Take Me, I’m Yours, Monnaie de Paris

The Monnaie de Paris, a functioning mint, has hosted contemporary art exhibitions inside the gilded 18th-century palace on the Quai de conti, overlooking the Seine, since 2008. in a reprise of the 1995 Serpentine Gallery show of the same name, here co-curated by artist christian Boltanski, hans Ulrich Obrist, and Chiara Parisi, the Monnaie’s director of cultural programs, the show uses this charged and unusual context to situate artwork (by heman chong, Bertrand lavier, and Sean Raspet, among more than 30 others) within a repository and means of production of our current ruthless economy, one that ostensibly has nothing to do with art. while presenting an exhibition at the site of money manufacture may seem inhospitable, antagonistic even—especially as its public program intensified during the week that Paris hosted fiac and its itinerant circus of art fairs and pop-ups—doing so complicates our understanding of the consequences of trading in material currency.

The picturesque notion of a coin en route through a city, weathering with each pass,
is reflected in many of the installations here, mostly comprising inexpensive ready-made objects available from an inexhaustible supply. Everything is for sampling, mostly
for free and a few for a nominal price. Christian Boltanski’s Dispersion is at the entry, where visitors are handed a branded paper bag and encouraged to fill it up with used clothing from a pile a story high in the opulent, chandeliered foyer. Hans-Peter Feldmann’s Postcards, 1995/2015, offers a cheeky floor-to-ceiling collage of clichéd postcards depicting the Eiffel Tower that papers nearly every surface of a circular side room and a plinth serving little matching statuettes. Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Untitled (Eau de RRose of Damascus), 2015, a hushed room cloaked in rich red tapestries, centers on a radiant distillery on a recessed window ledge, the resulting tiny glass bottles of refined rose- water lined up on the floor for the taking. An aquamarine carpet of cellophane-wrapped candies, Untitled (Revenge), 1991, is instantly recognizable as a Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

Audience participation translates into hoarding (and in the case of Jonathan Horowitz’s Free Store, 2009, unregulated trading) inside this conceptual bazaar, where, stripped of its financial limitations, value— like art itself—is linked not to scarcity in the marketplace but, instead, to an object’s imaginary potential. Bands of kids and adults roaming through the Monnaie relished the chance to stuff their pockets with these art tokens. At this point, even children know that these mounds of cheap little things must be precious and imposing if they’re in a gallery context, and gleefully take two of everything when given the chance.

Modern Painters, January 2016

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