Nú Barreto and Andres Serrano in Flags (group show): Fondation Boghossian, Villa Empain

https://www.villaempain.com/expo/flags/ 29 September 2022 - 22 January 2023 

Flag: piece of cloth attached to a pole and bearing the colours, emblems (of a nation, a group, a leader, etc.) to serve as a rallying sign, symbol, etc. (Dictionnaire Le Robert)


Flags hold a constant place in art, from classical historical painting to contemporary installations.


With their juxtaposition of strips of coloured fabric, flags have stimulated painters with their qualities abstraction, well before abstract art in turn preferred chromatic fields to the representation of reality. Tricolour or monochrome, each colour or combination of colours immediately evokes references that we find repeatedly in artistic creation.


Their political and symbolic resonance has been the primary pretext for including flags in works of art. A flag can serve to represent a nation, to celebrate a victory or the conquest of a territory, but also to symbolize and defend a cause. Liberty leading the populace or the flagged-out streets dear to Impressionist and Fauvist painters are outstanding examples, as are the works of Gérard Fromanger and Mounir Fatmi closer to us.


A flag can give contradictory messages: it can evoke implicit criticism of dominating regimes or dictatorships, but it can also exalt the adhesion of a nation to its identity, for example in reaction to an act of terrorism, as we saw following the attacks aimed at Charlie Hebdo. Or again with the frequent use of the American flag in iconography.


A flag being a sacred object, the voluntary destruction of a country's flag is seen as a highly subversive act punishable by law, while the pattern of its colours is recorded in countries' national constitutions.


But a flag is also an object, a frontal icon for Jasper Johns, a module for filling space in Daniel Buren's installations, an image with multiple meanings for Marcel Broodthaers, hybridization with Yunikori Yanagi, etc.


It is these and many other uses of flags in modern and contemporary art that this exhibition seeks to bring together in a transnational journey of exchanges and confrontations.

Curator: Alfred Pacquement