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An Odyssey at The Fondation Carmignac

Villa Carmignac takes us on an extraordinary journey to meet Ulysses.

Vue d’exposition Le Songe d’Ulysse - Villa Carmignac, Porquerolles
Jorge Peris - Héroes boca a bajo, 2022 © Jorge Peris, coproduction Fondation Carmignac et l’artiste. Courtesy de l’artiste - Photo Thibaut Chapotot

This summer, Fondation Carmignac’s General Manager Charles Carmignac wanted to set sail. Inspired by Homer’s Odyssey and Ulysses’ dreams, he transformed the private foundation ideally set on the Mediterranean island of Porquerolles into an artistic adventure across sea. At first sight, needless to say the island’s light, trees, Mediterranean vegetation, caves and overwhelming presence of the horizon’s infinite blue, easily pay tribute to Homer’s time, when gods and myths were alive.

It is with his horizon in mind that Villa Carmignac presents an exhibition inspired by the Greek hero who sailed for ten years to return home after the Trojan War (The Iliad). Legend has it that Ulysses reached the shores of Porquerolles Island, where he fought and struck down the Alycastre, the monster sent by Poseidon and sculpted by the artist Miquel Barceló at the entrance of the Villa Carmignac.

Fondation Carmignac - Photo Luc Boégly

Welcome to “The Dream of Ulysses”, an epic journey towards the unknown, during which Ulysses is constantly confronted with that which he is not. To spatialize this odyssey, Italian curator Francesco Stocchi had the audacious idea of transforming the villa into a labyrinth and inviting the visitor beneath the surface. The ultimate physical and mental space, the labyrinth opens up towards an inner journey which can, in this context, be associated with initiation or the construction of one’s identity, while always keeping in mind the idea of returning to oneself. Walking through a disorientating scenography of meandering corridors and crossings, the visitor is confronted with multiple circuits and routes: take this path or turn their back on it, see one work and not another amongst a vast selection of nearly 70 works.

Visitors won’t be surprised to see the journey begin and end with Penelope by way of two major artworks by Martial Raysse. The first piece – Faire et Défaire Penelope that’s the rules, 1966, which has never before been presented to the general public – shows her face multipled horizontally as if lost, whereas in the last one, she ushers «Ulysses, why do you come so late poor fool?». Between the two, works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman and Egon Schiele sketch the contours of epic female figures: sorceresses, mermaids, goddesses and icons. Around them, other works question the ambiguity of desire, with works by Jenny Holzer, Francesco Clemente, Willem de Kooning and an exceptional ensemble by Carol Rama.

Vue d’exposition Le Songe d’Ulysse - Villa Carmi- gnac, Porquerolles Martial Raysse, Faire et défaire Pénélope That’s the Rule, 1966 (détail) © Fondation Carmignac, ADAGP, Paris 2022 - Photo Marc Domage

Sailing like Ulysses towards the unknown, a landmark installation exhibition features countless boat sails designed by Jorge Peris, which leads visitors far away. In this distance, visitors should expect to encounter monsters and dangers, in the face of Urs Fischer’s painting or Arcangelo Sassolino’s creature, who grinds a bone daily inside the exhibition hall. Over the course of this intimate odyssey, visitors are confronted with questions of identity and personal construction as they discover works by Louise Bourgeois, Camille Henrot, Rashid Johnson and Gerhard Richter; and encounter spiritual works by Odilon Redon, Miguel Rothschild and Cyprien Gaillard, whose Ammonite Dub draws the gaze into an infinite spiral.

Inside the labyrinth, time escapes and is transformed. Benoît Pype’s hourglass takes a thousand years to run through. Man Ray’s metronome sounds like an enigma and the work of Olafur Eliasson captures snapshots with its three fountains, Object defined by activity, installed in a garden pavilion. Nearby, a ghost in the grass of the meadow, a creature from the bestiary of Adrián Villar Rojas seems to have returned from a distant odyssey.

On show till Oct 16th