Traces du Sacre at the Pompidou Centre

I happened to be in Paris earlier this week and took the opportunity to visit the current exhibition Traces du Sacre or Traces of the Sacred at the Pompidou Centre. Elements of the Show have been discussed within Lashtal’s pages recently and so I will try not to duplicate those. I do confirm that the Paris exhibition dates are 7 May to 11 August 2008. It is worth a visit if you are interested in exploring the relationship between art and the sacred and of course if you wish to see Thelemic works such as the self portrait by Aleister Crowley, the four Toth Tarot paintings (though I did not see a reference to Lady Frieda Harris), Marjorie Cameron and Kenneth Anger. Of course there are other artists that will be of interest to Lashtal readers and these have been outlined in earlier postings about the Exhibition. It was on the whole a thought provoking and at times inspiring, challenging, irritating and sometimes confusing Exhibition. There were some 350 works by almost 200 artists, divided into 24 thematic sections. It was also a multi-disciplinary show depicting not only paintings, drawings and sculptures but also installations, film, video and live performance. You will probably leave wondering how and why some works were selected for the show. Personally, I can’t get excited about a monochromatic canvas claiming to make some connection to the divine. For every one inspiring art work, you will probably be able to think of two or three other examples that should have been given hanging space. On the other hand, there were some unusual works from various collections and even a sculpture by Steiner that I would probably otherwise never have seen. However, I respect the fact that curating such an enormous and diverse Exhibition would be no easy task. If you go to the Exhibition strictly to see the Crowley self-portrait and the Toth Tarot paintings, you are likely to blink and miss them. The self portrait is small, colourful and inoffensive. It appears early in the Exhibition. A man with flaming red hair wears a yellow robe with red collar and white shirt. A blazing yellow halo interspersed with a little orange and red, surrounds the head. On the face of it, the painting appears to be a portrait of someone rather than a self portrait. That aside, it is a small work that would best be observed at eye level. So, whilst the label was hung at eye level, the painting was not. I literally had to strain and look upwards to find the self portrait hanging some seven or eight feet from the ground. It was hung well above the other paintings surrounding it. I suppose it made an impact in that you were forced to look upwards towards the painting. Towards the latter part of the Exhibition you will find the Toth Tarot paintings, Cameron’s “Dark Angel” ink wash and pen drawing, and Kenneth Anger’s film “Lucifer Rising” playing in a dedicated white cubicle. Cameron’s drawing is hung on the outside of the entrance to the cubicle. The Tarot paintings are hung just on the inside of the cubicle. It is a pity that the Tarot paintings were not given proper hanging space as they are not only beautiful in their own right but likely to be missed. I saw many people simply walk by Anger’s film unaware that there were additional works hanging there. It is an odd decision to “hide” these paintings in this manner. This latter space also contains other works by the Beat Generation leading through to the Psychedelic section. Close by, loudly played footage of Ginsburg in full swing, competed with the Anger film and other audio visual exhibits. That aside, I had not realised just how much contemporary work on the theme of the sacred and the spiritual was available to us. It is a shame that a number of artists were neglected to be shown. Austin Osman Spare, Alex Grey, Ernst Fuchs are just a few that come to mind. There is little Exhibition literature available in English. A pamphlet printed in both French and English is available at the Exhibition entrance. An audio guide of the key works is available in French, English, Spanish and Japanese. The pamphlet refers to a publication of Essays entitled “Visitations” (140 pp), but I did not notice this on sale. However Cameron’s “Dark Angel” was available to purchase both as a post card and gracing the cover of a gift notebook. There appeared to be three Exhibition Catalogues available to purchase. Two of these I would refer to as souvenir style catalogues (about 66 pages each), with a small selection of works. The text was only available in French. The Connaisance des Arts version reproduces Crowley’s painting on page 14 where it is flanked by photos of Blavatsky and Steiner in a discussion about the emergence of “nouvelle” religions in 19th century Europe. There is an impressive hardcover Exhibition Catalogue published by the Centre Pompidou but I was told at the Sales desk that it was only available in French. There is a one page entry about Crowley (page 100) with the self portrait reproduced on page 101. The Toth Tarot paintings are reproduced on page 344. A separate entry for Marjorie Cameron appears at page 362 with “Dark Angel” reproduced on page 363. An entry on Kenneth Anger follows on page 364. There is also an entry on Theosophy on page 90. The Exhibition is bound to make an impact on you at some level and give you some food for thought. Chameleon

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