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Exhibition at Château Malromé exhibits twenty works by Prune Nourry
Installation view. © Pierre-Yves Queignec.

SAINT-ANDRÉ-DU-BOIS.- Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec had a rare genetic disease called pycnodysostosis, which affects the bones. If he had been conceived today, he would most likely never have been born, because we have been using new technologies for several decades now to diagnose such diseases in utero—a slippery slope that can kindle eugenic temptations. In this scenario, none of his beautiful paintings, drawings or engravings would have ever existed.

The work of Prune Nourry (born in Paris in 1985) raises awareness about the dangers of gender selection at birth, particularly in India and China, where there is an underlying preference for male children. Much of her work alludes to these “missing girls,” who have disappeared—sometimes even before birth—as a result of traditional attitudes and population policies. The projects designed by the artist in these regions—the Holy Daughters, Holy River, and Terracotta Daughters series—aim to raise awareness, while also exploring intriguing hybrid identities, from half cow-half girl figures to schoolgirl-soldiers.

Château Malromé is presenting 20 works by Prune Nourry during the summer of 2019. All of them tell the story of preference for male heirs and of seeming coincidences which are most likely planned. The château’s owners, Amélie and Mélanie Huynh, are Franco-Chinese sisters. They are also mothers and were profoundly touched by the bold, palpable works of this humanist artist, which were on display at the Musée Guimet (Paris) from spring to autumn in 2017. The artist was granted use of all the museum’s exhibition areas to fully deploy her vision. At Malromé, the sculptures create new echoes, amplified by unique scenography designed by Benjamin Gabrié.

In the château’s gallery, a specially designed path through a pile of chalk blocks evokes de Lautrec’s drawings and allows visitors to move smoothly from one work to the next, from Holy Daughters to the moulds for the Process series.

The white chalk also evokes the work entitled La Destruction n’est pas une fin en soi (Destruction is not an end in itself), including a large plaster Buddha head covered in incense sticks, which reins over the Malromé courtyard from its centre, welcoming visitors to the château.

Visitors enter through an ear to contemplate their own image reflected in a collection of mirrors that make them look the size of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The Buddha head was originally designed as the crowning piece of a fragmented body spread throughout the spaces of the Musée Guimet. It is a tribute to the many different Buddhas found in the Musée Guimet collections, as well as to the monumental Buddhas of Bamiyan, Afghanistan, which were destroyed by Taliban artillery in 2001. Sculpted into the cliffs as early as the fifth century BCE for the largest among them, they were partially covered with stucco—a coating made of plaster, water, glue and chalk dust—to protect them and embellish them with a second skin. La Destruction n’est pas une fin en soi reminds us that even when our very humanity seems to be lost, one thing remains: cultural immortality. Matter and the written word can be destroyed, but the mind, culture, and art remain and resist destruction.

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