Phone interview conducted by Mimmo Scognamiglio and Arnaud Dubois on September 1st, 2021 in the context of the exhibition Abstraction/Reaction, works from the collection of Arnaud Dubois:
Mimmo Scognamiglio: My dear friend, it's been quite a while since we've met each other, and many times our paths have crossed. What was your first thought as soon as I told you about my intention to make an exhibition together?
Arnaud Dubois: Dear Mimmo, I was first sincerely honored by your invitation: a new expression of friendship inspired by the project of a new collaboration. Organizing this exhibition together appears as dazzling evidence: it's funny how it hasn't struck me sooner. Your collection is quite big in terms of number of pieces and artists, but it seems that your taste is more focused on Geometric Abstraction. I started collecting artworks well before my financial means allowed me to do it. My first acquisition was a Black Circle on a white background by Olivier Mosset, which has been the starting point of my collection. I've always been fascinated by abstract and geometrical painting in general, and by minimal painting in particular. The search for neutrality, its stripping and the liberation of any symbolic or narrative representation of minimal painting - which will find its most successful form in monochrome - is a revolution in the history of art that continues to impress me with the purity of its ambitions and its formal conclusions.
Why did you focus on this very specific period of the 80s which rejected figurative art – a worldwide major trend at the time?
After collecting works by Niele Toroni, François Morellet, Sol Lewitt or Robert Mangold, my taste and my research naturally led me to Post-modern abstract painting. The influential ideological and aesthetic spiral of post-modernism is enriched by an immense and fascinating formal repertoire that extends to all the twists and turns of cultural creation by developing an international subversive style. Unlike Minimal Art, which aspired to be limited to a material reality, these artists of the 1980s clearly understood that a painting always has a relationship with the idea of representation. They cynically denounce the capitalist consumption applied to fine art. Now art is the most contemporary luxury. It seems to me that this issue so well raised by Peter Halley and the Neo-Geo has never been so topical.
What about your decision to include works by Picabia?
Funny and subversive, this letter by Picabia from 1920 is taken from his work Jésus Christ Rastaquouère. However, as a Dada artist who here opposes the dogma of those artists in search of absolute truths, the generation of post-modernist artists similarly questions the positivist science of modernist artists, their idea of progress and their search for universal laws in favor of a more diversified approach firmly rooted in its time.
This exhibition brings together works from your personal and intimate collection: are you prepared to let certain pieces go away?
I've got the bad habit of acquiring more than just one work of artists I deeply admire. This is not a universal rule for all collectors, but rather an inability of mine to choose from two works that I like. This is why I prefer to leave to the good sake of collectors the possibility to choose from the only work they can acquire. The other one, I'm glad to keep it.
Press release courtesy Mimmo Scognamiglio Artecontemporanea.