Creating an installation for Monumenta in the nave of Paris’ Grand Palais is just about the most prestigious commission any artist can win in France. This year, the honour has gone to French grand master Daniel Buren, who follows Anish Kapoor to become the fifth artist ever to fill the dazzlingly glamorous and grandiose space.
Titled ‘Excentrique(s)’, Buren has conjured a giant cluster of plastic circles, which overlap to form a colourful canopy. You can wander among them, watching how the light, shadows and reflections change with the weather. At night, roving spotlights bounce off the green, blue, yellow and orange panels, disco-style, while an on-a-loop sound track (of a text read in 37 different languages) ensures you won’t start dancing.
‘When the sun comes out, everyone is upside down,’ says Buren, pointing upwards to our reflections on the circles. ‘In the beginning, I was impressed by the building, and didn’t know how to compete with its extravagance. But it’s rather alienating. So I set about providing a human scale by creating a kind of shelter.’
His circles, held up with trademark black and white steel poles, come in four colours only, assembled on site in a repeat pattern, which began alphabetically, with b for the colour blue. You feel safe walking under them, and the reflections create rainbow like patterns under your feet, making you want to linger.
At the centre of it all are mirrored glass circles that you can walk on, to witness the top of the roof, which Buren has covered with intermittent blue panels. It creates a clever contrast between old and new, colour and transparency, pomp and simplicity. Buren, who is 64, is known for his exquisite and masterful use of space, and here you can see why.