At the moment, it seems that Paris exhibitions are all about GIRLS. But I’ll be talking of an Parisian exhibition with a lot les press coverage but, in my books, a bit more feminist integrity. I am talking about the first inaugural group exhibition “Suivez mon regard” in the art boutique L’oeil de la Femme à Barbe”.
Located in a cosy little venue rue Quincampoix in Paris, right next to the Centre Pompidou, this first exhibition focuses around 30 women artists, using various mediums and subject-matter that weaves in and out of our notions of contemporary and decorative art.
You might wonder why L’oeil de la Femme à Barbe chose the term “boutique d’art et d’objets itinérante” (roughly translatable as “art and objects itinerant shop”) has been chosen as rather than “art gallery”.
After a discussion with the owner and curator of the exhibition, it seems as though she wants to avoid the main labels that are attached to art galleries, in her own opinion: a sense of remoteness, isolation and silence. And although I disagree, believing that the atmosphere of a gallery (and its opening nights) varies widely depending on their owners, I do understand what she means in the general sense. Indeed, when I stumble upon the boutique with a friend, we are welcomed by her with open arms, drinks and food…as well as the presence of the artists themselves. Every Sunday and Thursday they assemble to welcome visitors and talk to them about their work.
It is a clever way of taking the element that really livens up a gallery exhibition – its opening night – and repeating it once a week, every time with various artists and informal discussions. And the display itself invites this cosiness, without cluttering the space; while the first floor has a lounge with a sofa and refreshments, downstairs is a cool and spacious continuation of the exhibition, allowing for a quieter viewing.
Amongst these artists, eccentricity and humour mingled with quaint, unsetting qualities seems to be the key. Amongst them: Martha Romero’s textile sculpted canvases, in which her little feminine models emulate both religious icons and art history in their small and soft intimate frames. I also had a soft spot for Pétra Werlé, who collects bits of vegetation and dead insects in the forest and then assembles them into impish, fairy-like characters, both ethereal and organic in nature. I was able to talk to her about her practice and passion, born from a great deal of boredom in her day job and the realization that with a bit of bread dough, butterfly wings, pinecones and leaves.
This creates a process of relic-like accumulation that also relates it to the work of Odette Picaud, who enjoys collecting tiny objects that she can amalgamate into sculptures that float somewhere between esoteric theatricals and nightmares, with a clear Baroque aesthetic. The love of bricolage and small scale is quite refreshing in an art world concerned with monumentality and fits in with the intimacy of the space.
In order to fall in love with the exhibition, I first fell in love with the place and its atmosphere. It possesses warmth coupled with a true sense of curating and artistic direction, showcasing emerging artists and letting them express themselves freely. And it is all about women, whether they are bearded or not. I therefore invite you to discover it if you are passing by the area, until the 19th of June – it will have some pleasant surprises in store for you.