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Ron Mueck

The Cartier Foundation invites the Australian sculptor Ron Mueck to exhibit a set of works never before shown in France alongside emblematic works from his career. the Foundation is therefore pursuing a long-term dialogue with this artist whom it revealed to the French public in 2005 and whose works are as rare as expected.

This third exhibition bears witness to the recent evolution of Ron Mueck’s practice. The scale and craftsmanship of the monumental installation Mass marks a new milestone in the artist’s career. This work, commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne, Australia) in 2017, is the largest he has ever produced. Composed of one hundred gigantic human skulls, Mass is reconfigured by the artist according to the space he has available for each presentation. It offers a fascinating physical and psychic experience that leads us to contemplate the fundamental notions of human existence. Its title alone gives an idea of the polysemy of the work. The English word “mass”, meaning both a heap, a heap, a crowd but also a mass, is a source of interpretations specific to each visitor. The iconography of the skull itself is ambiguous. If the history of art associates it with the brevity of human life, it is also omnipresent in popular culture.

For the artist, “the human skull is a complex object, a powerful, graphic icon that one immediately identifies. Familiar and strange at the same time, it repels as much as it intrigues. It is impossible to ignore, subconsciously capturing our attention. The skulls are presented as a group, a sum of individuals that imposes itself on the visitor. In this, Mass differs from the previous works of Ron Mueck who had, until then, always represented the human being in his individuality.

Also exhibited for the first time in France, Dead Weight (2021), a nearly two-ton cast iron skull, contrasts with his usually naturalistic works. The traces of the molding of this sculpture remain, the artist having voluntarily left the marks of its manufacture and the raw nature of the material to speak for themselves.

The exhibition also unveils a spectacular sculpture representing a group of menacing dogs, created especially for the occasion, which Ron Mueck was already feeding into the project when he was preparing his monographic exhibition at the Fondation Cartier in 2013.

Three emblematic works from the 2000s are also presented. For Baby (2000), a tiny sculpture of a newborn baby boy, Ron Mueck modeled an image found in a medical textbook showing a baby held aloft by its feet just minutes after delivery. . At the antipodes of the installation Mass, an evocation of the post-mortem body, this meticulous representation of the first moments of life attracts attention just as intensely. By reversing the original image and hanging the sculpture on the wall like a crucifix, the artist first presents his work as a religious icon. But on closer observation, the visitor is transfixed by the almost insolent gaze of the baby.

Man in a boat (2002) depicts a particularly mysterious scene. A man whose arms hide his nudity is seated at the prow of a long boat and leans forward, with a questioning or scrutinizing gaze. As often with Ron Mueck, this character seems to “withdraw or drift into inner states that are almost inaccessible to us”, in the words of art critic Justin Paton.

With A Girl (2006), the visitor finds himself face to face with a gigantic newborn, who takes his first look at the world. Stained with traces of blood, the umbilical cord still present, her body is still marked by the experience of childbirth. The artist plays on an impressive distortion of scale to evoke both the miracle and the ordeal of birth, a forgotten yet fundamental moment for each of us.

June 8 – November 5, 2023


261 boulevard Raspail 75014 Paris