HomePage Artists

b. 1943, France

Annette Messager Biography

Drawing from the everyday, memory, and fairytales, Annette Messager creates dark yet humorous assemblages and installations that interrogate diverse aspects of women's lives, from their role in society to childhood play, and the human body.

Read More

After she studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (1962–1966), Messager was affected by the student and worker riots of May 1968 and the rise of the feminist movement. As the traditional hierarchical and autocratic codes of French society disintegrated, she found that art was now to be encountered in the ordinary, non-institutional spaces of life.

Annette Messager's works from the 1970s often incorporate material from mass-circulated media to examine the roles and representation of women. The 81 images in Voluntary Torture (1972), taken from fashion magazines, reveal close-ups of women's faces or bodies while receiving various 'tortures', as Messager dubbed them, to meet the standard conventions of feminine beauty. In My Collection of Proverbs (1974), the artist stitched misogynistic phrases onto pieces of cloth, revealing their ludicrousness and employing embroidery—then commonly overlooked as women's work—to create works of art.

In the 1980s, Annette Messager began to explore the human body in her installations, drawing inspiration from her experiences and both historical and contemporary media. Her 'Mes Trophées' (My Trophies) series (1986–1988) consists of highly contrasted black-and-white photographs, many depicting hands and feet, over which the artist painted illustrations and symbols reminiscent of medieval manuscripts, children's books, and tattoos. 'My Vows' (1988–1991) was a wall installation in the form of a cluster of small monochrome photographs of assorted body parts suspended from the wall by strings.

While continuing to engage with the human body in the 1990s, Messager introduced stuffed figures into her installations. Animal toys were trapped tightly between piles of books in Fables and Tables (1991), while woollen sculptures in the shape of internal organs were hung from the ceiling in Penetration (1992–1994). Such soft sculptures gradually replaced the taxidermy animals Messager had used since the 1970s, notably in her 'Boarders at Rest' series (1971–1972), for which she created tableaux with stuffed sparrows.

Many of Messager's later works feature kinetic elements and a sense of the ominous, as if plucked out of dark fairytales. Representing France at the 51st Venice Biennale, the artist created Casino (2005): a room-scale installation inspired by the tales of Pinocchio. Swathes of blood-red fabric evocatively poured through the room while puppet heads turned and spun; the work was awarded that year's Golden Lion for best national pavilion. In Sans Légende—Untitled (2011–2012), small objects wrapped in black foil fill the floor as three inflatable spheres move up and down. A projection of a clock on the wall suggests a world facing impending doom—an allusion to real-life conflicts.

Messager held her first American retrospective exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1995. Recent notable solo exhibitions include Annette Messager—Alberto Giacometti, Nos Chambres, Giacometti Foundation, Paris (2018); Annette Messager: Dessus Dessous, Musée des Beaux Arts and Cité de la dentelle et de la mode, Calais (2015); and Annette Messager: Motion/Emotion, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2014). In 2016, Messager was awarded the Praemium Imperiale international arts award for sculpture by the Japan Art Association.

Annette Messager lives and works in the Malakoff district of Paris.

Ocula | 2019

Annette Messager Featured Artworks

View All (11)
Mes désirs-seins by Annette Messager contemporary artwork
Annette MessagerMes désirs-seins, 2019Acrylic on paper
31.3 x 24.3 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Coeur Squelette by Annette Messager contemporary artwork
Annette MessagerCoeur Squelette, 2019Acrylic on paper
62.5 x 39 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled by Annette Messager contemporary artwork
Annette MessagerUntitled, 2019Acrylic on paper
30 x 77 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Coeur by Annette Messager contemporary artwork
Annette MessagerCoeur, 2019Acrylic on paper
60.5 x 49 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Chance by Annette Messager contemporary artwork
Annette MessagerChance, 2011–2012Mesh fabric
140 x 200 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Clef de Sol by Annette Messager contemporary artwork
Annette MessagerClef de Sol, 2020Acrylic on Arches paper
34 x 17 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Cool by Annette Messager contemporary artwork
Annette MessagerCool, 2020Acrylic on Arches paper
46 x 76 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Emotion by Annette Messager contemporary artwork
Annette MessagerEmotion, 2017Metal wire, nets, fabric, soft toys
150 x 205 x 15 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery

Annette Messager Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Annette Messager, Sleeping Songs at Galerie Marian Goodman, Paris
Closed
24 May–19 July 2019 Annette Messager Sleeping Songs Galerie Marian GoodmanParis

Annette Messager Represented By

Marian Goodman Gallery contemporary art gallery in New York, USA Marian Goodman Gallery New York, Paris, London

Annette Messager In Related Press

View All (8)
Mouton Unveils 2017 Art Label (… NSFW?) Related Press Mouton Unveils 2017 Art Label (… NSFW?) 21 November 2019, Wine Spectator

Bordeaux's Château Mouton-Rothschild has never shied away from bold, even provocative choices for its annual art labels, but the 2017, featuring an illustration by French artist Annette Messager may be the first in decades to raise eyebrows at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), America's beloved authority on alcoholic beverage...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Annette Messager MARIAN GOODMAN GALLERY | PARIS Related Press Annette Messager MARIAN GOODMAN GALLERY | PARIS 19 July 2019, Artforum

Soft, colorful, and haunting, Annette Messager's latest sculptures are made from sleeping bags, puffer jackets, and quilts. Collectively titled "Sleeping Songs," 2017–19, these mostly wall-mounted works have been folded, pinned, draped, and sewn in ways that suggest various anatomical forms—including many whose central droopy...

Fade out copy.
Read More
A Wily French Artist Refreshes and Reinvigorates Giacometti Related Press A Wily French Artist Refreshes and Reinvigorates Giacometti 17 December 2018, Hyperallergic

PARIS — Desolate by design, the spindly sculptures and plagued portraits created by Alberto Giacometti last century receive a refreshing reinvigoration by Annette Messager in her delightfully dialectical two-person show titled Our Rooms.

Fade out copy.
Read More
From scissors to snails, venture into the weirdly wonderful world of Annette Messager Related Press From scissors to snails, venture into the weirdly wonderful world of Annette Messager 25 April 2017, Wallpaper*

Contemporary art seems to find itself in a constant battle between the logical and the illogical, the possible and the impossible, the visible and the invisible. Is it better to be understood, or to understand something about the world? Do we have to explain everything? Should we even try?

Fade out copy.
Read More

Sign up to be notified when new artworks and exhibitions by Annette Messager are added to Ocula.

WeChat

Scan the QR Code via WeChat to follow Ocula's official account.

Scan to follow Ocula on WeChat.
;
iCal
GoogleYahooOutlook