Text by Francesca Fontanesi

The Espace Louis Vuitton Venice has announced the opening of a new exhibition Je Est Un Autre by the French artist Ernest Pignon-Ernest, a collateral event of the sixtieth International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.

Since the beginning of his career in the Sixties, the concept of stranger has been a significant element in the works of Ernest Pignon-Ernest. For this exhibition, his repertoire of migrants, travelers, and poets has been enriched with the creation of two new faces of great poets: the Russian Anna Akhmatova and the Iranian Forough Farrokhzad, who, along with Pier Paolo Pasolini, Arthur Rimbaud, Antonin Artaud, and Jean Genet, among others, constitute the heart of this new exhibition: on the occasion of the Venice Biennale, the Fondation Louis Vuitton has invited the French artist to present Je Est Un Autre, an exhibition specially designed for the Espace Louis Vuitton Venice. The exhibition is an integral part of the Beyond the Walls program of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, which takes place in Espace Louis Vuitton locations in Tokyo, Monaco, Venice, Beijing, Seoul, and Osaka, fulfilling the Foundation’s commitment to creating international projects and making them accessible to a wider audience.

Since the Sixties, and several decades before the emergence of street art, Ernest Pignon-Ernest was already charting an adventurous path, combining technical mastery, existential honesty, and the ability to poetically inhabit the world, doing so with extraordinary innovation. Throughout his career, he accomplished the miracle of reconciling an uncompromising ethical commitment with a demanding and innovative artistic expression, to the extent that some of his works, like the portrayal of the executed La Commune and his wandering Rimbaud, have been reproduced in hundreds of thousands of copies and have become contemporary icons. His image of the nineteenth-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud, for example, has replaced in many cases the standard photograph previously used on the covers of the poet’s works. Everywhere and on every continent, even on the beach in Ostia where Pasolini was assassinated, Pignon-Ernest explores the destinies of individuals who break with conventions or who are myths to be revived. In doing so, the artist takes on each time an unprecedented risk; the same risk that pursued Rimbaud when he persisted in finding the place and the formula. The artist creates his life-size images in selected sites and projects into everyday environments, a living human presence through a strategic combination of image and place. His work is always conceived based on the potential of its interaction with a place, of which he seeks to explore the historical, mythical, or political resonances. He allows the traces of time to merge with his work until they dissolve it. Even today, Pignon-Ernest’s Parisian studio is located in La Ruche, the artist residence founded at the beginning of the XX century to welcome foreign artists from all over the world, including Akhmatova in 1910-1911. His work has sparked the interest of artists such as Francis Bacon, who began compiling a dossier on the artist’s work in 1976, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, and Barthélémy Toguo, who has made his work known throughout Africa through exhibitions organized by his foundation.

The exhibition, curated by Suzanne Pagé and Hans Ulrich Obrist, in dialogue with Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, is accompanied by a publication that gathers numerous reproductions, artist comments, Notes for Ernest by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, and a conversation between the artist, Suzanne Pagé, and Hans Ulrich Obrist.

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