The 11 Conti – Monnaie de Paris is proud to present the first solo show of the American artist Kiki Smith (born 1954, living in New York) by a French public institution.
This unique collection of exceptional breadth will bring together almost one hundred works from the 1980s to the present day. Visitors will be greeted by two sculptures in the exterior courtyards of Monnaie de Paris and the exhibition itself will be held on two floors, covering more than 1000m2, notably within the historic salons facing the Seine. The exhibition will cover the major themes of the artist’s oeuvre, including the human body, the female figure and the symbiotic relationship with nature, all of which are recurring motifs. The works to be presented at the Monnaie de Paris will reflect the great diversity of Kiki Smith’s practice, and the wide variety of media she has explored: bronze, plaster, glass, porcelain, tapestry, paper and wax.
The symbolism of Kiki Smith’s art finds its inspiration in her childhood memories – her reading of the fairy tales of Perrault and the Grimm brothers – and the model making she did for her father, the sculptor Tony Smith. The whole of her oeuvre is marked by her fascination with the human body, which she at first represented as separate individual parts with the skin appearing as a fragile frontier between the body and the world. In the mid 1980s, Kiki Smith discovered for herself new and original ways of exploring women’s social, cultural and political roles in society.
Subsequently, her work took on a more narrative form. From a feminist standpoint, she appropriated many of the great female biblical figures in order to depict them in a fresh and innovative manner. Within the corpus of her work they sit side by side with heroines from fairy tales or the ambiguous figure of the witch, at the crossroads of a universe of fantasy and popular folklore.
From the early 2000s, she became progressively more interested in the great myths of creation and cosmogony brought into being a new chapter of her practice in its own right. In parallel to this, the harmonious co-existence between women and animals began to feature in her work: their bodies sometimes joined together in fusion, independent of any verisimilitude.
Thus Kiki Smith’s oeuvre resembles a voyage, a quest in search of a union between the body and all other living beings and the cosmos. From microscopic elements to the organs of the body, from the organs to the body in its entirety, then from the body to cosmic systems, the artist explores the relationship between different species and scales, seeking out the harmony that unites us with nature and the universe.
Although sculpture occupies a central position in her work, Kiki Smith has also produced many drawings, often in large format. The artist particularly appreciates the art of engraving and has a personal collection of coins and pre-colonial currency. The exhibition will extend within the 11 Conti museum, with the presentation of pieces chosen by Kiki Smith from the heritage collections. The bilingual catalogue accompanying this exhibition will be the first major publication in French on the subject of her work.
This exhibition is in perfect line with the artistic programme directed by Camille Morineau, which is particularly attentive towards women artists, as well as sculptural practice involving the exploration of different materials and scales, from the miniature to the monumental.
Curators: Camille Morineau, Director of Exhibitions and Collections at Monnaie de Paris and Lucia Pesapane, Exhibition Curator and Head of Artistic Programming at the Monnaie de Paris. With the collaboration of Marie Chênel.