During the summer period, the environment shines at the heart of key large-scale exhibitions, led by lille3000 and the Palais de Tokyo. Alongside these two highlights, a number of exhibitions confirm the rooting of environmental themes in artistic practices. At a time when cities and cultural institutions are experimenting with new processes to reduce their environmental impact, many are also tackling the subject of our planet’s future and of our relationship with the living.

A blossoming of large exhibitions

Unlike London, Berlin, Zurich or even Moscow, in France there had not been a full-scale exhibition on the theme of the environment since “Sublime” at Pompidou-Metz in 2015. The delay has been largely made up for, with two artistic seasons entirely dedicated to the topic.

In Paris, the Palais de Tokyo, under the leadership of new president Guillaume Désanges, opened on the April 15th an artistic season entitled “Réclamer la terre” (Reclaim the Earth), also the name of its main group exhibition curated by Daria de Beauvais, which suggests a reconnection of our bodies with the earth. Surrounding it are other exhibitions evoking a return to traditional know-how regarding agriculture and the garden – the exhibition “Couper le vent en trois” (Cut the wind in three) by Hélène Bertin and César Chevalier – or demanding our attention towards the robust forms of life that are Myxomycetes, or slime moulds, in Mimosa Echard’s solo exhibition “Sporal” (also a finalist for the Marcel Duchamp prize 2022). The programme is part of a desire to transform the Palais de Tokyo into a “Sustainable Palace”, supported by an innovative sponsorship program.

Exhibition view “Novacene”, John Gerrard, Western Flag, Julian Charrière, And Beneath It All Flows Liquid Fire, ©Jérôme Mizar

In Lille, the new season by the cultural association lille3000 adopts the environment and nature as its main themes. The title of the season, “Utopia”, is inspired by the book “L’utopie ou la Mort” (Utopia or Death) written by the ecologist René Dumont in 1973. Two major exhibitions specifically address this theme, from radically different and complementary angles: “Les Vivants” (The Living) orchestrated by the Fondation Cartier at Tri Postal; and “Novacene” at the Gare Saint-Sauveur, curated by Alice Audouin* and Jean-Max Colard. If the first reveals the extraordinary richness of the relationship of indigenous peoples to the living world, the second projects itself into a hypothetical new era which could follow the Anthropocene, the Novacene, a reference to the latest novel by James Lovelock. Structured around monumental installations, Haroon Mirza, Zheng Bo, John Gerrard, Otobong Nkanga, Fabien Léaustic are among the 20 artists in the exhibition. Also not to be missed in Lille is a more psychedelic interpretation of the subject by Fabrice Bousteau in “Le Serpent Cosmique” (The Cosmic Snake) on display at the Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse, as well as the monumental installations in the city which make the “Utopia” season a first: never before has a French city fully dedicated its cultural programming to the theme of the environment.

More design-oriented but equally ambitious is the exhibition “Mimesis. A living design” at Pompidou-Metz, which will be the subject of a future article, which reveals a wide panorama of creations inspired by nature.


From the seed to the forest…

As every year, the artistic season of the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire welcomes the public to discover the work of artists who invite us to observe nature more closely. This year’s selection includes Lélia Demoisy, Christiane Löhr and Stéphane Guiran. At Centquatre-Paris, the exhibition “Graines” (Seeds), open since June 18th, brings together artists such as Fabrice Hyber and Duy Anh Nhan Duc, in order for visitors to discover the seeds that circulate around the world. Curated by Paul Ardenne, the group exhibition “Forest Art Project – The tree in contemporary art”, at the Water Museum of Pont-en-Royans, brings together around 30 established artists such as Abdul Rahman Katanani and Evi Keller alongside the artists of the “Forest Art Project” association. Meanwhile, the exhibition at the CNEAI (Centre National Edition Art Image) in Paris, “Le nom du monde est forêt” (The name of the world is forest), which opened on the same date, addresses our domination of nature, featuring artists such as Julia Gault and Loïs Weinberger.

