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Artstyle 01 Nov 2013

You said Papesses?

That’s a funny name for an exhibition… This week, Artsper invites you to Avignon where you can discover one of the most interesting artistic events of the season. Hurry up, there’s only one week left to see these wonderful artworks!


The legend says that a woman named Jeanne was chosen to be a Pope in Rome, at the end of the 9th century. She used to dress like a man, but her secret was unfortunately discovered when she gave birth to a baby during a religious procession. Everybody cried scandal, as the Pope was a woman! A “papesse”. Of course, this is just a legend, because only men could be chosen as popes.


Very much like Christianity, the art world has been exclusively masculine for a very long time, and the work of women has been much underestimated. Sculpture, more than other media, has been associated with physical strength and manual power. This show pays tribute to the work of five of the most important artists of the 20th century, from Camille Claudel to Louise Bourgeois, without forgetting Berlinde de Bruyckere or Kiki Smith. Being set in the Palais des Papes, the exhibition is named “Papesses” (Women Pope).

Maybe you’re thinking that the name is not a good fit, and that today there’s nothing unconventional about being a woman artist, but do not forget that Louise Bourgeois had to pass middle-age before her value was recognized by the art world.

In the huge space of the Palais des Papes, the show creates a dialogue that explores differences and connivances. The body, a central element in the exhibition, is explored in all its representations, and is in a perpetual metamorphosis.


No doubt, she is the best known woman sculptor in the world; Camille Claudel was the apprentice and the mistress of Rodin. She has spent the last 30 years of her life locked up in the Montfavet psychiatric hospital in Avignon. This period of seclusion and silence kindled her genius.


Le Psaume (The Psalm), Camille Claudel, 1889


Unknown to the public for a long time, Louise Bourgeois gained recognition after many years of work and research. She creates dreamlike artworks nourished by her personal traumas and far from literal representations. She opened up infinite possibilities in contemporary art.


Maman (Mother), Louise Bourgeois

Powerful and frightening, at the limit between nightmare and eroticism, the work of Berlinde de Bruyckere centers around her reflection on vulnerability, the ephemeral and solitude. Her main subject is the body, animal or human, always deformed, recomposed and evasive.


Berlinde de Bruyckere

The daughter of Tony Smith, spiritual father of American Minimal Art, the work of Kiki Smith is centered on the representation of the human body, and especially that of female bodies. She has been labeled as a “Trash” artist.


Pyre Woman Kneeling, Kiki Smith


The last of the five “papesses”, Czechoslovakian artist Jana Sterbak constructs, starting in the 1980s, a body of work that concentrates on the human condition and its limits; she puts into value unconventional materials such as bread or hair.


Enjoy your visit!

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Founded in 2013, Artsper is an online marketplace for contemporary art. Partnering with 1,800 professional art galleries around the world, it makes discovering and acquiring art accessible to all.

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