Leïla Jarbouai's IFPDA Fine Art Print Fair Online Picks

Oct 26, 2020 9:40PM

IFPDA Executive Director Jenny Gibbs invited Leïla Jarbouai (Conservatrice des arts graphiques, Musée d'Orsay) to select a list of favorites from the IFPDA Fine Art Print Fair.


"I wish I had more time to develop a longer list, there are so many interesting and beautiful artworks in the IFPDA Online Fair. I made random (but feminist-oriented!) choices, not connected with Orsay's collection. I accepted the invitation more as an art lover and art historian than as a curator at Orsay -- these choices are purely personal and have no link with the institution I work with. Overwhelmed by the number of artworks on the website, I choose to let chance guide me."

Among the drawings, one of my favourite is Deux automobiles (two cars) Peugeot Fiat by Jean Dubuffet. This drawing was made a few years after Roland Barthes described in Mythologies the car (DS Citroen) as a perfect, smooth, with perfectly fluid lines and jointless magic object, and the modern equivalent of gothic cathedrals. Dubuffet totally distorts this magic object and makes it imperfect, awkward, tinkered…, the opposite of one expects from a car, especially during the Trente Glorieuses, the post-war economic boom. He transforms the cars into a kind of animal skins or flying and childish monsters. It is the joyful revenge of fantasy upon standardization.

Then let see what work on paper gives… In this category, I was attracted by Lesley Dill’s Hummingbird Dress. I like its hybridity of this collage, both dress and bird, picture and writing, and the object’s dynamism, it seems to dance. I had discovered Lesley Dill when I worked on Frida Kahlo, a few years ago, because she paid tribute to Frida Kahlo in some of her works, and also in this artwork I remember Frida’s huge Tehuana skirts and the hummingbird, a magical bird for Mexican prehispanic cultures. This collage also makes me think of fans mounted on paper by artists like Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas in the end of the 1870s. With this open size shape, fan is very good at expressing movement, unfolding, like a beating of wings.

While going on the virtual tour, Offerings by Shirin Neshat caught my eye, another picture woven by words and letters. I like the transformation of the hand, beautiful fragment of the body, into a page. Here, a tattoo on closed hands is transformed into poetry when they are open, decorative patterns become calligraphy, tradition (henna patterns on women’s hands for wedding ceremonies) become subversion (it is a poem by Omar Khayyam about wine, a forbidden beverage especially for women in several muslim countries nowadays).

Another artwork that questions the links between art and politics, personal and history, is Odyssey by Emma Amos. I like her poetical approach, the way she associates text and image, black and white photographs and colors, the tinkered side of her pictures. More and more we realize that official art history has to re- written as whole continents were forgotten, among which women artists, African American or African European artists. At musee d’Orsay, to my modest scale, I try to develop an outsider acquisition line for the graphic arts to question the official history, with artworks by unknown but very interesting artists, the more often women who created a real corpus of works. In Amos’ Odyssey, I like the hybridity and modesty of the medium, her borrowings to popular art, the mixed technique that is also an interbreeding technique. Her Odyssey, the Odyssey of her foremothers and forefathers, is a kind of monument but it is also the reverse of marble and iron monuments. It reveals frailty, humanity, dynamism. Like an open book.

Emma Amos
Odyssey, 1988
Mary Ryan Gallery, Inc

Some more artworks, found ramdomly, by artists that became old friends for me !

Käthe Kollwitz
Self-Portrait, 1924
Worthington Gallery

Could you believe that there are never been any Kathe Kollwitz exhibition in Paris and that there is almost no work of her in the national museums and libraries collections ? She is still quite totally unknown in France, except in Alsace because of the close links between this region and Germany. It is one of the exhibitions projects I proposed for musée d’Orsay… A restless experimentator, she is a real mistress of printmaking and she produced unforgettable etchings, lithographs and woodcuts. She is both « avant-garde » and desirous to reach a wide public. In this selfportrait she is 57 years old, her wrinkles, the work of time, mixes with the raws lines of the wood cut. She has the traditional posture of Melancholy. As always in her work, hands are very expressive, in this case her hands as an artist that save her from despair after the death of her son Peter during WWI.

The rose, both sweet and thorny, becomes the lungs, or maybe the fœtus in the womb, or the germ in the egg, in any case, it is both perfect, in this circular close shape, and the beginning of something else, something in transformation. Thanks to the technique and color, red rose, love and passion, is the same as blood. Vegetal is organic. Nature is Woman (or Man). Louise Bourgeois shakes the borders. With minimal means, she says everything.


Leïla Jarbouai is the Conservatrice des arts graphiques, Musée d'Orsay.