dimanche 1 avril 2012


On the left: Document A (before restoration)
On the right: Document B (current state)

Go on sale on April 5, five drawings of Antonin Artaud who belonged to Florence Loeb and his father, Pierre Loeb gallery, which organized, in 1947, the first exhibition of drawings by the poet. These five works of impeccable pedigree and to which it is hoped they will join the other works of some great French museum.

What I found here challenged and should, at least, provoke debate, it is the issue of restoration, so delicate, of these drawings. The restoration works of art, especially those works of modern art (which belongs Antonin Artaud), being more problematic for reasons that are both technical and ideological (it now takes more account of the history of the work and its "avatars").

Drawing causing all of my questions is the lot No. 49. Entitled "Untitled", it was previously presented under the title "Figures". - Dedicated " to the Poor Florence who also will revolt », it consists of five figures or effigies, including a self-portrait (bottom right).

At the time of preparation of my book on the drawings of the poet, Antonin Artaud, Portraits et Gris-gris (it was the first book published on the subject in 1984 : this book not listed in this catalog Sotheby's), I had access to photographs taken during the exhibition of drawings Artaud organized in 1980, at the Musée de l'Abbaye Sainte-Croix (Les Sables-d'Olonne). One of these pictures (Document A, detail of the drawing) clearly shows that this drawing was widely smeared and blood stains of blood anf filth. The perimeter of the figures also show leaves many details (and a wealth of material) which disappeared after restoration (document B, current state). This photograph (document A, corresponding to the initial state of the work) has been replicated in the new edition of this book, Antonin Artaud, Portraits et Gris-gris (Blusson, 2008, p. 10, No. 5 bis). Blood stains and the filth of the bloody field are clearly visible on the reproduction in black and white.

All of these have now largely disappeared from the drawing. Survive only a few halos and just a touch of red in the bottom of the drawing (document B). There has therefore been that the technicians and art historians often refer to as a "hollowing out". When was this restoration ?

In 1980, during exposure at Les Sables-d'Olonne, the drawing is in the condition it was in Artaud's death in 1948. The bloodstains are visible. - In 1986, in the book published by Paule Thévenin and Jacques Derrida (Portraits et Dessins), jointly from Schirmer Mosel and Gallimard, most traces of blood is gone and only lives a few halos, and sweepings streaks of blood are almost erased. The catalogs will resume next (without reporting no restoration) this new state of the work. - 1980-1986 : it was not until 2008 that this state of the design prior to its restoration, reappear in the new edition of my book, "Antonin Artaud, Portraits et Gris-gris. "

So, of course, opinions will differ between supporters restoration of a "successful" works, the "Hygienists" who want to design a clean and washed. What we might call a "bleach" works and is known as chloramine, often used for cleaning and paper processing function is to standardize and launder funds.

The question seems all the more "heavy" and more complex than it is a drawing of Antonin Artaud, poet of the "Theatre of Cruelty", author and certainly cursed "precursor" of the body art (that I reported in my book in 1984). Load "hardware" of the work is not in his case an empty word. Any part of the poet's work order process is of primitive magic and clearly claimed. Fetishes, charms, works loaded ... Would you clean an old nail fetish? - The debate is open.

Was it clear, clean these "stigmata", this material body where many will gain an essential aesthetic and metaphysical. - Near the poet Jacques Prevel described (6 August 1947) the private room of Artaud, corroborating in every way this state works : " The frames are placed around the room, standing against the walls. (...) We should blow this vision as it really exists, with spots of blood spattered all here, drawings, the bed, manuscripts stacked on the closet ... »

We know the story of the two successive "tubs" of Joseph Beuys, one of which works (full of fat) was patiently scoured by a zealous housekeeper and the other (put away, bristling with gauze and plasters) was used at a congress of the German SPD as "bucket" for cool drinks ... A vast outcry was followed each time.

What Artaud would have thought of these restorations ? The unanswered question is obviously, historians, aestheticians, collectors, technicians and art professionals are here referred to themselves and their strange rituals.

We understand that for my part, I hold for excessively large, the presence (now deleted) of the material body. A long association with the work, texts and manuscripts of Artaud convinced me of the role played by the body, moods and substances in the productions of one who is identified on a recurring basis in Christ cross.

This is a question of art history, aesthetics and "sense" of works ...

Antonin Artaud, Portraits et Gris-gris
(1984 ; 2008 et 2019 expanded editions)

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