Originally built for the World’s Fair in 1937, the Palais de Tokyo went on to serve as a cinema school, an archival space and, briefly, a squat. Ten months of renovations have brought back into use 14,000 square meters (150,000 square feet) of space left derelict through years of budget constraints and squabbling over whether the Palais was an incubator for young talent or a more conservative, faithful supporter of established French artists. Judging by the first new elements of programming, both demands seem to be catered to, in labyrinthine rooms and corridors that sprawl across four floors that architects Lacaton and Vassal have left under-developed to perfection. It remains to be seen how its new director Jean de Loisy and his curators fare with a Berlin-style industrial concrete site that can be both gracious and unyielding.
The space, which is now Europe's largest centre for contemporary art, opened with fanfair last week with the Paris Triennale - Intense Proximité. Curated by Okwui Enwezor, a Nigerian-born critic and poet, along with four young curators, the Triennale offers a mind boggling inventory of contemporary art at the confluence of the French scene and international centers of creation.
At a few minutes past 6 pm last Thursday, the doors opened to the tuba-like bellows of foghorns from the roof of the Palais, announcing the rebirth — and symbolically, a new maiden voyage — for a several mile radius around Paris. This was a performance, dubbed “Air de Jeu,” by Fouad Bouchoucha, and it is destined to be immortalized through a film featuring recordings that the artist’s assistants made at different historic places while Bouchoucha tooted his horns, which have been reclaimed from decommissioned ships.
|The Palais de Tokyo atrium with Maria Loboda’s “Walldrawing”, “Fear Eats The Soul”|
|Claude Cattelain performing “Armature variable”, at the reopening of the Palais de Tokyo|
|Ulla von Brandenburg’s site-specific intervention “Death of a King”, at the heart of the Palais de Tokyo|