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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel is known for his sculptures comprised of hand-blown glass parts. Made for both indoors and out, Othoniel explores history and universal human experiences in his large-scale artworks.

After graduating from the École Nationale Supérieure d'Arts de Paris-Cergy in Cergy-Pontoise, France, in 1988, Othoniel worked with wax and sulphur, exploring their reversible and symbolic properties. Motivated by his preoccupation with the human body and the trauma of the AIDS epidemic, these early sculptures attracted international attention at documenta IX (1992) in Kassel. A set of sulphur works and My Beautiful Closet (1994)—an installation-performance piece featuring dancers filmed in the dark—was included in the exhibition Féminin/Masculin (1994) at Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Since 1993, Othoniel has been incorporating glass (made by internationally renowned glass-blowers in Murano and Basel as well as Monterrey, Sapporo and Firozabad) into his work to address experiences of joy, suffering, loss and recovery. The glass bead necklace has been a recurring motif in Othoniel's work since first appearing in 1996 as giant suspended sculptures in the garden of the Villa Medici in Rome; its beads allude to the human body, bonding and the embracing of both joy and suffering. The following year, the necklace was reduced to a more intimate scale when Othoniel fashioned 1000 of them from blood-red glass beads in memory of the late artist Félix González-Torres, who had been Othoniel's mentor and friend, and had died of AIDS in 1996. Giving away the necklaces at that year's EuroPride festival, Othoniel made a photomontage of the process, titling it Scar-Necklace (1997).

Again using the motif for his public commission titled Le Kiosque des Noctambules (The Kiosk of the Nightwalkers) (2000), Othoniel placed two crown-shaped structures over the subway entrance to the Palais-Royal/Musée du Louvre station in Paris and surrounded it with a fence of aluminium rings, beset with coloured glass beads. The crowns, also made from glass globes, have two different colour schemes representing night and day. Patrons of the subway encounter the colours of the day when emerging from the ground, and the opposite when descending into the ground. Creating the work while he was recovering from heartbreak, Othoniel drew on the idea of the emergence from dark into light as an experience that, though different for everyone, is universal.

Often, Othoniel's other sculptures address more specific social and historical concerns. Bateau de Larmes (Boat of Tears) (2004), for instance, consists of an abandoned Cuban refugee boat from Miami over which the artist erected a canopy of glass globes. Crystal teardrops hang from the canopy, signifying the hardship and suffering faced by Cuban exiles. In his 2018 exhibition Dark Matters at Perrotin New York, Othoniel paid a tribute to the Stonewall riots of 1969 through his sculptural series 'Precious Stonewall' (2010–2017). The artworks are made of glass bricks from India, piled up to give an impression of glossy stone walls. Stacking the glass bricks in a fashion that recalls the way bricks are kept on roadsides in India, Othoniel increasingly experiments with incorporating architectural elements into his work.

Othoniel is also recognised for his rejuvenation of historical sites. Unveiled in 2015, Les Belles Danses (The Beautiful Dances) is a group of three sculptures that marked the reopening of the Water Theatre Grove at Versailles. The sculptures consist of a total of 1,750 glass bubbles set with gold-leaf; their vibrant forms, seemingly floating or rising out of the fountain in the Grove, were inspired by the dance annotations that Raoul-Auger Feuillet (1653–1710) developed for King Louis XIV in 1701.

In 2016, Othoniel completed the eight-year renovation for the interior spaces of Le Trésor de la Cathédrale d'Angoulême—a 12th-century cathedral whose exteriors had been restored in the then-current neo-Romanesque style by the French architect Paul Abadie between 1852–1875. For his permanent addition to the cathedral, Othoniel employed his geometric motifs and his signature hand-blown glass globes from Murano in a colour scheme of mostly blue and gold to reimagine the site as an absorbing spectacle.

Othoniel's work has recently been shown at Perrotin New York (2018); Kukje Gallery, Seoul (2016, 2010); Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (2015); Karuizawa New Art Museum (2014); Perrotin Paris (2013); and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (2006) among others. His participation in international exhibitions includes the Venice Biennale (2009, 1995); Istanbul Biennial (2007, 1992); and the Gwangju Biennale (2000). In 2011 he held a major retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, titled My Way, which travelled between 2011 and 2012 to Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Macao Museum of Art; and the Brooklyn Museum, New York.

