Interior portraits

This review of “Portraits d’interieurs” at the NMNM in Monaco appeared on artforum.com:

Laure Prouvost, Wantee, 2013, mixed media, dimensions variable.

The pictorial genre that lends this exhibition its title flourished in the second half of the nineteenth century, before photography made it redundant. “Interior portraits” depicted living spaces and their furnishings, devoid of yet suggestive of human presence. Built around historical works and archival materials, the installations on view by five contemporary artists can be seen as three-dimensional portraits of interiors.

Put center-stage, Marc Camille Chaimowicz’s and Nick Mauss’s contributions—Jean Cocteau . . ., 2003–14, and Concern, Crush, Desire, 2011—pay tribute to Cocteau and to his set and costume designer, Christian Bérard, respectively: apt references given their association with the Ballets Russes, based in Monte Carlo in the 1930s. Though parts of these hyper-detailed composite works have been shown elsewhere, they acquire new resonance here, framed by a variety of posters, paintings, and stage set models from the museum’s collection.

A surfeit of objects also characterizes Laure Prouvost’s video and sculptural installation Wantee, 2013, strikingly exhibited in a darkened interior. One of the spotlighted components of the piece portrays a painting of a cluttered interior scene, in part a mise en abyme that echoes one of the show’s dominant modes. Similar doubling effects, recurrent patterns, and destabilizing shifts in media course through the installations of Brice Dellsperger—in which seven Dan Flavin monochromes that appear in one of Dellsperger’s “Double Body” videos are placed beside screens projecting cult films that have been remade by the artist, who interprets each role—and of Danica Dakic, whose Isola Bella, 2007–2008, is named after a period wallpaper, which Dakic reproduced as a film poster and backdrop for a production she filmed in a Bosnian home for the mentally handicapped.

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