Éric Turquin: Kamel, this is a magni cent juxtaposition: Caravaggio’s Judith and Holofernes, and Daniel Buren’s Pyramidal, haut-relief.
Kamel Mennour: One of the strengths of the gallery is in creating these encounters between great monsters of art history... Kazimir Malevich and François Morellet on the theme of the square... Daniel Buren and Alberto Giacometti 1964-1966, a moment when the two artists were at once contemporaries and at opposite poles in terms of creation. Here the gap is immense. More than 400 years separate the two works.
Éric Turquin: Yes, 410 years, but in a way, the temporal distance is abolished by their being brought together in this way. With Daniel Buren, every exhibition is a work in itself, and then both of the artists share the same desire to confront
the painting of their time. Caravaggio demolished the mannerism that was su ocating Rome. Poussin said that Caravaggio had come into the world to destroy painting! For Roger Fry in 1905, he is the rst modern painter, the rst to proceed not through evolution but rather revolution. And Daniel Buren, for his part, wanted to abolish the Paris School, which had saturated Paris by then, he wanted to be in complete rupture with the history of art.
Kamel Mennour: Above all, we are dealing here with works that are complete opposites, that’s what makes this arrangement work. Caravaggio is telling a story, he dramatises it with a red curtain and a tight composition with three gures who tie the action into the midst of the painting. Daniel’s high relief doesn’t tell anything in itself, it’s dry and strictly non-pictorial. Even if the colours, the black and white, are very Caravaggio.
Éric Turquin: Black, white, and the mirrors too. Caravaggio used a mirror, we know this from a police report from when he had to ee Rome in 1606. At that time, a mirror was very expensive. Daniel Buren tells us that for him, the mirror is a very interesting material, very stable and... cheap! He multiplies space and, here in particular, he multiplies the painting.
Kamel Mennour: e mirrors in Daniel’s high relief repeat Judith’s gaze. Frankly, her gaze is unbearable, and the fact that it gets re ected in the high relief is what shuts us up in the optical trap of this arrangement. ere is no escape from her gaze and her murderous gesture.
Éric Turquin: You know, Judith’s gaze tells us something very precise. Caravaggio is an artist who attempts to incarnate Holy Writ. With her gaze here, Judith reveals the cowardice of the Bethulians who wanted to give themselves up to the Assyrians. She says, ‘Hear me, and I will do a thing, which shall go throughout all generations
to the children of our nation’, and, ‘Smite by the deceit of my lips the servant with the prince, and the prince with the servant: break down their stateliness by the hand of a woman.’ She calls us to witness. rough the interpellation of her gaze, Caravaggio instructs us to read the Text. Kamel Mennour: It was you, Éric, who showed this to me. Holofernes’ dirty ngernails, the idea of opposition between the hand that has been tanned by the sun and the white body of a soldier, which has always been protected beneath his armour. ey’re hooks for getting inside the painting and recalling the Text. ey’re also extraordinary pieces of painting in themselves. And the high relief mirrors in Daniel Buren’s piece re-enact this fragmentation e ect and let us see what might have escaped us. For Daniel, ‘the mirror is the third eye, it makes it possible to see what you don’t see by yourself...’.
Éric Turquin: at’s Caravaggio, and it’s also the light. at powerful vertical light, with its hidden source, dramatising his chiaroscuro, in particular in the nal years, which were his most original, and to which this painting belongs. Madjid Hakimi has created a magni cent lighting arrangement for the occasion, reconnecting with this spirit of Caravaggio’s and respecting the painting, which is not easy to light.
Kamel Mennour: Daniel was very happy to work with Madjid again for this project. In 2014, Madjid made the lights for Daphnis et Chloé at the Opéra de Paris, choreographed by Benjamin Millepied, and with set design by Daniel Buren. With this powerful light, similar to natural light, plunging into a dark room, Madjid sort of recreates Caravaggio’s studio, no?
Éric Turquin: Yes. Historians found documents from a legal dispute between Caravaggio and his landlady because in order to get this lighting e ect, he’d made a hole in the roof of his studio! On the other hand, we don’t know if he really
used the ‘camera oscura’ technique and the projection of the gures he painted onto his canvas through a system of lenses and mirrors. is is David Hockney’s hypothesis, for instance. It might be true but it’s more of an artist’s vision than the vision of an historian.
Kamel Mennour: And then, for a site-speci c work by Daniel Buren to recreate a studio, that would really beat everything, coming from him, who creates exclusively site-speci c work, absolutely outside the bounds of the studio! Éric Turquin: From an art-historical perspective, it’s also extraordinary that Daniel Buren now meets up with a Judith and Holofernes. He reminded us that he exhibited at the Yvon Lambert Gallery in 1979—so forty years ago— with the theme, ‘Judith and Holofernes’, a painting by Artemisia Gentileschi that he had managed to see in the Vasari corridor of the U zi in Florence, which was closed to the public. But at that time, he had worked around a lack, with the painting not only missing but inaccessible. In this case, it’s the opposite—the painting is present, even extremely present!
Kamel Mennour: e ultra-presence of the painting is due to its violence, to the artistic solutions that Caravaggio found... as well as the strong sexual charged contained in the painting, no?
Éric Turquin: Caravaggio is a great artist, this is why he excites so much interest, so many interpretations and analyses. Our times are re ected in him... Kamel, I would like to thank you again for this invitation to see it.