Architectones Barcelona

An installation by the artist Xavier Veilhan for the Mies van der Rohe pavilion in Barcelona  
Curated by Gonzalo Herrero Delicado and with the collaboration of MAIO and the support of Galerie Perrotin

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Architectones Barcelona in the news

> Listen the interview with Xavier Veilhan, Gonzalo Herrero and François Perrin
about Architectones in the Monocle radio shows 'The Curator' and 'Section D' 
> Don't miss the Architectones reviews featured on Wallpaper*, Phaidon, El Pais, A10 and Neo2 magazines !

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Xavier Veilhan is currently one of the most renowned and influential French artists on the international scene. After the huge success in 2009 due to the exhibition Veilhan Versailles in the Palace of Versailles, the multidisciplinary artist based in Paris established himself as one of the leading names in contemporary art. 

 Exhibition view, Architectones, Pabellón Mies Van der Rohe Pavilion, Barcelona
Photo Florian Kleinefenn © Veilhan / ADAGP, Paris, 2014

Since 2012 Xavier Veilhan has developed the project Architectones, a number of exhibitions in some of the most iconic buildings of modern architecture in the last century. After three projects in Los Angeles (VDL House by Richard Neutra, CSH #21 by Pierre Koenig and Sheats-Goldstein Residence by John Lautner), two exhibitions in France (Unité d’habitation – MAMO by Le Corbusier and the Church Sainte Bernadette du Banlay by Claude Parent and Paul Virilio) and a performance in Moscow (Melnikov House by Konstantin Melnikov), the French artist has selected the German pavilion designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1929 and located in Barcelona for the seventh and final exhibition of the series.  
“Where would I ultimately like to exhibit my work? Whilst searching for an answer to this question, I began to consider a series of atypical exhibitions in architectural landmarks of the last hundred years. This reflects the celebration of contemporary architects in my solo exhibition in Versailles (2009). From now on I would like to interact with their work rather than with them as an individual, by creating situations specific to each of their constructions. The locations were chosen from my personal pantheon.” Xavier Veilhan, 2012. 
The exhibition curated by London-based architect Gonzalo Herrero Delicado seeks to break with the stylistic principles that defined the architecture of the pavilion, marked by its own rationalist style of the Modern Movement. The importance of the building lies in the ideal of modernity that expresses the disposition of these materials: the perfect symmetry, the open spaces, and the precision of distances or the minimalism. Veilhan’s project bursts from the outside to the inside of the pavilion, abruptly tearing the rationalism of the building and making the visitor reflect on the principles that defined its design.  

Exhibition view, Architectones, Pabellón Mies Van der Rohe Pavilion, Barcelona
Photo Florian Kleinefenn © Veilhan / ADAGP, Paris, 2014 

Furthermore the relevance in the selection of materials in the pavilion built in glass, steel and four different kind of marble, is also analysed in Architectones, Barcelona Pavilion: Georg Kolbe’s sculpture Dawn, taken by Xavier Veilhan as the starring character of the exhibition, is reinterpreted in different materials and scales, putting back the visitor on a reflective role to think about what he is seeing and what is its relation with the building. 
“The project Architectones by Xavier Veilhan is a gamble for radically breaking with the principles of the modern movement that defined the architecture of the pavilion, putting the visitors in an active role in front of the building, making them think about what happens there through an exhibition that reconsiders the use of materials and forms of its architecture and offering the ability to interact with it from a new point of view.” Gonzalo Herrero Delicado, 2014. 

 Exhibition view, Architectones, Pabellón Mies Van der Rohe Pavilion, Barcelona
Photo Florian Kleinefenn © Veilhan / ADAGP, Paris, 2014

Veilhan’s project joins a long list of exhibitions developed by different artists and architects in the pavilion including Antoni Muntadas, Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue, Jeff Wall, Jérôme Schlomoff, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster & Jens Hoffmann, Kazuyo Sejima adds and Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA) or Andrés Jaque among others. The project has received support from the Galerie Perrotin and counts with the collaboration of the Barcelona-based firm MAIO. 
“The installation at the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion is the seventh and last exhibition of the series Architectones. The pavilion is questioning the idea of template, the pattern of the open plan, the idea of decor and function within a representation of a nation. My project brings the possibility to discover a new point of view on the pavilion from the decks built over the pools. The perspective of the deck's line is the only pre-existing diagonal in this rigorously right-angled architecture. I put an emphasis on this perceptible perspective by adding materiality to it. "Dawn" by Kolbe is the only figurative presence in the pavilion: I chose to focus on it by making different contemporary versions of the sculpture, in various sizes and materials. The shape evolution of the human nude is significant: its representation is constantly changing even though it should be permanent. The line of growing sculptures also appears as a metaphor of the journey of the architecture in time: the pavilion is an ultimate milestone of modernity and my contribution, this show, introduces as well the idea of ‘seriality’.” Xavier Veilhan, 2014. 

