An 18th-century bourgeois salon-hang for the 21st-century privilege of art production. The material parallels between the seemingly long-outdated practice of showing off a painting collection to friends and business associates in the semi-private surounds of a French living room and the nature of art display via a desktop are uncannily similar. That’s something curators Samuel Leuenberger and Elise Lammer picked up on with “cluster hung painting show” Associations New at Birsfelden’s SALTS, running from October 4 to December 8.
Featuring the work of 25 artists from their personal networks, Leuenberger and Lammer sought contributions of one to three paintings – from gouache on paper, egg-tempera, acrylic and oil on canvas – under 50 x 50 cm, to be hung in the kind of clusters that reduce the relevance of an individual work to being only an element of a greater display of an Enlightened household’s cultural (and economic) wealth. Now compare that with the appropriated images of a private blog or Tumblr scroll, where a personal aesthetic is publicly presented via online networks that are restricted to an audience educated in a particular cultural language, with access to and an understanding of the internet.
In the photos from Associations New, only a handful of them feature the credited work of individual arists, including Charlotte Herzig‘s ‘Landscape, the sun is actually red’ (2014) and Henning Strassburger‘s ‘o.T’ (2014), that yells “LOOK WHAT I PAINT” in black scrawl through the lurid pink and black noise of oil and acrylic. The rest are reduced to an ‘installation view’ of wall-hung paintings by the likes of Max Brand, Claudia Comte, Thomas Jeppe, Jan Kiefer and more, while a link to Pauline Beaudemont‘s concurrent L’Age D’or exhibition next door comes in two square concrete ‘chairs’, designed for the almost empty garage cubicles outside.
Each block seat features a quote from a film and a fiction work: one from Jacques Tati epic Play Time (1967) on a future vision of Parisian modernity and the other from objectivist Ayn Rand’s famous novel The Fountainhead. It’s taken from the part of the book where vulgar publisher and passionate private art collector Gail Wynand offers indvidualistic modernist architect a contract while announcing, “You will take your spectacular talent and make it subservient to the taste of the masses.”
As per the press release, the ‘salon’ concept also refers to the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Salon de Paris, initiated by Louis XIV in 1667. This idea of ceiling-to-floor presentations of paintings was developed in response to lack of space and became not only an exhibition of wealth but an instrument of political power. These days that display comes in the manner of privately-funded public institutions, branded art fairs and corporatised content-sharing platforms. **