Exhibition of works by Philippe Favier opens at the Art and Archaeology Museum of Valence

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Exhibition of works by Philippe Favier opens at the Art and Archaeology Museum of Valence
Installation view.

VALENCE.- The Art and Archaeology Museum of Valence is hosting an exhibition of works by Philippe Favier. Working closely with curator Thierry Raspail, the artist has devised an exhibition in the former episcopal palace that ranges through 45 rooms, over an area of 4,000 m2.

45 eye-catching moments – 45 unexpected places to stop and contemplate. Everywhere in the museum. All over.

This tour of works by Philippe Favier takes us on a journey that winds its way through natural history, archaeology, fine art, landscapes and the latest displays at the Musée de Valence. It is a vast anthology with a touch of unassuming cosmogony. Every aspect of Philippe Favier’s oeuvre is covered in the show, from the first Battles to his most recent drawings, engravings and boxes, from the work on glass to the photos and collages, with the Albatrosses, the Amazons, the Watercolours of War, the Checkerboards, the Roubos and the Roses, the Shadows on the Picture, history, memory, forgetting – and a host of new works created over the last ten years, to boot.

It is also, above all, as you will have understood, a dialogue between the all-encompassing view of art history that the museum has held since its creation in 1850, and the singular vision of a contemporary artist for whom limits, territories and places are the measure of the world.

In short, it is an old story played out in narrative form, using the humour and images of contemporary art as both benchmark and counterpoint.

It begins at the huge work table where the artist goes about his business. It is cluttered with a thousand things, devices, instruments of all shapes and sizes for making all kinds of incisions – fruitful mistakes that lead who knows where. Then you come to another table, a special loan from the Élysée Palace, with dinner plates, dessert plates, soup bowls, soup tureens, bowls, and sauce boats, commissioned in their own time and never seen before outside the walls of the Palace. The table is set for 20 guests, overseen by a Miraculous Draught of Fish and a Feeding of the Five Thousand, illustrious paintings from the Italian 17th century.

And the journey ends 42 stops later. The idea is to make no distinction between the permanent collection and a separate «temporary exhibition» – we follow a single trail through the museum in the present tense.

Born in 1957 in Saint-Étienne, Philippe Favier now lives and works between Paris, Nice and the Vercors, his personal haunt. This unusual artist is one of those «unclassifiable» specimens that belong to no school nor to any particular generation.

He emerged and was recognized in the 1980s, and the originality of his research as well as his ability not to be influenced soon set him apart from many artists of that period who were rather too hastily grouped together.

His work is a perpetual questioning and, for more than 35 years, has taken the form of a range of sometimes highly original experiments that have the contagious enthusiasm of a secret, self-sufficient renewal.

His sources are so diverse that he says he controls none of them. Whether he references Velàzquez or Reinhardt, Inca glyphs or Braille, Peloponnesian icons or Indian cinema, whether he touches on Antonin Arnaud or Antonio Porchia, Sempé or Raôul Duguay, he seems to find inspiration in everything, yet no hierarchy seems to stem the flow of this lepidopteran curiosity.

The attentive observer will have noticed that through the filter of these few decades, there is the suggestion of a «beachcomber’s encyclopaedia». A sort of inventory, orchestrated by a Queneau-like artist, as cheerful-looking as he is morbid, a polymorphous Prévert with parsimoniously controlled slippings and slidings that confer a kind of authenticity on the oeuvre, a sort of brutal clarity that precludes any abuse of free will, whether knowingly or calculated.

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