Anne et Patrick Poirier – Fragilité – for the 30th anniversary of the Ludwig Museum
11.09.2022 – 30.10.2022
“Professor Peter Ludwig was one of the very first collectors to pay attention to our research when our work was only in its infancy, and in France there was only a neo-classical love for antiquity and a romantic feeling of the ruins. The exhibition organized by Wolfgang Becker, presented to us by our friend Ansgar Nierhoff, at the Ludwig Museum in Aachen in 1973, was the first important event that allowed our research to develop. Professor Ludwig and his wife Irène have never ceased to support our work, and to discern under the images of the ancient ruins the metaphor of the conflicts which had shaken Europe and the world, a subject still difficult to approach at this time when the memory of the Second World War was still in everyone’s mind. They once again placed their trust in us by allowing us to produce the work „Dépôt de mémoire et d’oubli“ on the terrace of the Koblenz Museum in 1992. This is why we are very happy with this exhibition which marks both the thirty years of the museum, and that of the 54 years of work and wanderings together of our couple.”
Anne and Patrick Poirier, Lourmarin, May 2022
To mark its 30th anniversary, the Ludwig Museum Koblenz invited the artist couple Anne and Patrick Poirier to present an extensive solo exhibition that will take you back to the beginnings of the museum in 1992 and give an outlook to the future by reviving the links established in the early 1970s with Professor Peter Ludwig, one of Anne and Patrick Poirier’s first collectors. The time span of a generation, which is usually described as 30 years, gives reason to reflect, to ask questions about remembering and forgetting and to develop a perspective in which memory can become the future. What will remain, what will be remembered, what is abandoned, what will we carry into the future and how do we want to actively shape it?
These are questions that also affect the museum as an institution, as a place where knowledge and artefacts are collected, exhibited and communicated. How do we see and comprehend history, how do we understand our own past and present – what do we want to pass on to the future, which we can only shape inadequately anyway? The subject is highly topical. In many exhibitions and social circles these are – in different facets – the central questions of our time, which are aimed at positioning oneself socially, politically and ecologically.
The central aspects of its conceptual orientation had already been specified when the Ludwig Museum in the Deutschherrenhaus (the Commandery of the Teutonic Order), was opened for the first time: in the historic context of the city, which looks back on a historical background with foundations in Roman times, but as well as an eventful history with France during almost 300 years. The Ludwig Museum should serve as a bridge-builder.
In addition, the collection was also home to important positions from Germany, America, the Benelux countries and Scandinavia, which meant that the exhibition policy was internationalised from the outset. All these aspects of the collection have continuously strengthened over the past three decades and have been placed on a broad international basis.
The important French artist couple Anne & Patrick Poirier were invited in 1992 to develop a monumental sculpture for the museum’s outdoor area. With a view to the content of the future museum and, above all, as a platform for dialogue, the choice could hardly have been more appropriate: With their works, Anne and Patrick Poirier always engage in a reflection on their own era, which they explore on the basis of bygone times. They work like archaeologists, uncovering layers of the past in order to understand the present and the future.
For 54 years, they have developed different visual and spatial metaphors, with the help of which they have transposed the aspects of remembering and forgetting (as active brain-physiological and emotional processes) into something visible and comprehensible. Sigmund Freud had already compared these processes to a city lying in ruins. In this respect, Anne and Patrick’s interest in archeology is part of their premonition, from their beginnings, of the close connection between archaeology and memory, memory and psyche.
On the occasion of the opening of the Ludwig Museum in 1992, they positioned the monumental sculptural ensemble made of marble, stone and steel, which was given the meaningful title Dépôt de mémoire et d’oubli (Place of remembering and forgetting) on the historical defensive wall of the Deutschherrenhaus, above the original location of the Deutsches Eck (German Corner). In their characteristic way, they stage history here as a site from bygone times, which, with Latin, Greek and German inscriptions remind us of “forgetting”, “remembering” and the fleetingness of language as illustrated by an inscriptions engraved in marble: “words are like shadows”. Three lightning bolts struck the ancient stones referring to Zeus, the father of the gods. Myth and history merge, but are themselves doomed to oblivion.
