Chairman of the CEA (French Association of Exhibition Commissioners) and member of the board of directors of CIPAC (Federation of Contemporary Art Professionals), Jérôme Cotinet-Alphaize is the joint general commissioner with Marianne Derrien (winner of the “Young Commissioners” grant from the Institut Français/Bureau for Visual Arts in Berlin) for the “SOME OF US / An overview of the French art scene” exhibition for the French Pavilion in the 2019 edition of NORDART at the Kunstwerk Carlshütte in Büdelsdorf, Germany, where work by 171 female artists from the French scene born between 1968 and 1993 are exhibited.
The SOME OF US/An overview of the French art scene exhibition brings together 171 emerging French women artists from the last 20 years. Why have you chosen to do this?
"Some of Us" is, above all, a real focus on the French artistic scene over the last 20 years. By exploring exhibitions from the early 90s to today, I have been able to pick out two distinct trends. Firstly, for the first time in art history, there is a large number of women artists, so you can say that their creations are representative of the aesthetics of this era. Also, there is a real range of eclectic practices, an affirmation and an assumption of individuality, unlike previous generations of artists whose work was more fixed and associated with currents or trends; the exhibition is organised around these two major themes.
Could you clarify the ambiguous title, "Some of Us"?
I would say it is paradoxical rather than ambiguous. In my opinion, an exhibition should be a kind of paradox in itself. Its role is to bring a situation into play and make it visible in its complexity, leading to a future where questions can be asked — without seeking to resolve them — but it should under no circumstances impose a point of view. “Some of Us” concerns and addresses everyone by offering a very free and comprehensive approach to the artist in general. That’s why I chose an intransitive title in English. This exhibition deals not with gender issues, but with a sociological evolution. The subtitle “an overview of the French art scene” also shows that it is not a matter of excluding men, but rather of offering an overall vision through its principle change.
When do you think women found their place on the French art scene?
Starting the selection with artists born in 1968 is no coincidence. From this generation, women have gained a new place in society, the starting point for genuine cultural and social progress. This movement continued to progress from then on. It would have been difficult to bring together 171 women artists 20 years ago. We are now expecting to achieve parity within a few years after the launch of fine arts. This will be a sign of great opportunities and prospects for women artists to be spotted and exhibited; the game has been won in this respect! Even though much remains to be done...
The history of the industrial group ACO, the creator of NORDART and the first German international group to have been led by a woman, Kate Ahlmann between 1931 and 1946, seems to echo your exhibition. Should we take this as your starting point?
This information only came to light during our preparatory work and simply confirmed our initial position. It was decisive for the final choice. Kate Ahlmann was the first female business leader in the West and the initiator of women entrepreneurship clubs in Germany and later around the world; the annual Nordart exhibition extends its socio-cultural action. It is not based on a curatorial approach, but puts out a global call for tenders from all artists from scenes that are still unknown.
How did you get this incredible space offered by NORDART? What scenography did you select?
Nordart is an international exhibition of over 1,000 works in the 22,000 square metres of the former foundries of the factory. Such a space is quite exceptional. For the French pavilion, we have selected 270 works from 171 different artists, which will be distributed over a space of 3,000 m2 in three large rooms. This vast area has allowed us to experiment with different types of hanging mechanisms and fixtures by experimenting with supports, bases, heights, alternating formats and screens and soundscapes. Eclecticism has been the watchword, and any thematic approach has been avoided. The selection was like an association and opposition game, painting a landscape with unexpected variations of the French artistic scene of the last 20 years, amongst which the spectator can wander. These juxtapositions reveal the singularity of each work and promote the youngest artists.
How would you sum up this exhibition?
“Some of Us” is designed as a statement. Neither forward-looking nor explanatory, the exhibition aims to be a practical inventory, hence the importance of this very diverse and varied range of works which are deliberately not arranged in themes. “Some of Us” shows the changes and developments in global culture; it lays the first milestones in the history of this generation of artists. This is an initial finding, an initial observation of these X and Y generations of artists who have brought a real cultural change in all its forms.
Jérôme Cotinet Alphaise is curator of the "Some of Us” exhibition which runs from 1 June to 13 October 2019 at the Kunstwerk Carlshutte in Büdelsdorf as part of “NordArt”. This year, France is invited to this contemporary art event. The "Some of Us" exhibition is supported by the Institut français in partnership with the Centre-Val de Loire region.
The Institut français partners with 21 local authorities to develop international artistic exchanges.
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