Green Round Grove, and finally destroyed in the storm of 1999. In the absence of any archaeological remains, the committee of experts preferred a totally new garden design to a reconstruction in the style of the Ancien Régime. The duo's project – the

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only one involving a visual artist and a landscape architect – completely won over the jury chaired by the president of Versailles, Catherine Pégard. In this heritage-imbued environment, where the place given to contemporary art is always a sensitive issue, Othoniel has taken no chances. His "Belles Danses" – sinuous glass forms illuminated with gold – forge numerous symbolic and formal links with the Château's history. Laid out in the location of the erstwhile stages of the Grove Theatre over two fountains, their arabesques evoke the embroidery on Louis XIV's clothing, which inspired André Le Nôtre when he designed the parterres for the gardens. The Sun King is summoned in person. He is the one who dances on the surface of the water, as he used to do in his famous court ballets. A studious Othoniel immersed himself in "La Manière de montrer les jardins de Versailles", a book in which Louis XIV described his movements around the Château. The artist then discovered the choreographic notations of RaoulAuger Feuillet, devised to record the ballet steps in vogue. This was what sparked off his idea. "I immedia-

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Matteo Gonet studio, Basel, May 2014.

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© Philippe Chancel

Art Market Magazine October 2014
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