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Les Chemins du Sud (The South Ways)

Emmanuelle Luciani & Charlotte Cosson are curating, with Southway studio they founded, Les Chemins du Sud (The South ways). This exhibition takes us through the history of art from the end of the 19th century to nowadays, off ering an alternative to the Paris/New York narrative. Across the Mrac as well as the Fontfroide Abbey this group-show traces a genealogy of artists who, accepting being heirs, refuse to fit into a revolutionary vein.

Produced outside of European and American capitals, the works of art are coming from the South. This South exists outside of the industrialisation and progress characterising modernity. The artworks emerging from this context are artisanal, decorative, colourful and, often, modest. Those artists embody a kind of resistance against the distinction made between high and low arts, the painter and the decorator, and the artist and the craftsman. They praise for ornament as cure – connecting people to nature, the world and others.

For the past few years, Emmanuelle Luciani & Charlotte Cosson gathered a community of artists with whom they produce works of art according to their theory of a new relation between centres and peripheries. The alternative-progressive and non-industrial narrative unfolded here highlights four distinct moments: the Marseille school represented by Théodore Jourdan and Adolphe Monticelli; the turn of the 20th century with William Morris, Odilon Redon, Gustave Fayet, and Raoul Dufy defending the artisanal and the beautiful against a certain idea of modernity; the artists from the Pattern and Decoration movement (Betty Woodman, Robert Kushner, Joyce Kozloff ) who, from the 1970s, embraced so-called minor arts; and fi nally the contemporary artists who are still producing an art made by humans for humans. 

The scenography itself, conceived as a work of art, shows a global impetus and stands for the human over the machine, vernacular traditions over profit, and ornament over industrial coldness. Collective, co-created pieces, and homages create a sense of collaboration and exchange. 
This is extended to the Fontfroide Abbey, owned by the family of late nineteenth century artist and patron Gustave Fayet. The project is mirrored across the two spaces. At the Mrac, works by both Fayet and his glassmaker Richard Burgsthal are exhibited. For the Fontfroide Cistercian Abbey, the Italian artist Matteo Nasini answers, with a contemporary production, Fayet and Burgsthal’s stained glass themed on the history of Saint Francis of Assisi. 

The sculptures, paintings, glazed ceramics, and furniture here exhibited arise outside of megalopolis, and stands for a marginal ideal. The artists who made them are usually from Latin Europe or the hot states of United States of America, or were not born there but joined the South in thought or action. From its origins, modernity is linked to capitalism. They align with the future, progress, and automation. This ideal of purity contrasts with the incarnated culture of southern countries. Outside the globalised capitals, the artists and thinkers produced ornament, and used unhygienic materials in order to promote organic and material life – in a word: the vital. 

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