The purpose of this report is to describe and analyze a visit to Vaux-Le-Vicomte and MACVAL through firstly a comparison of cultural heritage, depicted by the former, and contemporary artistic production, represented by the artworks present in the latter, and secondly highlight the way this historic monument and these works of art intertwine various dimensions.
The comparison will detail the differences in the domain of art between the 17th century and nowadays in order to stress out the change of the artistic values.
As for the intertwine of different dimensions, it will help reveal an important role of art.
The château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, located in Maincy, France, is a castle of the 17th century (1658-1661), built for Nicolas Fouquet the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV. The latter had requested the best artists of that period: the architect Louis Le Vau, the painter Charles Le Brun, and the landscape architect André Le Nôtre. The castle remained an influential architectural work in the 17th century in Europe.
The Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, as known as MAC/VAL, is a museum of contemporary art located in Vitry-sur-Seine, Val-de-Marne, France. The museum was inaugurated in 2005, and is dedicated to artworks from the 1950s to nowadays.
the comparison of cultural heritage and contemporary artistic production
Forms of art
Paintings, drawings, and sculptures can be found in both places, but are much more present in Vaux-Le-Vicomte. The latter includes portraits of the king and other important figures, and highly elaborated painted ceilings.
In contrary MACVAL mostly features new types of artwork such as photography, installations, videos, and performances. For instance; a YouTube video of a famous artist dancing, and a performance of Patrick Mario Bernard: Bonhomme tubes (in 2015).
The first observation one can make when comparing the different forms present in the two locations is that the new types of artworks cannot be owned by an individual; a YouTube video is accessible by everyone and a performance exists for only a short period of time. This foresees a change in the artistic values which will be further discussed in the next point.
Content, means, and resources
This is probably the most noticeable difference between the two monuments, and the one that I felt the most.
When entering the garden of Vaux le Vicomte there were huge and sumptuous statues, especially the one of Hercules. Conversely, there were “statues” in the MACVAL’s garden, but they were wooden sheets with original drawing on them.
In that sense, the materials used are completely different. Cultural heritage is exclusively made from rare, expensive, and noble materials (white stone walls and gold leaf) whereas the contemporary artistic production involves all types of matter; It is even well seen to turn everyday objects into art. Indeed, materials were used to express religious devotion or to reflect the wealth of the work’s owner. Today the value of a piece of art is the result of something else.
Moreover, volumes and sizes are a key difference between historical and contemporary art; one would say that people had what we call “folie des grandeurs”. While nowadays, a small artwork may be very valuable; take for instance: the artwork of Anne Brégeaut: “la dispute, slow, and Déclaration.” Which consists of 3 white crumpled papers.
This contrast shows how artists became freer, more imaginative, and more willing to try new types of arts, but this doesn’t mean that artists before the modern era were not free, it’s just that art was commissioned.
As for the topics addressed by the works of arts, one may feel an emancipation with respect to the contemporary art. The most pronounced example is a perfectly looped video of a famous artist dancing in a club; which represents an intimate moment for him. And maybe, photography of backs, which represent a section of one’s portrait according to Elina Brotherus. Indeed, these topics are absent in Vaux le Vicomte’s gallery.
The way historic monuments and works of art intertwine various dimensions
Undoubtedly, the main value of art is aesthetic, but another major value is how it intertwines various dimensions.
Artworks in Vaux le Vicomte and MACVAL do not make the exception; they effectively associate sciences, politics, arts, and religion.
“Digital Desert” the name of a photography of Clément Cogitore exposed in the MACVAL, and also the name of a military camouflage is a perfect example to illustrate that. The artist mixes both artistic visual tricks and a recent technology, the pixelized camouflage used to mislead drones.
As for Vaux le Vicomte, its garden accurately combines artistic beauty and optical effects; Its architect Le Nôtre made great use of the perspective laws.
To conclude, art has evolved in many ways; form, content, means, and topics. The values it carries have evolved with it as well, but it has always intertwined many subjects.
An image I would like to finish with, it’s how my view of the contemporary art have changed after the visit; I felt like for something to be considered as a piece of art it would need to pass a committee which consists of: a creator, a visualizer, and an exhibitor. I would compare these three to respectively the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary powers of a republican system. If these forces were not to be independent it would cause chaos and “artistic dictatorship”. In this case anything would arbitrary be considered as a contemporary piece of art; according to me some of the MACVAL’s artworks may fit into this category.