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 15 More
3 dés ensembles (3 dice together) by Annette Messager contemporary artwork textile
Annette Messager 3 dés ensembles (3 dice together), 2023 Fabric, various material, net, thread
78 x 65 x 22 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Request Price & Availability
Mes Voeux sous filets, (K) by Annette Messager contemporary artwork sculpture, photography
Annette Messager Mes Voeux sous filets, (K), 1998 9 framed black and white gelatin silver prints, 4 framed writings, glass, strings, nets
220 x 200 x 30 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Request Price & Availability
Le crabe cancer by Annette Messager contemporary artwork sculpture, textile
Annette Messager Le crabe cancer, 2016 15 bras
163 x 180 x 13 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Request Price & Availability
Sleeping Arms by Annette Messager contemporary artwork sculpture
Annette Messager Sleeping Arms, 2017 Down jackets sleeves, mixed media, black acrylic paint
106 x 103 x 16 cm
Richard Saltoun Gallery Request Price & Availability
Sleeping Pacific by Annette Messager contemporary artwork sculpture
Annette Messager Sleeping Pacific, 2017 Duvets, mixed media, black acrylic paint, string
280 x 156 x 42 cm
Richard Saltoun Gallery Request Price & Availability
Sleeping Double Grey by Annette Messager contemporary artwork sculpture
Annette Messager Sleeping Double Grey, 2017 Duvets, mixed media, black acrylic paint, string
210 x 145 x 23 cm
Richard Saltoun Gallery Request Price & Availability
Sleeping Blue by Annette Messager contemporary artwork sculpture
Annette Messager Sleeping Blue, 2017 Duvet, mixed media, black acrylic paint, string
122 x 77 x 45 cm
Richard Saltoun Gallery Request Price & Availability
View 15 More

Annette Messager
upcoming & recent
exhibitions

Represented by this
Ocula Member Gallery

Marian Goodman Gallery contemporary art gallery in New York, United States
Marian Goodman Gallery Los Angeles, New York, Paris

Annette Messager in
Ocula Magazine

Learn more about the market for works
by Annette Messager.
Enquire for a confidential discussion. Enquire Now
Simon Fisher, Ocula CEO
Ocula Advisor
Simon Fisher
Christoper Taylor, Ocula Advisor
Ocula Advisor
Christopher Taylor
Eva Fuchs, Ocula Advisor
Ocula Advisor
Eva Fuchs
Rory Mitchell, Ocula Advisor
Ocula Advisor
Rory Mitchell
Ocula discover the best in contemporary art icon.
Follow Annette Messager
Stay ahead.
Receive updates on new artworks,
exhibitions and articles.
Your personal data is held in accordance with our privacy policy.
Follow
Do you have an Ocula account?
Ocula discover the best in contemporary art icon.
Get Access
Join Ocula to request price and availability of artworks, exhibition price lists and build a collection of favourite artists, galleries and artworks.
Do you have an Ocula account? Login
What best describes your interest in art?

Subscribe to our newsletter for upcoming exhibitions, available works, events and more.
By clicking Sign Up or Continue with Facebook or Google, you agree to Ocula's Terms & Conditions. Your personal data is held in accordance with our Privacy Policy.
Thank you for joining us. Just one more thing...
Soon you will receive an email asking you to complete registration. If you do not receive it then you can check and edit the email address you entered.
Close
Thank you for joining us.
You can now request price and availability of artworks, exhibition price lists and build a collection of favourite artists, galleries and artworks.
Close
Welcome back to Ocula
Enter your email address and password below to login.
Reset Password
Enter your email address to receive a password reset link.
Reset Link Sent
We have sent you an email containing a link to reset your password. Simply click the link and enter your new password to complete this process.
Login