The Pope’s Palace in Avignon was a massive structure which at this point no longer exhibited much opulence, the centuries having seen its decoration removed or deteriorated. The remaining decoration could not be photographed because of preservation concerns, so I settled for light reflections and vaulted ceilings until we were almost finished with our interior tour.
The last large room we walked into contained some treasures of a new variety, however. There was set-up going on of a significant art show that would open two days later.
Entitled “Les Papesses”, it featured five high priestesses of modern art with their modern work reverberating against the Medieval space of the Palace.
The art was in disarray, I could not get near or find many good angles for photos, and there was caution tape everywhere, but it has been fun since we’ve been home to try to figure out what the art and exhibit was about.
Before the Popes came to Avignon, there was a Pope that turned out to be a woman, Pope Joan (discovered because she was pregnant). The name “Les Papesses” (women Popes) refers to the five women artists considered to have major impact in their field of art. At the time I was familiar with Kiki Smith and knew she was American. After I got to researching I realized I was also familiar with Camille Claudel. I had seen a large portion of her work the year before when we visited Rodin’s Museum in Paris. She was his Muse and lover and tragically spent the last thirty years of her life institutionalized. I had seen the work of Louise Bourgeois (French) before as the sculpture garden at San Francisco MOMA has one of her large spiders near their Blue Bottle Coffee Kiosk (wonder if it will still be there after their three-year renovation?)
The other two artists were Jana Sterbak (Czech) and Berlinde De Bruyckere (Belgium). Once again I was struck with how labels in art museums help me put art into context and understanding. None of that here. Some of my pictures are trying to be just an impression of the art for that reason. I did not buy the catalogue of the show. It was big, heavy and would not make it home in my suitcase. So I have tried Google searches but specific pieces are hard to name without the catalogue especially since sometimes all I could see was the back. I rented the DVD “Squatting the Palace” about Kiki Smith from Netflix since I have been home (a documentary about a show she had in Venice) and I looked back at my pictures from last year at the Rodin Museum. I loved seeing the contrast of the art with its antique environment and wished I could have come back later when it was all set up.
“The Princess and the Pea” as well as some floating nightshirts and straight jackets. (Is that a comment of feminine or what…)
Kiki Smith’s “Pyre Woman Kneeling”