Exhibitions at Jan Mot
Galerie Claire Burrus, Carine Campo, Michel Grandsard, readymades belong to everyone®
Mario Garcia Torres, Robert Morris, Philippe Thomas
A situation in which an argument can be discussed
With great precision, this phrase formulates the hypotheses that Philippe Thomas tested out through his approach, which consisted in a protocol whereby the buyer of his work was required to sign the piece and take on the authorial responsibility for it. This statement written by Philippe Thomas in 1990 for the catalogue of the exhibition “Feux pâles”, is itself conveyed through someone else’s voice. Sampled from a discussion between the author’s rights specialist Bernard Edelman and the collector Jacques Salomon, the statement is attributed to the latter, though it was in fact written and uttered by Philippe Thomas, and eventually signed by Salomon to fulfill the requirements of the fiction. This delegating of authorship actualizes the disappearance of Philippe Thomas as an author who gets replaced by the signatory-collector. The signatory, whether it be a private individual, a public or private institution, becomes a character in Thomas’s fiction.
This ‘art of society’ as Philippe Thomas called it, proceeds from a conception of art as a social game. As early as 1981, his work takes the form of a fictional dispositif in un manuscrit trouvé (a found manuscript), concretized in 1985 in Sujet à discrétion (Subject to discretion) and through le Fictionnalisme, and systematized in 1987 with the creation of the agency, readymades belong to everyone®. Founded at New York’s Cable Gallery, and in a second time, in Paris at galerie Claire Burrus, the agency developed internationally through numerous projects. Each project implied a double reading that willingly added to the prevalent ambiguity, and aimed to blur the boundary between the work and its margins. Philippe Thomas closed his agency in 1993, having collaborated with over sixty signatory-collectors as his many heteronyms. In his last piece of writing, he reinstates his name as that of the author. In May 1995, the national newspaper Libération publishes an article titled “Le Cinéma, quelle histoire!” (Cinema, what a story!), signed by Philippe Thomas himself – his first official reappearance since 1985. A few month later he died of AIDS-related complications, having had just enough time to conduct a series of interviews with Stéphane Wargnier, where he provided many clues for the understanding of his work* – a fiction that became a reality and continues to unfold twenty-five years later.
* “Entretiens entre Philippe Thomas et Stéphane Wargnier” edited and presented by Émeline Jaret, in Paul Bernard, Émeline Jaret, Philippe Thomas, Stéphane Wargnier, L’Agence, Geneva, Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, 2021.
Since 1995, the estate of Philippe Thomas is administered by Claire Burrus (executrix testamentary), accompanied by Émeline Jaret since 2008, and represented by Jan Mot since 2012. Two significant retrospectives of Philippe Thomas’s work have been organized with the generous help of many friends of the artist: in 2000-2001 at MACBA (Barcelona, Spain) and at Le Magasin (Grenoble, France) ; in 2014, at MAMCO (Geneva, Switzerland). An anthology of Thomas’s writing was published in 1999, presented by Alexis Vaillant: Sur un lieu commun et autres textes (MAMCO, Geneva). Émeline Jaret’s doctoral thesis (Sorbonne University), which presents the first comprehensive analysis of Philippe Thomas’s body of work (1977-1995) is currently getting published (Presses Universitaires de Rennes, France).
Works (1985 - 1995)
This section of the page presents a selection of individual works conceived by Philippe Thomas as well as exhibitions and publications that are equally part of his artistic practice.
Works (before 1985)
1951 (Nice) - 1995 (Paris)
As part of the exhibition Exposé.es at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris a series of 5 conversations moderated by Elisabeth Lebovici and François Piron are organised. Marion Scemama, Ralf Marsault and Jan Mot are invited for the first part of this program called Les Pointes perché.es : Transmissions part 1, taking place on March 8 at 6:30 pm. The panel of speakers will talk about the way to keep the memory of a deceased artist alive, how to care for their work while questioning their legacy.
Works by Philippe Thomas are included in EXPOSÉ·ES, a major exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris dedicated to the effects of the aids epidemic on the art world. The show curated by François Piron and inspired by Elisabeth Lebovici's book, Ce que le sida m'a fait. Art et activisme à la fin du XXe siècle, will open on February 17. (Image: Exhibition view, Exposé·es (cur. François Piron), Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 17.02-14.05.2023. Photo: Aurélien Molè)
Philippe Thomas declines his identity, a large-scale exhibition dedicated to Philippe Thomas, will be opening on October 28 at MACRO, in Rome. Taking its title from that of a book signed by Daniel Bosser connected with a lecture-performance by Thomas, the exhibition will display readymades belong to everyone®, a service agency created by the artist in 1985. First established in 1987 at the Cable Gallery in New York in its English version (readymades belong to everyone®) and then in Paris at Galerie Claire Burrus in the corresponding French translation (les ready-made appartiennent à tout le monde®), the agency carried out countless international projects, with over sixty collectors and institutions as its signatories. Since the agency’s closure in 1993, its legacy has been conserved in the collection of MAMCO (Geneva), and will be displayed at MACRO in its entirety. With the purpose of perpetuation of a position like that of readymades belong to everyone®, the exhibition project, on three different historical levels, incorporates the contributions of figures who lived in the same period, or were influenced by the agency, such as Claire Fontaine, Christopher D’Arcangelo and The Offices of Fend, Fitzgibbon, Holzer, Nadin, Prince and Winters. (Image: Jay Chiat, Insight, 1989, color photograph, plexi title card, 124 x 185 x 5 cm (frame), 4,5 x 11 cm (title card))
Jan Mot's booth at Art Basel (CH) with works by Francis Alÿs, Pierre Bismuth, stanley brouwn, Andrea Büttner, Mario Garcia Torres, Joachim Koester, David Lamelas, readymades belong to everyone®, Vonna-Michell and Ian Wilson (photo: Studio Shapiro).
KW Berlin presents the work "the relationship between your body length and the length and width of the floor, each wall, and the ceiling of this room = 1 : x, 1 : y, etc." by stanley brouwn.
Simultaneously works by readymades belong to everyone® and Ilmari Kalkkinen are included in the group exhibition Zeros and Ones at KW which investigates the ways artists operate within their surrounding institutional structures and furthermorese includes Lutz Bacher, Jay Chung & Q Takeki Maeda, Hanne Darboven, Jana Euler, Jef Geys, Tishan Hsu, Silvia Kolbowski, Pope L., Louise Lawler, Carolyn Lazard, Lee Lozano, Henrik Olesen, Sarah Rapson, Margaret Raspé, Ketty La Rocca, Sturtevant, Otto Wagner, and Martin Wong. Both exhibitions are on view from July 3th to August 8th.
Created by the French artist Philippe Thomas, the communication agency called readymades belong to everyone®, for its American version inaugurated in 1987 in New York, and les ready-made appartiennent à tout le monde®, for its French version, is an entrepreneurial structure behind which the artist disappears. MAMCO owns all of this agency, which ceased to operate in 1995. The book The Agency (L'Agence) is the first systematic and exhaustive study of this enterprise which has radically questioned the figure of the author. The book also contains the last unpublished interview with Philippe Thomas, which provides an understanding of the profound coherence of his artistic project. Includes also texts by Paul Bernard and Emeline Jaret. Published by MAMCO in 2021 in both French and English version.