Ambition d'art

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The Institut d’art contemporain in Villeurbanne, France celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in 2008 and, to mark this occasion, invites its founder, Jean Louis Maubant, to curate an exhibition that will be accompanied by a major publication.
Ambition d’art is a milestone for the Institute and the focus for numerous events: a colloquium, two days of international meetings and a region-wide tour showing works from the Rhône-Alpes Collection in resonance with Ambition d’art.

«Artists change the world; at the very least, some of them have tried. Or, to be more exact, some change the individual-as-viewer provided he or she accepts this dialogue with art. This was true when the Nouveau Musée came into being some years ago. Since then the Museum has become the Institut d’art contemporain, where art is seen as something that can be worked on and studied. Obviously, this is no less true today, even if our modern, progressive utopias have suffered the onslaught of business, the spectacular and «every manfor himself.»

Apprendre à lire l’art–learning to read art—was the title of a Lawrence Weiner exhibition at the Institute and we can well imagine how, from 1978 to 2008, successive programmes have looked for ways to bring this ambition into being. To read the art of one’s time is to potentially read one’s time differently, to see it in the light of what artists bring by way of fresh illumination.

Indeed, the history of art is nothing more than an endless to-and-fro between a society and its artists. All those taking part in Ambition d’art have, to a greater or lesser degree, transformed a percentage—perhaps larger than one might think—of visitors first to the Museum then to the Institute. They challenge us to (re)consider our situation in relation to the world (Alighiero Boetti), our ability to see things  (Daniel Buren), how we relate to objects (Tony Cragg), our tendency to forget mythologies and classicism (Luciano Fabro), how we relate to contemporary religious feeling deep within (Anish Kapoor), time and the relationship between individual and infinity (On Kawara), machismo and its consequences (Martha Rosler), the reconstructed image and painting (Jeff Wall), poetry and the generosity of dialogue (Lawrence Weiner), the strange and the offbeat (Jordi Colomer), and the city and the need to always fight for the survival of utopias (Yona Friedman).

Over the course of these thirty years, the Institute has presented more than one hundred and forty artists in solo or small group shows. Gordon Matta-Clark, Giulio Paolini, Leonel Moura, Öyvind Fahlström, Gillian Wearing, Douglas Gordon, Melik Ohanian and many others could just as easily have been part of Ambition d’art, but the Institute only has eleven rooms and, wishing as always to respect both artists and public, I felt it would be right to stage Ambition d’art as a dialogue between eleven solo exhibitions, hence this selection process. The two-volume publication is an opportunity to put right the inevitable injustice this entails by including all the artists who have been a part of this adventure.

The purpose of Ambition d’art is not to look back on and commemorate these past thirty years. Instead it must consider the present in the light of a very recent past. It must also find ways to bring into perspective different stages in each artist’s work. This is another way to read and reveal the art of eleven of the most important artists of these «between the centuries» years.»

Jean Louis Maubant, curator of the exhibition Ambition d’art.
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