Not only the theories of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) played an important role in their work, but also the writings of the French historian Paul Ricœur (1913-2005), creator of the concept of “narrative identity” as well as those of Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986). The book “The Art of Memory” by the British historian, Frances Yates (1899-1981), published in 1966, confirmed Anne and Patrick Poirier in the intuition they had had very early on of the existence of a symbolic link between architecture and the phenomenon of memory. Over the decades, the two artists have expanded their artistic repertoire and, in addition to the construction of fictional places inspired by antiquity and the present, have also dealt intensively with photography, writing and drawing.
In the exhibition, Anne and Patrick Poirier focus on the concept of “fragilité” (fragility) which is the central idea of their entire work. It revolves around the fragility of culture, collective memory, the world of things and nature.
They do not cite antiquity out of nostalgia, but understand it as a timeless phenomenon that can be viewed, interpreted and expanded again and again anew. Starting out from remembering and forgetting, they developed the idea of the fragility of our existence as a continuous questioning of the state of the world.
In their first major exhibition at the Ludwig Museum in the Deutschherrenhaus since the opening of the museum, the couple will present about 25 works from their debut up to the present day. They come from German private collections as well as from the studio of the two artists and have never or rarely been exhibited before. Additionally, the artists created three new large artworks like Caprarola from 1981 or Ostia Antica. Fouilles. Archéologie parallèle von 1971. The ensemble reveals how much their work is linked to their own history, but also to the past and present history of humanity. Over the decades, the two artists have developed a vast formal repertoire reflected in the exhibition: sculpture, drawing, photography etc.
The museum’s ground floor is dedicated to a selection of works, which show how the artists have always freely explored multiple techniques to express their current awareness of the fragility of everything and consequently the importance of memory as well as their fascination of the world of psyche.
La cité des Ombres (The City of Shadows) comes from a dream of Anne Poirier, in January 2022, in which Alain-Guillaume, their son who died in 2002 at the age of 33, is with her and the main protagonist. Rising from the depths of her being, this dream of Anne who because of her childhood has always been interested in the unconscious, shows with its painful and intimate echo how much life and work are inseparable for the couple. This moving and meditative new piece of which the architecture is inspired by the Etruscan Necropolis of Cerveteri in Italy confirms their taste for experimentation, as here, Anne and Patrick created the Faience elements themselves for the first time in their studio in Lourmarin.
On the first floor, two of the three new monumental installations relate metaphorically to the state of the world. Odysseia is about the human dramas unfolding in the Mediterranean Sea due to the migration movement. Danger Zone. Archéologie du futur (Danger Zone. Archaeology of the future) refers to the dangers that threaten the future of our planet and is in the filiation of Danger Zone realised shortly before the disastrous explosion of the AZF factory in Toulouse in September 2001.
But even though Anne and Patrick Poirier are pessimistic in nature, they keep hope in the human ability to overcome obstacles and meeting challenges. Therefore, the exhibition ends with Montée vertigineuse (Vertiginous ascent) created in 1982 for the group exhibition “Stadt und Utopie” at the Kunsthalle in Berlin, which Anne and Patrick updated for their exhibition in Koblenz.
A comprehensive, illustrated catalogue with texts in German and English by Anne and Patrick Poirier, Tony Cragg, Danielle March, Laure Martin-Poulet as well as Beate Reifenscheid will be published by Wienand Verlag to accompany the exhibition.
The exhibition is supported by the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation, Aachen, by L’Institut français, Ministère de la Culture, Berlin, by the Ministry of family, women, culture and culture, Rhineland Palatinate and by Association of Friends of the Middle Rhine Museum and the Ludwig Museum in Koblenz e.V.
Anne und Patrick Poirier, Dépôt de mémoire et d’oubli. Stätte der Erinnerung und des Vergessens, 1992 © Ludwig Museum Koblenz, VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 2022