Exhibition view “La Forêt Magique”, Palais des Beaux-Arts of Lille, France, Mat Collishaw, Albion 2017 Courtesy of the artist © ADAGP Paris 2022

Exhibition view « Mémoire Écorcée », Sono gallery, Paris, 2022

The symbol of the tree can also be found in the work of Sara Favriau (winner of the Planète Art Solidaire prize) who proposes an in situ installation made from different tree species in a solo exhibition which opened on June 27th at the Maison des arts in Malakoff. Similarly, Lélia Demoisy, who presents “Mémoire écorcée” (Stripped memory) at galerie Sono, Paris, invites to discover the links between different living beings, in particular through the memories which are inscribed both on tree bark and flesh. In Arles, as part of the photography festival Rencontres d’Arles, Noémie Goudal, zooms into the forest using paleoclimatology with her exhibition “Phoenix”, on display in the Church of the Trinitaires.

Lastly, “La Forêt Magique” (the Magic Forest) at the Palais des Beaux-Arts of Lille provides a rich viewing, due as much to the diversity of artistic genres as by the threads that the curators weave, linking for instance the historical painter John Constable to emerging digital-based artist Jakob Kudk Steensen.


New inter-species connections and relationships

Exhibition View “Primordial Soup”, Thiphaine Calmettes, Bétonsalon, Paris @ Pierre Antoine

A plethora of exhibits encourage us to joyously explore a more shared and united world. L’été des Serpents, a new space in Arles, opens its doors on June 30th with the inaugural collective exhibition “Symbiocene”, a reference to the neologism coined by Glenn Albrecht describing a new era in the history of the Earth based on symbiosis to succeed the Anthropocene. In an approach uniting ecology and feminism, 11 artists are invited to celebrate the interconnections of life. Among these artists is a recent graduate of the Central Saint Martins school in London, Clémence Vazard. Nearby, in Aix-en-Provence, the exhibition “Nouvelles Alliances, coopérations avec le vivant” (New Alliances, cooperation with the living) opens on July 3rd at the Gallifet art center with other young artists including Sarah Valente, Charlotte Gautier Van Tour and Côme di Meglio. Just as youthful but already an important figure on the topic of interconnection, Tiphaine Calmettes (read our interview) invites us to experience a set of sensory works on the occasion of her solo exhibition “Primordial Soup” at Bétonsalon, Paris. Elsewhere, “Sentir le monde” (Sense the world) at the H2M contemporary art space in Bourg-en-Bresse brings together Morgane Porcheron, Marie Denis and François Réau, among others, to “awaken our consciences in an ever-more uncertain world”. Marie-Sarah Adenis places her trust in disorder, uncertainty and chaos to shake things up and provoke new connections within the grop exhibition “Cosmogonias”, at the Jean Collet gallery in Vitry-sur-Seine. Less scientific and just as dreamlike, the exhibition by Odonchimeg Davaadorj, open since June 4 at the Orangerie du Domaine de Chamarande, presents two forms that are half-bird, half-human. Finally, in another charming place that is the castle of Oiron, the artist Gloria Friedmann invites us to think of a new cohabitation between man and animal.

The question of nature in the city is the subject of the “Green Urbanity” exhibition, curated by Julie Sicault Maillé at the Tignous art center in Montreuil, with the notable inclusion of Karine Bonneval and Noémie Sauve. On July 7, the exhibition “Merveilles et curiosités… Ode aux plantes des villes” (Wonders and curiosities… An ode to city plants) will open at the art centre La Traverse in Alfortville. This curatorial proposal by Pauline Lisowski** with artists Laurence De Leersnyder, Morgane Porcheron, Bettie Nin, Marie Ouazzani and Nicolas Carrier (both winners of the Planète Art Solidaire prize) is an invitation to rediscover the resistant flora which grows around our places of living.

Maarten Vanden Eynde solo show

The Kunsthalle, Mulhouse, presents the exhibition “Exhuming the Future” by Maarten Vanden Eynde. This iconic artist revisits the maps of globalisation and colonisation, not without humour and derision. From a comparison between the Bible and the IKEA Catalogue regarding their number of printed copies to the invention of new “GMO” gardening tools, the artist denounces the industrial world and its deformities while paving the way for greater ecological awareness.

Exhibition view “Exhuming the Future” by Maarten Vanden Eynde © Art of Change 21

All in all, in Paris and in the regions, in both the metropolis and in rural areas, a large number of exhibitions unveil the dynamics of living things and highlight issues related to climate change. Most of all, a young generation of artists are helping us to reflect on a post-anthropocene future, and to act.

Pauline Lisowski

Translated by Stefano Vendramin.

