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Claude Léveque's Installation "Le Grand Soir" will Represent France at the 53rd Venice Biennale
Claude Lévêque, Le Grand Sommeil, 2006. Installation in situ MAC/VAL, Vitry-sur-Seine 36 carcasses de lits en PVC, boules blanches en polystyrène, demi sphères en Plexiglas, lumière noire. Diffusion sonore, musique de salle de pachinko. Conception sonore en collaboration avec Gerome Nox. Photo Marc Domage © ADAGP Claude Lévêque. Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris.

PARIS.- This year Claude Lévêque is the artist who will represent France at the 53rd International Exhibition of Art – Venice Biennale. At the French Pavilion, he will feature an installation entitled “Le Grand Soir”, which will be in character with the thrust of his work. A uniquely French concept from the eve of the Revolution, “Le Grand Soir” evokes the moment when the world changed.

To support him in this project, Claude Lévêque has selected Christian Bernard as curator; Christian Bernard is the director of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Geneva.

Under the administration of Daniel Birnbaum, a Swedish art critic and philosopher, the 53rd International Exhibition of Art – Venice Biennale’s theme this year is: Making Worlds. It questions the process of artistic creation.

Claude Lévêque has for years been recognized as a major artist on the French and international scene. His works refer to popular culture, to the everyday environment, and to mental images. He creates ambiances, environments and objects while expanding the installation’s dimensions through the use of the sensory effectiveness of light and sound. Playing on the ability of the works to provoke visual and sensory emotions, he shakes up the perceptual and reactive habits of the cultural references necessary to his creation.

Claude Lévêque
Born in 1953 in Nevers (France). Lives and works in Montreuil and Pèteloup (France).

Claude Lévêque was a student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Bourges when he discovered Modern Art, but it was in Paris, at an exhibit of Christian Boltanski at the National Centre for the Plastic Arts (Rue Berryer) that he discovered Contemporary Art.

He came often to absorb influences in Paris where he found “an avant-garde scene (...) conceived by Serge Krügger, designed by the graphic artists of Bazooka, painted by Kiki Picasso, with sound track by Edith Nylon, the Stinky Toys, and Taxi Girl, which has its own stars (Jacno, Marie-France, Elli Medeiros, Alain Pacadis...) and headquarters: Fabrice Emaer’s Palace (...), and the uninterrupted sequence of concerts and parties, thereby constructing an aesthetics of rupture” that was to be the foundation of his work.

He exhibited his work for the first time in 1982 as part of a collective event at the Maison des Arts in Créteil where he presented an installation entitled Grand Hotel (a work that he has kept to this day).

Fond of alternative culture and punk music, Claude Lévêque has based the essence of his work on the use of image, sound and light. The artist is fascinated by the world of adolescence, whose “capacity for wonderment, perhaps like a refuge” he would like to keep. He declares he has “a traditional approach” to art, which he conceives as a reflection of society.

Claude Lévêque looks objectively at what surrounds him and does not seek to deny or embellish reality: he is its witness and imposes it on the spectator, who then also becomes a player.

“When it is not inclined to commercial whims. art makes it possible to withstand formatted thinking and to make society evolve. But this is a very remote possibility. The artist has a very limited reach and a very fragile, albeit essential, role. As the climax of the liberal system, the world of art is merciless, and the engaged artist is reduced to folklore in it.”

He has exhibited his work in prestigious institutions for more than twenty years: PS 1 in New-York, MAMCO in Geneva, Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris... But he responds with the same eagerness to the most alternative communities, whether taking on an abandoned public housing complex in Bourges with Emmetrop, or in Uckange in one of the last intact blast furnaces in the Lorraine: “I love industrial wastelands, like ruins. Because I love destruction.” Whether dealing with the submission of bodies, the cult of performance, or widespread surveillance, Claude Lévêque violently brings up the malaise of today’s society. “When you’re in a vulnerable situation, consuming art is not a priority. But it can help get back in touch with life, with not being stuck in suffering. That’s what will save art: if it stays only in the merchant circuit, it will die very quickly.”

His work has also been shown in many French and foreign art centres; the Kamel Mennour gallery, which represents him, devoted a one-man show to him in 2008: “Welcome to suicide park” and, through the end of the year, many places, from Paris to Seoul, by way of Rouen, Toulouse and Béthune will present his work.

Christian Bernard
Born in 1950 in Strasbourg. After teaching letters, humane sciences and philosophy in Alsace, Christian Bernard was named Advisor for the plastic arts of the Rhône-Alpes Regional Office of Cultural Affairs. From 1982 to 1985, he contributed in particular to the regional contemporary art collection (FRAC) and received major public commissions (Richard Serra in Bourg-en-Bresse, Jean-Pierre Raynaud project at Les Minguettes, etc.). He also supported the implementation of major infrastructures for contemporary art (art museums and centres in Saint-Étienne, Grenoble, Lyon, Villeurbanne, etc.). In 1986, Christian Bernard took over management of Villa Arson in Nice, which combines a National Centre of Contemporary Art, an art school and artists’ residences, which over the years have produced artists like Philippe Ramette, Jean-Luc Verna, Natacha Lesueur and Tatiana Trouvé. For the last 14 years he has been the head of Mamco in Geneva.

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