Kiki Smith's first solo show in a French public institution on view at Monnaie de Paris

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Kiki Smith's first solo show in a French public institution on view at Monnaie de Paris
Kiki Smith, Untitled III (Upside-Down Body with Beads), 1993. White bronze with glass beads and wire. 0verall installation dimensions variable. Figure: 94 x 37.5 x 48.3 cm. Beads: 375.9 x 37.5 x 0.6 cm. Photo: Ellen Page Wilson © Kiki Smith, courtesy Pace Gallery.

PARIS.- The 11 Conti – Monnaie de Paris is presenting the first solo show of the American artist Kiki Smith (born 1954, living in New York) by a French public institution. This unique collection of exceptional breadth brings together almost one hundred works from the 1980s to the present day. Visitors are being greeted by two sculptures in the exterior courtyards of Monnaie de Paris and the exhibition itself is being held on two floors, covering more than 1000m2, notably within the historic salons facing the Seine.

The exhibition covers the major themes of the artist’s oeuvre, including the human body, the female figure and the symbiotic relationship with nature, all of which are recurring motifs.The works presented at Monnaie de Paris reflect the great diversity of Kiki Smith’s practice, and the wide variety of mediums she has explored: bronze, plaster, glass, porcelain, tapestry, paper and wax.

The symbolism of Kiki Smith’s art finds its inspiration in her childhood memories – her reading of the fairy tales of Perrault and the Grimm brothers – and the model making she did for her father, the sculptor Tony Smith. The whole of her oeuvre is marked by her fascination with the human body, which she at first represented as separate individual parts with the skin appearing as a fragile frontier between the body and the world. In the mid 1980s, Kiki Smith discovered for herself new and original ways of exploring women’s social, cultural and political roles in society.

Subsequently, her work took on a more narrative form. From a feminist standpoint, she appropriated many of the great female biblical figures in order to depict them in a fresh and innovative manner. Within the corpus of her work they sit side by side with heroines from fairy tales or the ambiguous figure of the witch, at the crossroads of a universe of fantasy and popular folklore.

From the early 2000s, she became progressively more interested in the great myths of creation and cosmogony brought into being a new chapter of her practice in its own right.

In parallel to this, the harmonious co-existence between women and animals began to feature in her work: their bodies sometimes joined together in fusion, independent of any verisimilitude.

Thus Kiki Smith’s oeuvre resembles a voyage, a quest in search of a union between the body and all other living beings and the cosmos. From microscopic elements to the organs of the body, from the organs to the body in its entirety, then from the body to cosmic systems, the artist explores the relationship between different species and scales, seeking out the harmony that unites us with nature and the universe. Although sculpture occupies a central position in her work, Kiki Smith has also produced many drawings, often in large format. The artist particularly appreciates the art of engraving and has a personal collection of coins and precolonial currency.

Kiki Smith (American, b. 1954, Nuremberg, Germany) has been known since the 1980s for her multidisciplinary practice relating to the human condition and the natural world. She uses a broad variety of materials to continuously expand and evolve a body of work that includes sculpture, printmaking, photography, drawing, and textiles. Smith has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions worldwide including over 25 museum exhibitions. Her work has been featured at five Venice Biennales, including the 2017 edition. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2017 was awarded the title of Honorary Royal Academician by the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Previously, Smith was recognized in 2006 by TIME Magazine as one of the “TIME 100: The People Who Shape Our World.” Other awards include the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture in 2000; the 2009 Edward MacDowell Medal; the 2010 Nelson A. Rockefeller Award, Purchase College School of the Arts; the 2013 U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts, conferred by Hillary Clinton; and the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sculpture Center, among others. She is an adjunct professor at NYU and Columbia University.

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