First impressions of Daniel Buren‘s Excentrique(s) Travail In Situ installation at the Grand Palais for the annual Monumenta show were ho-hum. The whole set up felt a little bit …well…crafty…and not in a good way. (We might define ‘bad crafty’ as, say, a pointless box given a decoupage make-over using left-over magazines from a doctor’s office, and not in an ironic way.)
The artist who has, ahem, earned his stripes creating site specific art work, such as the Les Deux Plateaux in Palais-Royal, Paris, has created a false ceiling of transparent, umbrella-like disks that form a sub-level beneath the glass roof of the Grand Palais. The effect is immediately frustrating – the visitor is largely robbed of one of the venue’s best features – a superb sense of space, both vast and grandiose. The summer show is not called Monumenta for nothing – last year’s installation, Leviathan, by Anish Kapoor was a hella whopper and the better for it. In contrast, Buren’s work feels bitsy, fussy, and a little bit twee; and then the sun came out.
With the lights on, so to speak, the show went from being pretty naff to being kind of fun.The 377 coloured disks create a kaleidoscope that reflect and play with the light pouring from the roof-top. In this case, Buren has created something of an Alice-in-Wonderland effect; we find ourselves to be miniature pieces inside the kaleidoscope. Moving through the work creates new vistas and interactions with forms, colour and shadow.
In many ways, it’s a cheap trick. In other ways, it’s a reminder that simple ideas can be the best ones. Pity about those trademark stripey pillars – they feel clunky and out of place in this ballroom of light. Our tip: go when the sun is shining. Exhibition runs until June 21, 2012. For details see here.