artnet: Oscar-winning artist Pierre Bismuth on developing his own chocolate bars to poke fun at the art industry


Brussels artist Pierre Bismuth is one of the rare artists to be able to boast of an Oscar. Alongside Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman, Bismuth won the Hollywood Award for co-writing the screenplay for Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, early 2000s science fiction about love and memory starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet.

In his artistic practice, cinema also plays a role – the concept artist often references and transgresses Hollywood stardom. In his “Following the right hand” series, he traced the actors’ right hands as they moved through a film by placing tracing paper on a screen. Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe are some of the starlets whose on-screen movements he has translated into energetic scribble drawings.

Some of these drawings are on display in his current exhibition in Paris at the Center Pompidou, where he plays with conceptual artist Joseph Beuys’ famous phrase that “every human being is an artist”. Bismuth responds with his own version of the saying, which forms the title of the exhibition that covers 20 years of his work: “Everyone is an artist but only the artist knows.”

For the exhibition, he has also produced two new works that offer a cheeky commentary on the art market, including a Saab automobile that once belonged to renowned Belgian collector Herman Daled, which has been reupholstered to list the names of artists from the Daled’s collection. .

The artist also unveiled a chocolate bar made from a unique recipe that he developed: “if the art public cannot escape its role as a cultural consumer, then one might as well eat good chocolate “.

We spoke to the artist about his new foray into the chocolatier craft and why the most valuable thing to have in a studio is another human being.

Installation view at the Center Pompidou. Photo: Hélène-Mauri

What are the most essential items in your studio and why?

In my case, it is not an indispensable object, but a good assistant. Someone with whom I can exchange, talk about art and society as well as just about strategy and organization. Sometimes I have assistants, sometimes I don’t, and I feel the difference.

Otherwise, in terms of elements, the radio is always on when I’m working from home, and my music system is the first thing I turn on when I get to the studio. I always listen to music when I work at my desk. Not really when I really craft.

What is the studio task on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?

At the moment, I am preparing the tour of my personal exhibition at the Center Pompidou which will open in West Den Haag in the Netherlands in March. For the show in West, I’m creating two new things from home in my kitchen, because unfortunately I don’t have any in the studio yet. One is a new recipe for “Pierre Bismuth Chocolate”, a kind of Dutch colonial chocolate with an interpretation of Indonesian satay sauce in the form of nougatine.

And the other piece is a collaboration with artist Asad Raza which is based on creating a dish together which is exactly a mix between a Pakistani dish and a Tunisian dish, both of which are our families’ countries of origin .

Installation view at the Center Pompidou. Photo: Hélène-Mauri

What atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?

It depends if I have to be in the studio to produce a show or if I’m just at my desk. I rarely make things outside of an exhibition context. Otherwise, as I said, I am a music lover and also an audiophile so my music system is almost always on.

Generally speaking I think ideally the studio should be like a second home but bigger and less flimsy – a place where you can sit and read something (most of my books and catalogs are in the studio ), listen to music, cook, eat and have friends around you, in addition, of course, to cutting, welding, drawing and painting freely. I say “ideally” because I actually never managed to finish my studio in order to make it really neither operational and efficient nor comfortable enough not to feel obliged to do any work.

What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you despise the most?

It’s hard to say, because a good piece may have some of the characteristics you normally despise and thus contradict your pre-established ideas about what you like. I generally like simplicity and a certain sense of humor or wit. I don’t really like works that are too intentional or too poetic that really want to look like works of art. But again, a good play might break all of these rules.

Installation view at the Center Pompidou. Photo: Hélène-Mauri

What snack could your studio not run from?

I actually don’t eat snack foods, but I couldn’t function without an espresso machine.

Who are your favorite artists, curators or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?

Oh boy, I’m going to skip this question, first because I’m not on social media and second because I generally hate the idea of ​​rating.

When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to unblock yourself?

It’s a feeling I’ve never seen that I’m multitasking, I have the opposite problem: too much to do, not enough time.

Installation view at the Center Pompidou. Photo: Hélène-Mauri

What is the last exhibition (virtual or not) that you saw that marked you and why?

I have seen so few exhibitions in the past two years, but the last three exhibitions I visited at the Center Pompidou, for obvious reasons of convenience, were very good: those of artists Martha Wilson, Saul Steinberg and Ettore Sottsass .

If you had to create a mood board, what would it be right now?

Images of frozen food packaging and all types of freezer cabinets since Asad Raza and I were trying to turn our dish into a frozen meal and display it in the gallery in a freezer.

Pierre Bismuth: Everyone is an artist but only the artist knows itis on view until February 28 at the Center Pompidou in Paris.

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