Tel Aviv Art Museum opens retrospective of Annette Messager

Tel Aviv Art Museum opens retrospective of Annette Messager

TEL AVIV, Israel (AFP): A retrospective of French artist Annette Messager, who has won many prestigious awards for her artwork such as the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale and Praemium Imperiale International Arts Award, was opened in Israel on Tuesday. Messager said that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed her work.

“We are still all obsessed with what happened, by what we are still experiencing, the masks we wear, all the deaths that there have been and that there still are,” she told Agence France-Presse (AFP) ahead of the show opening at the Tel Aviv Art Museum. “The world has changed … and surely my work too.”

The artist, celebrated internationally for the past half-century, is known for deconstructing stereotypes of feminity.

French visual artist Annette Messager poses for a portrait at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in the coastal Israeli city, Feb. 23, 2022. (AFP Photo)
French visual artist Annette Messager poses for a portrait at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in the coastal Israeli city, Feb. 23, 2022. (AFP Photo)

Messager, 78, is famed for her large installations, filled with items found on the street and in the home, from teddy bears and dolls to old clothes. But the pandemic has influenced her recent work.

While she usually works with a large team of assistants, COVID-19 restrictions forced her to work alone, resulting in drawings that are striking in their simplicity.

“Youme,” acrylic on paper, depicts a pink heart that resembles a face and above it two skulls staring at each other, eye socket to eye socket.

Born in 1943 in the northern coastal resort of Berck-sur-Mer, she enrolled at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs in Paris when the May 1968 student protests broke out and was influenced by that spirit of rebellion.

A visitor looks at Annette Messager's work of art called
A visitor looks at Annette Messager’s work of art called “Faire des Cartes de France” (“Make Maps of France”) during the reopening event of Lille Metropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Art Brut in Villeneuve d’Ascq, France, Sept. 21, 2010. (Reuters Photo)

Messager won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2005 and has had major retrospectives at MoMA in New York, London’s Hayward Gallery and the Pompidou in Paris.

Having spent time on a kibbutz in the 1970s, she said she still feels drawn to Tel Aviv, Israel’s coastal economic hub, and to its energy.

“This is a country at war, but I’ve never seen so much life, so much excitement in a city like this,” she said, describing Israelis as living “in the moment.”

Messager, who has worked for decades in the Paris suburb of Malakoff, said she is “obsessed” with the process of creation.

“That’s the only thing that really interests me – trying to find a little something more, something extra,” she said. “That’s it, it’s my life.”

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