* publisher and editor-in-chief of Impact Art News

** author of this article

Cover: Exhibition view “Reclaim the Earth”, Amabaka x Olaniyi Studio (2022) © Aurélien Mole

Exhibitions cited in this article:

Réclamer la terre, Palais de Tokyo, 15 April-4 September 2022
> Sporal, Mimosa Echard, Palais de Tokyo, Les 20 ans du Jardin aux habitant·es, par Robert Milin, exposition, Palais de Tokyo, 15 April – 4 September 2022, Couper le vent en trois, Palais de Tokyo (15 April-24 July 2022)

Saison Utopia, lille3000, 14 May-2 October 2022
> Les Vivants, Tripostal, Novacène, Gare Saint-Sauveur, Le Serpent Cosmique, Hospice Comtesse, La Forêt Magique, Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille

Utopie d’Eden, Gloria Friedmann, Château de Oiron, 25 June-2 October 2022.

Symbiocène, l’Été des Serpents, Arles, 30 June-25 August 2022.

Oceanic, Tania Kovats, Artconnexion, Lille, 4 May-16 July 2022

Bardo, Odonchimeg Davaadorj, Orangerie du Domaine de Chamarande, 4 June-18 September 2022

Le nom du monde est forêt, CNEAI, Paris, 20 May-21 July 2022

Graines, l’exposition !, Centquatre, Paris, 18 June-4 September 2022

Sentir le monde, H2M, espace d’art contemporain, Bourg-en-Bresse,6 May-31 July 2022

L’arbre dans l’art contemporain, Pont-en-Royans, 21 May-31 October 2022

Mémoire écorcée, Lélia Demoisy, galerie SONO, Paris, 3 June-30 July 2022

Sara Favriau, Maison des arts de Malakoff, 27 June-4 December 2022

Soupe Primordiale, Tiphaine Calmettes, Bétonsalon, Paris, 30 May-23 July 2022

Saison artistique au Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire, 2 April-30 October 2022

Exhumer le Futur, Maarten Vanden Eynde, Kunsthalle Mulhouse, Mulhouse, 10 June-30 October 2022

Phoenix, Noémie Goudal, église des Trinitaires, Arles, 4 July-28 August 2022

Mimèsis. Un design vivant, Centre Pompidou Metz, 11 June 2022-6 February 2023

COSMOGONIAS, galerie Jean Collet, Vitry-sur-Seine, 25 May-10 July 2022

Nouvelles Alliances, coopérations avec le vivant, Gallifet art center à Aix-en-Provence, 5 July-2 October 2022

Also worth visiting: 

Lois Weinberger, Les Tanneries, Amilly, 25 June- 28 August 2022

Projet MC1R, Dana-Fiona Armour, Fondation Lambert, Avignon, 2 July-9 October 2022

Aqua mater, Sebastião Salgado, Parvis de la Défense, Paris, 1 April-22 September 2022

Nos îles, Fondation François Schneider, Wattwiller, 30 April-18 September 2022

Piquées, Charlotte Abramow, Maison Guerlain, Paris, 1 June-30 September 2022

Le Palais des Villes Imaginaires, La Ferme du Buisson, Noisiel, 26 March-25 July 2022 

Sense on wonder, Sanna Kannisto, Maison Louis Carré, Bazoches-sur-Guyonne, 24 April-28 August 2022

Incursions sauvages, Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris, 12 April-11 September 2022

Désormais, Rodrigo Bueno, espace Frans Krajcberg, Paris, 2 June-6 August 2022

BioMedia, Centre des arts, Enghien-les-Bains, 13 May-8 July 2022

Le jardin des simples, Ursula Caruel, Château de Tarascon, 15 April-31 October 2022

Le jardin, miroir du monde, Château du Rivau, 1 April-13 November 2022

Art in Nature, solo show de Nils Udo, Musée d’art et d’histoire, Saint-Lô, 8 April-28 August 2022

Des grandes terres aux parterres, solo show de Mathilde Caylou, Centre d’Art Madeleine Lambert, Vénissieux, 14 May-2 July 2022

Regard d’artiste, Raija Jokinen, Château de Trevarez, 30 April-2 October 2022

Festival Artocène, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, 2e édition, 18 June-17 July 2022

Eloge de la Tomate, solo show de JORDI, Musée Albert Marzelles à Marmande, 7 July-27 August 2022

Ma petite cuisine, Lucie Bayens, centre d’art La cuisine, Nègrepelisse, 4 June-31 August 2022


Impact Art News, May/June 2022 Issue