Vandalism, revenge and video: scandal at the Center Pompidou-Metz

Vandalism, revenge and video: scandal at the Center Pompidou-Metz
Vandalism, revenge and video: scandal at the Center Pompidou-Metz

Ln May 6, at the Center Pompidou-Metz, the exhibition Lacan, when art meets psychoanalysis, which has been very successful since its opening in December and was due to close a week later, was the scene of acts of vandalism quickly claimed by performance artist Deborah De Robertis. On the glass protecting The origin of the world, a “MeToo” is painted in red letters. Exhibited in the same gallery, Genitalpanik, by the Austrian feminist activist Valie Export, a photograph by Rosemarie Trockel and a drawing by the artist Louise Bourgeois, The Birth, which represents a woman giving birth, are also tagged on their protective glass. An embroidered proverb by Annette Messager, I think so I suckfinally, is stolen.

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For years, Luxembourg artist Deborah De Robertis has been calling for performances intended to reflect the female point of view in art. Among other happenings, she installed herself in 2014, naked and legs apart, in front of The origin of the worldat the Musée d’Orsay, repeated it two years later by lying naked in front of Olympiaby Manet, then in front The Mona Lisa, at the Louvre, in 2017. “Performances” each time giving rise to a nice media buzz and earning him custody, reminder of the law, appearance for sexual exhibition. She is, in all these cases, defended by the criminal lawyer Marie Dosé, who notably obtains her acquittal for her performances at the Louvre.

Feminist works claimed

However, this time, the acts of vandalism that the artist has just perpetrated, with accomplices, at the exhibition Lacan, begin by arousing the most complete incomprehension. Valie Export, Annette Messager, Louise Bourgeois are women, self-proclaimed feminists; why, then, attack their works? “Covering the works of artists known for their feminism is extremely violent,” protests curator Marie-Laure Bernadac, co-curator, with her husband Bernard Marcadé, of the exhibition. She absolutely does a disservice to the cause she wants to defend. »

The message seems all the more confused since Deborah De Robertis herself is exposed in the same room as her targets, her performance in front of The origin of the world in Orsay having been chosen by the curators, among other works, to offer precisely the contemporary and feminist counterpoint to Courbet’s painting. “Initially, we did not ask for it, countless artists diverted The origin of the world, explains Marie-Laure Bernadac. But when she learned that she would not be included in the exhibition, she caused quite a scandal. So, rather than her crying out for censorship and posing as a victim, we exhibited her work. It made sense…”

“I am in possession of the work of Annette Messager”

But the story is less simple than it seems. The couple of curators, who seem to have known Deborah De Robertis for a long time, confirm to us that they invited her in 2016 to a conference on transgression in the arts in Lisbon, and Bernard Marcadé admits to being interested, for many years, in her work. The stolen embroidery was also given to them by the artist Annette Messager herself, the work belongs to them. However, on the night of May 6, Deborah De Robertis claimed on Instagram to have it in her hands and was waiting to be summoned by the police. “I am in possession of the work of Annette Messager which I have reappropriated,” she writes.

She also posts a video, dating from around fifteen years ago, which, if it is not a montage, leaves little doubt about the nature of the relationship she had at the time, with Bernard Marcadé. The art critic, who makes crude remarks, knows that he is being filmed, is amused by it – “But what are you going to do with this fucking film, are you going to blackmail me? » – and the young woman then zooms in on the embroidery by Annette Messager hanging on the wall. This embroidery that, fifteen years later, she has just stolen.

“It’s a manipulation, a trap, I feel violated by this artist whom I have defended in the past,” Bernard Marcadé says today. It remains to be understood what Deborah De Robertis, whose lawyer we have not been able to contact at this time, intends to provoke by broadcasting this devastating video in which she appears to be under no coercion. Denouncing the power of a recognized art critic and curator over the young artist she was then? Or proceed, with methods such as our strange times now authorize, to a sad, purely private settling of scores?



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