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Nantes – France

Berlinde de Bruyckere © Jan Pauwels, MHKA

At a time of transhumanist utopias and cosmetic surgery, how do we view our imperfect bodies? Born in the United States in the 1960s, hyper-realist sculpture is experiencing a resurgence of interest that raises questions: after the Musée Maillol and the Fondation Beyeler,1 it is now being honored at the Musée d’Arts de Nantes, the only French public collection to preserve a sculpture by the master of the genre, Duane Hanson. Alongside his larger-than-life book and painting dealer (molded in polyester resin but dressed in real clothes and accessories), some forty works by eleven international artists, including Marc Sijan, Tony Matelli, Gilles Barbier, and Daniel Firman, are presented.

John DeAndrea © Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, Pays-Bas


The hooded or helmeted youths of the latter are echoed by the whispers of figures buried under blankets “like ghosts of human tragedies” by Berlinde De Bruyckere or the shoe popping up under a fascinating ceramic bedspread by Saana Murtti. Sam Jinks’ crumpled silicone babies (2013) are answered by Tip Toland’s wrinkled and grimacing face of the old lady in painted stoneware (2021). No less breathtaking in its realism, the back bust in patinated bronze by Evan Penny (2009) manages to render not only the tension of the muscles and bones but also the shine of the skin. 

Daniel Firman © Marc Domage, Collection FNAC

Mirror effect

“How far do you want to push the ‘truth’ of your sculptures?” asked a journalist from Art in America magazine in 1972 to John DeAndrea, one of the pioneers of the genre to whom the Vallois gallery is dedicating an exhibition in Paris. “I want them to breathe,” he replied. And here we are in front of this illusion, this deceptive veracity, undeniably troubled, divided between the fascination for the perfect illusionism reproducing the human body in its smallest details and a certain repulsion for the morbidity of these inert mannequins…

Blurring the boundaries between art and reality, beyond the technical prowess of the realization, beyond the meticulous rendering of these non-idealized bodies (from wrinkles to skin texture …), and beyond their “absolute immobility,” would these sculptures be on the side of living art, wonders Katell Jaffrès, scientific curator of the exhibition. “A form of living art, like the theater, which, placing us at a distance from ourselves, allows us to look at ourselves differently.

Tony Matelli ©Courtesy the artist and Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, Paris
Saana Murtti ©Johnny Korkman

1. “Hyperrealism. This is not a body,” Maillol Museum, Paris, Sept. 7-Jan. 8 2023; “Hyperrealism in the face of 150 years of art,” Fondation Beyeler, Riehen (Switzerland), Oct. 30-Jan. 8 2023

Hyper sensitive. A look at hyperrealist sculpture   
Museum of Arts of Nantes 

Until September 3rd

John DeAndrea – Grace
From June 9 to July 22
Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois Gallery

Ron Mueck

Until November 5
Fondation Cartier
Hans Op De Beeck – Silence and Resonance
Until September 3
Museum of Flanders, Kassel

Stéphanie Dulout