Othoniel lives and works in Paris.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

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Oracle (Grey) / Oracle (Gris) by Jean-Michel Othoniel contemporary artwork Jean-Michel OthonielOracle (Grey) / Oracle (Gris), 2019 Grey Indian glass bricks, stainless steel
13 x 146 cm
Oracle (Mirror) / Oracle (Miroir) by Jean-Michel Othoniel contemporary artwork Jean-Michel OthonielOracle (Mirror) / Oracle (Miroir), 2018 Steel, Stainless steel
35 x 212 cm
Iceberg / Iceberg by Jean-Michel Othoniel contemporary artwork Jean-Michel OthonielIceberg / Iceberg, 2019 59 polished, stainless steel bricks
97 x 89 cm
Collier Or Blanc by Jean-Michel Othoniel contemporary artwork Jean-Michel OthonielCollier Or Blanc, 2017 Murano glass, platinum leafs, stainless steel
97 x 45 x 15 cm
Kukje Gallery
Noeud bleu miroir by Jean-Michel Othoniel contemporary artwork Jean-Michel OthonielNoeud bleu miroir, 2014 Mirrored glass, steel
72 x 65 cm
Amant Suspendu by Jean-Michel Othoniel contemporary artwork Jean-Michel OthonielAmant Suspendu, 2016 Grey and pink Murano glass, stainless steel
72 x 15 cm

Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Oracles at Perrotin, Paris
Open Now
16 March–8 June 2019 Jean-Michel Othoniel Oracles Perrotin, Paris
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Summer Gallery Highlights at Perrotin, Hong Kong
21 July–8 September 2018 Group Exhibition Summer Gallery Highlights Perrotin, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Dark Matters at Perrotin, New York
3 March–15 April 2018 Jean-Michel Othoniel Dark Matters Perrotin, New York

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Top 5 booths at Art Busan 2016 Ocula Report Top 5 booths at Art Busan 2016 31 May 2016 : Angela Suh for Ocula

Located a stones throw from the famed Haeundae Beach, popularised in Korean cinema and countless K-dramas, Art Busan 2016 conveyed a leisurely air brought on by the first warm days of spring. Now in its fifth edition, the fair has grown into a sizeable event showcasing some of the best works in the region. With over 190 participating galleries...

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In Related Press

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Othoniel makes a splash in his hometown of Saint-Etienne Related Press Othoniel makes a splash in his hometown of Saint-Etienne The Art Newspaper : 25 May 2018

A towering surge of black glass bricks is about to hit central France. The Big Wave (2018) is the centerpiece of Jean-Michel Othoniel's major retrospective, Facing Obscurity (26 May–16 September). Organised for the Musée d'art moderne et contemporain, Saint-Etienne's 30th anniversary, the exhibition is also a homecoming for the artist, who was born...

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Jean-Michel Othoniel's elemental artworks are creating the perfect storm in New York Related Press Jean-Michel Othoniel's elemental artworks are creating the perfect storm in New York Wallpaper* : 8 March 2018

Beaded spirals pirouette through the air at Galerie Perrotin's freshly renovated space in the landmark Beckenstein building at 130 Orchard Street in New York, once a fabric factory and now converted into five floors for programming directed by Peggy Leboeuf and Emmanuel Perrotin. Suspended as the artworks are, their stilled movement reminds you of...

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Artist Othoniel Opens a Major New Exhibition at Perrotin's Downtown NYC Gallery Related Press Artist Othoniel Opens a Major New Exhibition at Perrotin's Downtown NYC Gallery Architectural Digest : 27 February 2018

Jean-Michel Othoniel invites AD into his Paris studio to discuss his expansive—and striking—new show on the eve of its debutThese past few years have been hectic for French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel. From completing a major installation for the Angouleme Cathedral Treasury to solo shows in Korea and the South of France, the artist...

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Venerable beads: Jean-Michel Othoniel's glorification of Angoulême Cathedral Related Press Venerable beads: Jean-Michel Othoniel's glorification of Angoulême Cathedral Wallpaper* : 6 October 2016

Auratic and avant-garde, Jean-Michel Othoniel is one of the most intriguing names on France’s contemporary art scene. From filling an abandoned boat with tears to installing glass dancers in Versailles’ Water Grove Theatre, his aesthetic transforms galleries, public spaces and historic sites alike. Now, Othoniel is preparing to preview...

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In Related Video

Video of the exhibition 'Dark Matters' by Jean-Michel Othoniel Related Video & Audio Video of the exhibition 'Dark Matters' by Jean-Michel Othoniel Perrotin : 30 March 2018

Video of the exhibition Dark Matters by Jean-Michel Othoniel, Perrotin New York, March 3-April 15, 2018© Guillaume Ziccarelli


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