For the last exhibition in the patio before extensions to the Musée des Beaux-Arts begin, Dutch artist Krijn de Koning will be taking over this remarkable setting with a monumental site-specific work.
The piece in question is a powerful, compact construction made up entirely of white partition walls: in this combination of the monumental and the sober the artist abandons the colour that has so far been such a marked feature of his work. Taking possession of the entire patio, he brings radical change in terms of volumes and surfaces: unexpected angles and shifting points of view force visitors to see the site in a totally new light, encouraging them to actively develop a mobile, panoramic perceptual approach.
Here the artist's contribution takes a hallucinatory, quasi-irrational turn reminiscent of the grandiose works of Piranesi, who set out to sublimate Roman antiquity by the sheer scale of his architectural ventures. The Musée des Beaux-Arts is home to many engravings by this Venetian artist, brought together in the famous 18th-century "Cacault" albums which Krijn de Koning consulted for the preparation of his work. Some of the plates that inspired him are also on show, echoing the work in the patio.
De Koning's constructions in France and elsewhere are characterised by their perfect fit with the constraints and imperatives of the different sites he has shown in: urban spaces, landscapes, heritage venues, industrial sites, apartments, houses, museums, art centres and galleries.
His approach is almost always the same: to become physically acquainted with the space, pacing it out, noting its characteristics, volumes, rough edges, nooks and crannies; and then to rethink and reinvent it by absorbing its architecture as a whole. This involves a host of sketches and the making of a model for each space.
While seemingly Minimalist given its materials – painted wood – and its formal simplicity, de Koning's work in fact is the opposite in terms of its complex mise en scène:
The de Koning methodology rests on four principles: 1/occupation of a place which may or may not be a museum but has a clear social function; 2/a response to the specific characteristics of the site, in the form of contraction or expansion, etc; 3/ spatial insertion of the work with a view to neutralising the architectural setting; 4/ creation of an equilibrium putting the viewer face to face with an artistic proposition which, paradoxically, is at once monumental and discreet (Paul Ardenne, Artpress no. 212, April 1996).
And so, like the Krijn de Koning oeuvre as a whole, this installation in the museum patio in Nantes is part of a story: an architectural project and a construction gambit suited to the venue. Borrowing the site's vocabulary, the artist opens doors, widens angles, builds walls. He redesigns the space and in doing so suggests new itineraries: architectural alternatives, yes – but poetic (and why not political?) ones too.