In France, a new biotope in contemporary art

In this period disrupted for months by a sanitary crises that forces us to rethink our lifestyles, the current exhibitions in French galleries and art centers unveils a new generation of artists, attached to nature and committed to the environment, the climate and the preservation of biodiversity. These exhibitions follow the wave of urban exoduses from Paris to far flung regions, bringing a new perspective on territory, and giving a central place to women artists, again reshaping the landscape of French art.

At MAMAC in Nice, Swiss woman artist and author Ursula Biemann places the ecological crisis, the exploitation of the Earth’s resources and its social and migratory consequences, at the heart of her personal exhibition “Savoirs indigènes_Fictions cosmologiques” (“Indigenous Knowledge, Cosmological Fictions”). She explores other relationships with non-humans, giving voice to ecofeminists and Indigenous peoples. The ecofeminist movement also inspires the “Rituel·le·s” exhibition at the IAC in Villeurbanne, devoted to works by female artists which consider how we can contribute to the collective interest, as well as the “Even the rocks reach out to kiss you” exhibition by Julie Crenn at the Transpalette in Bourges, making visible a militant thought concerning our relationship to nature.

In an in situ approach, Charlotte Charbonnel invites us to connect to the Earth through the invisible, via “Geoscopia” at the Abbey of Maubuisson, where her sound installations connect us with the subsoil and its mysteries. The works of Tiphaine Calmettes, too, inhabit the Centre d’Art International et du Paysage in Vassivière-en-Limousin. The young artist brings out the energy of the surrounding site, coming from both the lake and plants. She offers artworks to experience, share and feel.

Attention to plants / soil is a strong trend right now, emerging in other localities. The group exhibition “Herbes folles” at CEAAC in Strasbourg explores the characteristics and symbolism of wild grasses. At the Univer gallery, Marinette Cueco, passionate about plants, makes visible the beauty of the species she carefully picks. The exhibition “Bercer la matrice” at the CAC La Traverse in Alfortville invites you to understand soil as organic matter – mother of our ecosystems that must be preserved. You can also discover the work of Caroline Le Mehauté, who explores the overexploited resource that is peat. 

Credit: All rights reserved, Nadja Verena Marcin, Jedi, 2019 / Lucy + Jorge Orta, Interrelations, Les Tanneries, CAC, Amilly, 2020

As crises and extreme weather events accumulate, can collapse be avoided? Nicolàs Lamas addresses the question in his exhibition “Times in Collapse” at the CCCOD. At the Usine du May in Thiers, Marie Dechavanne’s “Cénozoé” was inspired by the fires in Australia and considers the post-disaster period. This sense of urgency also inspired the iconic duo Lucy + Jorge Orta, exhibiting at the contemporary art center Les Tanneries in Amilly. Their work deciphers interrelationships and offers common solutions to climate, migration and geopolitical issues. But it may already be too late… Marie Havel, at the Jean-Louis Ramand Gallery, brings together a series of works around contemporary ruins.

Would the Parisian scene become secondary in the face of this strong dynamic outside of its walls? With many thematic exhibitions already to its credit, the Fondation Cartier unveils “Nature” by Artavazd Pelechian. The Chantal Crousel gallery is committed to water challenges with “Galleries Curate: Rhé” (with Jean-Luc Moulène, Melik Ohanian and Abraham Cruzvillegas), a long-term project carried out with other international galleries, which reverses 10% of sales of works to an NGO, proof of a possible “acting together” at gallery level. At the Jeune Création gallery, the collective exhibition “Mais le monde est une mangrovité”, curated by Chris Cyrille, takes the mangrove ecosystem as a common thread, revealing young talents such as Julia Gault, Kokou Ferdinand Makouvia… Another group exhibition, “Formes du vivant” curated by Pauline Lisowski*, reveals four female artists including Lélia Demoisy.