 Exhibition view, Architectones, Pabellón Mies Van der Rohe Pavilion, Barcelona
Photo Florian Kleinefenn © Veilhan / ADAGP, Paris, 2014

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Pedro Gadanho, architect and Curator of Contemporary Architecture at MoMA, New York, kindly contributed with this piece to the project 'Architectones. Barcelona' that will be included in the future catalogue of Architectones series: 

Mies en abyme

The beauty of art lies in its permeability to endless (re)interpretation.

Umberto Eco wrote about this persistently. The artistic gesture is irreducible to one particular end, even if that end is beauty itself. The aesthetic statement, which nowadays is often mistaken with the idea of beautification, is in itself insufficient. This is made particularly evident when, in time, radical aesthetic principles are emptied out of their ability to carry deeper, transformative meanings. The revolutionary qualities of beauty can wear out through time, through usage, through routine. One may suggest that was to be the fate of the daring aesthetic assertions embodied in Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, the architecture classic first built in 1929. When the paradigmatic nature of Mies’ aesthetic insurgency eventually froze into the rational essence of (his own) late modernism, something got lost. The possibility of interpretation was narrowed down and eventually suspended.

The beauty of art lies in its permeability.

Permeability is the ability of a material to allow other materials to pass through it, or in a more specialized sense the capacity of materials to respond to a magnetic force with its own magnetic field. Architecture permeated modernity to such a degree that it became a magnet for those who want to pinpoint modernity’s shortcomings. Artists such as Xavier Veilhan have been particularly poignant in addressing architecture with a specific critical gaze. With the last of his Architectones interventions, Veilhan questions the unconditional precision of Mies’ sophisticated architectural language. As if going back to impulses of modernism before certain formal tendencies crystallized, the artist introduces a triangular platform that disrupts the pavilion’s perfectly balanced geometry. While this alteration returns Mies’ architecture to its Suprematist origins, it also calls attention to its gradual loss of revolutionary potential.

The beauty of art lies.

When experiencing Xavier Veilhan’s intervention in Mies’ pavilion, one may be firstly captivated by the sensuous materiality of his scaled-down versions of Georg Kolbe’s sculpture “Dawn.” Enraptured by the feminine figure –as it moves away from its arrested position within a new archetypical architecture– one may forget to inquire what are the deeper levels of meanings hidden in Veilhan’s proposal. Enchanted by this bodily intrusion –one that paradoxically gains presence as it diminishes in size– one may forget to acknowledge that the delicate sculpture’s repetition suggests diverse readings. Beyond beauty, the reiteration of the female body can be read as a mise-en-abyme with the power to insinuate a critique of Mies’s spatial propositions. As the presence of the human body vanishes along time, so the architecture becomes more of a frozen dictate. With the artistic gesture, though, interpretation is regained. And so is beauty. 

Pedro Gadanho, New York, June 2014

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Dates: From June 27th to August 31st, 2014 
Location: Mies van der Rohe pavilion, Barcelona, Spain (Av. Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia 7. 08038 Barcelona. Spain)
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Artist: Xavier Veilhan
Curator: Gonzalo Herrero Delicado
Set design and artistic collaboration: Alexis Bertrand

Atelier Xavier Veilhan

Exhibition management : Violeta Kreimer
Team: Guillaume Rambouillet, Alice Rocher, Léa Wanono
Assisted by : Cléa Ah-ti, Lada Neoberdina 

Graphic design : Laurent Pinon 
Fundacio Mies van der Rohe

Coordination and setup: Anna Giró, Marc Quintana and Victor Sánchez

With the collaboration of
Créaform, Enzyme Design, DK Mastering, Fonderie Fusions, MAIO (Guillermo López, Anna Puigjaner, Alfredo Lérida and María Charneco), Pablo del Val, Daniel Desure & SPA

Thanks to
Emmanuel Perrotin, Emmanuelle Orenga, Cécile Ktorza and Héloïse Le Carvennec (Galerie Perrotin) ; Mikeum Lee and Bonaventure Kwak (313 Art Project, Seoul) ; Cilène Andréhn and Marina Schiptjenko (Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm), Mahaut de Kerraoul, Bernardo di Battista, Pedro Gadanho, Nicolas Godin, Marcela Grassi, Florian Kleinefenn, Maria Charneco, Alfredo Lérida, Guillermo López and Anna Puigjaner (MAIO), François Perrin,Yannick Rascouët, Tony Regazzoni.

With the support of

and the invaluable contribution of