We are pleased to mark the reopening of Monnaie de Paris with "Chocolate Factory" by Paul McCarthy, an exhibition curated by our Director of Cultural Programmes, Chiara Parisi.
Paul McCarthy is a figurehead of the international art scene. For an entire generation of artists he embodies the energy and capacity for reinvention so particular to the city of Los Angeles. His work had wielded a huge influence on currently practising artists. For his first large-scale solo exhibition in France, McCarthy brings the final configuration of “Chocolate Factory” exclusively to Paris. In this complex and ambitious project, the story of a work seven years in the making merges with the history of the space. “Chocolate Factory” is open to the public from 25 October 2014 to 4 January 2015 in the new Monnaie de Paris exhibition space, which has been entirely appropriated by the artist.
The wonderland experience begins at the main staircase, where the visitor is lured into a fairytale forest of giant inflatable Christmas trees. Aside from their looming proportions, these familiar objects appear bizarrely out of place in the polished surrounds of the historical building. This surprising juxtaposition draws us into the magic of Hollywood and the dark side of the American dream.
Continuing into the main reception room, the Salon d’Honneur or Guillaume Dupré room, we find a team of confectioners hard at work in a life-size, fully functioning chocolate factory. This is where the magic of “Chocolate Factory” happens. Against the perfectly preserved backdrop of a salon that gleams with the splendour of a bygone age, effigies of Santa Claus and his fellow icon, the Christmas tree, are mass produced in real chocolate. By putting the entire assembly line on show, McCarthy lays bare the very mechanisms of merchandising, production and sale. Visitors look on as hundreds more chocolate figures are added every day to the burgeoning stockpile. The fleeting nature of the product renders production a performance, an economically untenable exercise.
The meta connotations of “Chocolate Factory” within the walls of the oldest manufacturing plant in Paris call into question the concept of mass production in the very place where coins are minted in their dozens or hundreds of millions. The consumable and perishable artworks produced by “Chocolate Factory” are available for purchase there and then, in unlimited quantities. Mounds of chocolate figures grow by the day to form one massive sculpture, culminating on the final day of the exhibition.
McCarthy transforms our succession of 18th-century salons into his own personal dreamworld. Visitors consciously choose whether or not to open the door to this part of the exhibition after viewing the “Chocolate Factory” installation. A film projected in each room speaks to our subconscious, our hidden side, our unspoken innermost thoughts. Over different versions replayed in each of the eight salons, the film becomes an absorbing labyrinth; visitors may abandon themselves to the experience or choose not to find out what lies behind the door. Reality gives way to the absurd in this fantasy land inspired by Alfred Jarry’s King Ubu character. The peculiar otherworldly feel of the tunnel-like installation is enhanced by the presence of the artist’s bed, which has been moved here for the duration of the exhibition. In counterpoint to the frantic pace of the Factory, this is the realm of slumber and unconsciousness, of absence from the self. Bed is a place between waking and sleeping; a place where we stop, leave behind our established dominant role and give in to dreams. A place of endless possibilities.
The exhibition is accompanied by a book designed by the artist and a series of engraved medals designed by Paul McCarthy in conjunction with our engraving workshop. Initially inspired by a conversation with critic Donatien Grau, this is art history in the making. We are proud to present the work of one of the most important contemporary artists of his generation within the historical surrounds of Monnaie de Paris.
PAUL MCCARTHY: BIOGRAPHY
Paul McCarthy was born in 1945 in Salt Lake City. He lives and works in Los Angeles. Since 1982, on the invitation of Chris Burden, he has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles.
He has exhibited in the world’s most prestigious museums including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) (2000), Tate Modern, London (2003), Haus der Kunst, Munich (2005), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2008), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2006), Whitechapel Gallery, London (2005), Hamburger Bahnhof Museum, Berlin (2008), Punta della Dogana, Venice (2009), and Trussardi
Foundation, Milan (2010). More recently and memorably his work has featured in exhibitions at the Armory Show, New York (2013), Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2013) and Portikus, Frankfurt (2014).
McCarthy is an active contributor to the contemporary art scene. He has taken part in the Venice Biennale on five occasions (in 2012, 2001, 1999, 1995 and 1993), in the Whitney Biennale in New York on three occasions (in 2004, 1997 and 1995), and in the Lyon Biennale (2003), Berlin Biennale (2006), and Sydney Biennale (in 2010 and 2000).
Monnaie de Paris, founded on the banks of the Seine in 864, is France’s most ancien institution. We have a public service remit to strike official euro currency for France as well as foreign currency coins in our Pessac plant just outside Bordeaux, which opened in 1973.
In 2007-2008 we embarked on the MetaLmorphoses renovation project in a bid to throw open to the doors of our strongbox on the banks of the Seine, as our site was seen at the time. We hope to make Monnaie de Paris a destination that members of the public will feel free to wander into and explore. Our splendid 18th-century building is being transformed into a place to learn about our craft and our products and to peruse exhibitions of contemporary art.
MetaLmorphoses is all about metal, the element at the core of everything we do. A programme of four exhibitions a year curated by Chiara Parisi is to begin in October 2014. With a focus on contemporary art, the programme will showcase the work of contemporary artists and encourage dialogue between the current art scene and the oldest manufacturing plant still in operation in France. By commissioning
internationally acclaimed artists to create site-specific projects, we hope to start a conversation between contemporary art and our history-steeped premises, a UNESCO world heritage site.
The ‘Factory’ cycle is the hub of our new cultural strategy. Once a year a contemporary artist will be commissioned to create a work in our Paris workshops and our plant in Pessac. By continuing to foster an ongoing exchange of values and skills between Monnaie de Paris and leading artists, we hope to bring the Manufacture’s age-old legacy of craftsmanship into step with the contemporary art scene.
Our revamped cultural programme spotlight excellence in French artisanry, showcasing the metalworking techniques used in coin production while at the same time honouring our global outlook by featuring contemporary European an international artists.