The exhibition of the permanent collections “Le vent se lève” (“The wind comes up”) at the Mac Val (with among others: Nicolas Floc’h, Anne-Charlotte Finel, Stéphane Thidet and Thu-Van Tran) bears a prophetic name, in keeping with this movement that has fully launched and is representative of its time. Yes, the wind is rising and bringing new energies and relationships to the world, as well as a possible future in the face of these environmental crises. Seeds are scattered throughout these exhibitions, in Paris and its suburbs, as well as out to the provinces. These open the way to a new biotope of French contemporary art.

*co-author of this article

Alice Audouin and Pauline Lisowski



For exhibitions outside art galleries, it is preferable to inquire, several can be visited by appointment, before their full reopening.

In Paris and in the Parisian suburbs:

In the article:
Le vent se lève, Mac Val, Vitry-sur-Seine, until January 2022
Mais le monde est une mangrovité, galerie Jeune création, Romainville, until 26 February 2021
Geoscopia de Charlotte Charbonnel, Abbaye de Maubuisson, Val d’Oise, until 14 March 2021
Bercer La Matrice, La Traverse, Alfortville, until 6 March 2021
Papiers noirs, Lionel Sabatté et Pierrette Bloch, galerie C, until 6 March 2021
Marinette Cueco : Pierres, Ardoises, Entrelacs, galerie Univer, until 1er May 2021
Rhé, Galerie Chantal Crousel, until 27 February 2021
Artavazd Pelechian, La Nature, Fondation Cartier, until 25 April 2021
Formes du vivant, collective exhibition, Plateforme, Paris, until 7 March 2021

And also:
Le Serpent Noir, unprecedented project by Cécile Hartmann, Maison d’Art Bernard Anthonioz, Nogent-sur-Marne, 1 March – 18 July 2021
Evi Keller, Stèles, Galerie Jeanne Bucher Jaeger, 20 March – 7 May 2021
Stonedog // Charlie Jouan, Galerie du Crous de Paris, until 6 March 2021
Marie Ouazzani & Nicolas Carrier, Futures récoltes, YGREC, Aubervilliers, until 06 March 2021 (only on appointment)
El Anatsui, La Conciergerie, Paris, as soon as cultural venues open
Hermine Anthoine : Dérives – Cosi Naturale, Galerie Eko Sato, Paris, 27 February – 27 March 2021


Out to the provinces :

In the article:
Ursula Biemann, Savoirs indigènes, MAMAC, Nice, until 7 March 2021
Rituel·le·s, IAC, Villeurbanne, until 21 March 2021
Des herbes folles, CEAAC Strasbourg, until 14 March 2021
Marie Havel, Die and Retry, Galerie Jean-Louis Ramand, until 27 February 2021
Par le chant grondant des vibrations autour de Tiphaine Calmettes, Centre international d’art et du paysage, Vassivière-en-Limousin, until 24 May 2021
Interrelations, Lucie + Jorge Orta, Les Tanneries, Amilly, until 30 May 2021
Even the rocks reach out to kiss you, presented during Transpalettes in Bourges, until 30 May 2021
Times in collapse, Nicolás Lamas, CCCOD, Tours, until 29 August 2021

Et aussi :
Raphaëlle Peria, Ariditatis et inundatio, L’aparté, lieu d’art contemporain, Iffendic, Brittany, until 2 April 2021
Damien Fragnon, Les falaises traversent nos mains, Espace d’Art Contemporain Les Roches, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon (Haute-Loire), until 14 March 2021
Amandine Gollé, Visions chavirées, Cité des arts de Chambéry, virtual exhibition until 10 March 2021
Marie Dechavanne, Cénozoé, Usine de May, Thiers, until 21 February 2021
Résilience volet 1, Doublement verte, collective exhibition, 1 March – 20 March 2021
Raffard-Roussel, Machine Terrestrographique, Galerie Octave Cowbell, 5 March – 3 April 2021


February 2021

Credit: Ursula Biemann, Acoustic Ocean, 2018 / Nicolás Lamas, Time in collapse, CCOD, 2021

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