The necessities of the bear by Paola Pivi


This fall, unusual creatures will emerge from nature to bring humor and mischief to unsuspecting passers-by. In Colorado, life-size fluorescent feathered polar bears captured in human positions – from yoga poses to hugs – will hide in ski lifts and ski chalets around Aspen Mountain, Snowmass and the Aspen Art Museum, as well. only adorning skis. past. In Las Vegas, 50 baby bears will hang in the atrium of the Aria hotel, dancing in the air. And if you walk into a Louis Vuitton store, you’ll find images of a leopard lurking in the brand’s new Artycapucines handbag designs – spilling a carpet of golden cappuccino cups in its wake.

The works of art have escaped the imagination of Alaskan-born, Alaska-based performance and installation artist Paola Pivi, and have passed through the walls of galleries and museums to draw audiences into her playful world. and enigmatic.

Bear Like Me (2019) © Paola Pivi
Louis Vuitton Artycapucines bag, £ 6,250

Louis Vuitton Artycapucines bag, £ 6,250

Pivi first rose to prominence in 1999. She helped Italy win the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennale with her absurd, life-size anti-war sculpture of a fighter plane. G-91 overturned. She wowed the same audience in 2003 with her billboard-sized photograph of a donkey in a boat – an actual but fantastic-looking image she took while living on the little one. island of Alicudi in the Mediterranean. Londoners may recall that she gathered 1,000 volunteers in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in 2009 to cry out against the injustice of Chinese rule over Tibet. To measure its importance, just before Covid, the Italian national museum of contemporary art, Maxxi in Rome, ceded its main exhibition space to his work. Next year, the MAC Marseille will reopen after a € 5 million renovation with a lounge dedicated to Pivi.

Now is the right time for Pivi to ruffle some – colorful – feathers. Post-Covid, his works, which address the human-natural world, the climate crisis and political injustice, have acquired new relevance. “I see the world a bit like this new world of Covid,” she said with dramatic flair. “It shows how completely disorganized, separated we are; how stupid it is.

Pivi with bears from his We Are The Baby Gang installation at the Aria Resort & Casino, Las Vegas
Pivi with bears from his installation We Are The Baby Gang at Aria Resort & Casino, Las Vegas © Christopher Sturman

A chic little brunette who only wears clothes by Italian designer Maurizio Pecoraro (“I kind of made a joke about wearing only her clothes. And I did, I really did”) and talks at a breakneck pace (“Don’t hesitate to interrupt me, because being Italian, I never know when to stop talking”), Pivi is ready for new converts. “My art is aimed at an uninformed audience in exactly the same way as an educated audience,” she says. “But in a gallery, my work is protected by a context, a shield. In public art, I have no protection, I am exposed to all passers-by and all emotions and reactions.

She is excited about this new exhibition. “The best thing about art is that we are supposed to have the maximum freedom to experiment, which should be without any limits.”

Many of Pivi’s most famous images appear to come from make-believe realms, but they’re actually real events that play with our understanding of how humans and nature interact. Fffffffffffffffffffffff in 2006 featured an alligator emerging from a lake of whipped cream; I would like to be a fish strapped 80 goldfish in airplane seats for a three-hour private jet flight in 2009; while 2015 Yee-Haw allowed a collection of horses to frolic in a dreamlike ecstasy halfway up the Eiffel Tower. The works are “characterized by unabashed simplicity,” curator Jens Hoffmann wrote in a 2013 essay for his monograph Damiani. “Pivi is careful not to state the meaning of his pieces. The task of building symbolic importance is a task that viewers assign themselves. ”

We're the baby gang at Aria Resort & Casino
We’re the baby gang at Aria Resort & Casino © Christopher Sturman

What unites them is “the smooth and distant feeling that we expect from the world of media or advertising,” writes art critic Massimiliano Gioni in the same book. “The confusion is not between art and non-art, but between the real and the possible.”

Pivi’s new Louis Vuitton bag with safari pockets (£ 6,250) features one of these images: a leopard “borrowed from a magician” walking over more than 3,000 cappuccino cups, taken from an event in Basel in 2007. There is something beautiful but disturbing about it, as well as a kind of slippery spirit – cappuccino cups on the Capucines bag. “Absurd, maybe,” Pivi laughs. “The juxtaposition of the elements is just very brazen. It tickles you. When approached about the idea, Pivi said she responded with “the fastest yes of my life. Why not? Right? It’s so fun. In many ways, Pivi sees Louis. Vuitton, with all of its history, tradition and respect for craftsmanship, as “like a gallery. I knew my art would be protected, uplifted, promoted, loved, cared for and treated with this ultra-sophisticated manual talent.”

That Pivi embraces art without limits – streets, bags, performances, animals, planes, mountains, sea – is a reflection of his own life without borders; she describes herself as a “nomad,” having been based in Italy, Alaska, China and India, where she and her husband, the composer-poet Karma Lama, spent four years fighting the Tibetan authorities for custody. her adopted son, now 14 years old. “Paola embodies her work in a way that is unrelated to some of the expectations one has in terms of how you structure your life,” says Justine Ludwig, who organized Pivi’s shows at Dallas Contemporary in 2016 and at the Bass Museum, Miami, in 2018. “She takes those familiar objects or ideas and then, through deceptively simple interventions, radically confuses expectations… you are drawn into her world and you want more. ”

I Did It Again - DeFine Art Program, 2018

I Did It Again – DeFine Art Program, 2018 © Savannah College of Art and Design

“Paola’s work makes the impossible possible,” adds her Parisian gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin, to whom she was presented by artist Maurizio Cattelan in 1999. When Perrotin first saw his fighter plane overturned, he thought she was “either a genius or a fool. After talking with her, I knew she was a genius.

This genius surely resides in the balance between the playful, poetic and political character of his work. A recent exhibition of installations at the Center de la Vieille Charité in Marseille, 25,000 Covid jokes (this is no joke), saw her collecting memes and jokes on the internet Covid-19. Presented together, they are both a commentary on the terrors of globalization and a humor in the face of tragedy. Pivi laughs as he remembers his favorite meme: the one of someone taking a piece of paper towel and slicing it in half – a toilet paper rush game. “The show is like the work of thousands of artists; it’s someone at home somewhere who thinks of something, and invents it, puts on the writing, and puts on the color… ”

When asked how her work has reframed comics into art, she is delighted to be confused: “I can’t just respond in a second like I’m burping an answer!” She exclaims. “I just used humor as an ingredient.” Early in her career, she says, “no one saw the humor, including me. The humor started to come out later – maybe 10 years in my practice. I thought I was doing some very serious art. And then all of a sudden people started to say, did you intentionally put on irony? Or humor? And I say to myself, what an irony? But they are right. When all my work is accumulated, then, of course, it is visible. Take the whipped alligator: it’s really funny, if you think about it.

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