Carte Blanche à Wang Keping - Musée Guimet, Paris

Musée Guimet, Paris, France 23 November 2022 - 6 March 2023 
Musée Guimet, Paris, France
The 16th contemporary carte blanche of the Musée national des arts asiatiques - Guimet is entrusted to the Chinese artist Wang Keping, who takes over the 4th floor rotunda and the permanent Chinese collections. Twenty-one sculptures in wood or bronze create a dialogue with the museum's thousand-year-old works.
Born in 1949 near Beijing, Wang Keping is one of the founders of Chinese contemporary art, not least because of the key role he played in the Chinese artistic avant-garde in the 1970s and his membership of the Star Movement. When he left China and settled in France in 1984, he found himself freed from the weight of censorship; sculpture then imposed itself as a language to be invented, building a resolutely personal path, without putting his Chinese heritage on display. Since then, he has developed a virtuoso body of work that explores all the possibilities of wood, internationally recognised as one of the most important contributions to contemporary sculpture.
To achieve purity, Wang Keping lets himself be guided by nature. The essential forms that make up his work will emerge from his close contact with wood: femininity, animality, the couple, desire, suffering and finitude. The artist seeks to "give back to wood life, love, feelings and softness". In his own words: "Trees are like human bodies, with hard parts like bones, soft parts like flesh, sometimes resistant, sometimes fragile. I cannot go against them.
For the MNAAG, Wang Keping has chosen, for the first time, to work on an exotic species. The density and size of the mahogany forks challenged him to invent a new way of listening, new gestures. Wang Keping works patiently to free the forms and sublimate them. In this new wooden flesh, he seeks to be even simpler, more essential: two curves suggest a chest, a delicate neck is revealed on the side to suggest femininity. Like the calligrapher he once was, he creates a subtle dialogue between volume and line, emptiness and fullness. The patina work has also been adjusted: once burnt and patinated by the black charcoal, the raw pale pink material reveals dark reds and sublimates the wood grain. The final polishing allows the work to capture the light, "as if the wood were becoming jade or bronze".
Wang Keping's works are presented in the rotunda on the 4th floor, in the Chinese archaeology room on the 1st floor and on the "bird" landing, in dialogue with the museum's collections. The artist, internationally renowned for his unique sculptural language, offers visitors his vision of harmony with nature in accordance with Taoist philosophy, showing works of a universal nature: women and birds express sensuality, eroticism, fertility, masculinity and femininity.
Yannick Lintz, General Curator of Heritage, General Curator
Aline Wang, studio manager of Wang Keping
Claire Bettinelli, production manager for exhibitions and contemporary collections
Carte blanche à Wang Keping A co-publication by MNAAG / RMN-GP
48 pages, 25 illustrations