Catherine Pégard, President of the Public Establishment of the Château, Museum, and National Estate of Versailles
Jean-François Chougnet, Exhibition Curator
President of the Public Establishment of the Château, Museum, and National Estate of Versailles
This year contemporary art is represented at Versailles by Joana Vasconcelos. After the American Jeff Koons, the Japanese Takashi Murakami, and the Frenchmen Xavier Veilhan and Bernar Venet, she is the first woman, as well as the youngest artist, to tackle the unsurpassed historical benchmark that is the Château of Versailles.
Listening to her in her vast dockside studio in Lisbon it is clear that, besides presenting a considerable challenge, Joana Vasconcelos sees this opportunity as a life-changing event. “I’ve been thinking of Versailles forever,” she confesses, and this makes sense when she talks about her world, exuberant yet refined, precise yet disproportionate. She has conceived the exhibition not as glorified interior decorating, but as the contemporary appropriation of a legendary space.
Joana Vasconcelos does not seek to incorporate her work into Versailles, but to incorporate Versailles. She confronts it, but not head-on. Full of transmogrifications and shifts, subversion and reconfiguration, her oeuvre mixes periods and usurps symbols: here we have bolts of royal silk and brocade for Valkyries; there marquetry reminiscent of 18th-century furniture for Perruque… Fired by the mythological and aesthetic power of the Château of Versailles, in the works she has devised especially for the space, Joana Vasconcelos pursues her investigations into luxury and beauty. All the while, she remains faithful to the theme of Woman - that singular and constant presence in her ideas - just as she does in Versailles. At once traditional and sophisticated, her aesthetic seeks to set up a dialog between past and present that embeds itself in history.
If Joana Vasconcelos’ display is a transitory “folly,” it is also intended to mark an instant in history, revealing itself to those who visit Versailles in all its harmony and dissonance. And in all its magic too.