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Musée Maillol – 2010

Nov 04, 2010 No Comments


“Vanitas, vanitatum, omnia vanitas (Vanity of vanities, all is vanity)”, says the Bible. It is often forgotten that this famous phrase about the vanity of human activity gave rise to an artistic theme that has never ceased to fascinate artists: the Vanities, and especially their principal emblem, the Death’s head figure found in such diverse places as the mosaics in Pompeii and the motorcycle jackets of Hell’s Angels!
This is the theme of the audacious exhibition at the Musée Maillol, following the trail of these macabre symbols in paintings, sculpture, photography, CD covers, jewels, and objects of all kinds.
However, this is not just a journey for lovers of the morbid: in using this iconography to send shivers up the back, the artists have above all wanted to push the limits of life, escape a bad fate, and defy the Grim Reaper through creative fervour.
Nearly 160 works here illustrate this, including Damien Hirst’s diamond skull created in 2007, which provides the starting point for this journey into the past. Going back through time, the visitor passes Philippe Pasqua, Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Basquiat, Picasso, Braque, Cézanne, Géricault, Caravaggio and the Danses Macabres and Memento Mori of the Middle Ages. Of particular interest, exhibited for the first time in France, are numerous works by the jeweller Codognato of Venice, whose vanity-jewels were worn by Diaghilev, Visconti, Cocteau and Manet.