Bringing Parisian Artists to a Chicago Museum

Palais de Tokyo’s Hors les Murs program has been bringing work from the Parisian institution all around the world since its conception in 2013. The contemporary art museum will hold its first large-scale project in the U.S. in Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History from September 13 to October 29.

For the project, titled Singing Stones, eleven French and American artists will create pieces of work that are inspired by the exhibition space, the historic Roundhouse. Designed in the 1890s by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, who also created New York’s Flatiron Building as well as other buildings in Chicago and Washington, D.C., the circular structure was first used as a stable and then as a storage facility. The artists will “have to work with the constraints of the building,” explained Palais de Tokyo curator Katell Jaffrès, referring to the Roundhouse’s wooden ceiling and tall windows. “The constraints are interesting because they give a direction.”

The interior of the historic Roundhouse at the DuSable Museum. © Assaf Evron

What is the purpose of Singing Stones?

Katell Jaffrès: The idea was to explore how artists use space and architecture. I hope that visitors will see the exhibit and then consider the environment in their everyday lives, the city and the way that the city is built.

How did you choose these eleven artists?

Our goal is to show the French art scene in collaboration with Chicago artists and to feature artists who will be able to create in the context of the Roundhouse. I like to say that we’re showing great works of art in a work of art. Some of these artists did shows at Palais de Tokyo before, as is the case of Thomas Teurlai and Wilfrid Alemendra. We worked with Florian Punier and David Raffini seven years ago and it’s interesting for us to revisit their work. For other artists, this exhibition will be a starting point in the relationship between Paris and Chicago.

Describe some of the artworks that will be in the exhibition.

We have one large sculpture — actually, a modular sculpture with 14 pieces — by Raphaël Zarka being shipped from France that was an important point of departure for the show. It’s titled “Paving Space,” and we can set it up and compose it differently based on the space. It also fits our theme because it mixes shape and urban activities; the piece was designed to be used for skateboarding. While we won’t have any skateboarders in our show, there will be a video playing in the background that shows some skateboarders experimenting with the structure. In another piece, Wilfrid Almendra will be using glass sheets from a former greenhouse in France to play off the light from the windows that encircle the space.

Singing Stones at EXPO Chicago 
The Roundhouse

740 East 56th Place
Chicago, IL 60637


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