All That Glitters: A Group Show Doused in Gold

Copper was important in ancient Rome, brass in Greece, zinc in India, bronze in Mesopotamia. But across cultures and time periods, there’s one metal that’s universally considered to be the most precious. 

It’s gold—or rather, “GOLD!” And it’s the subject of a new group show at Galerie Agnès Monplaisir in Paris. The capitalization and punctuation announce the artists’ enthusiasm for the material. And why not? Besides diamonds, perhaps, what other material is such an across-the-board symbol of wealth and prosperity? The show’s 10 artists represent a wide range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. 

In some cases, the artwork transmits a direct message about what gold means within a specific cultural context. The artist Olga de Amaral, for instance, is Colombian; her gold-leaf works are inspired by the landscapes of her native country and by its long-running textile tradition. Though she often works in vibrant colors, her pieces for “GOLD!” are purely, well, gold. Some are geometric, like Pueblo V (2013), while others are sculptural, like Nudo X (2011) and still others, like Dos mitades VI (2012) resemble gold-woven tapestries. Seen together, they call to mind a collection of precious pre-Columbian artifacts.

Also representing South America is the Brazilian artist Marcos Coelho Benjamim, who comes, quite fittingly, from the mineral-rich state of Minas Gerais. Though Benjamim defies simple categorization—“I don’t do sculpture work, I create objects; rather I don’t create objects, I make things,” he said—it’s safe to say that his three-dimensional constructions, often made with tactile metals, fit well into the exhibition. From across the room, Roda ouro #2 (2012) looks almost like an oversized cymbal. It’s only upon closer inspection that the viewer can fully appreciate its complexity and elegance.

Other artists featured in “GOLD!” hail from England, France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, and the Afro-Brazilian state of Bahia, Brazil. Walking around the exhibit, the viewer has the intriguing task of trying to guess which works correspond to which cultures. One thing is clear: no matter where the artists are from, or what their cultural influences might be, the material itself, noble and glittering, is the great unifier.

Bridget Gleeson

GOLD!” is on view at Galerie Agnès Monplaisir, Paris, Mar. 20–Apr. 18, 2015.

Follow Galerie Agnès Monplaisir on Artsy.