Paolo Topy Rossetto Photographer - Beach

BEACH  2015


This work is composed of three images of bodybuilders. They are actually prints on beach towels that the artist has photographed judiciously, choosing to frame them more tightly. Paolo Topy’s decision to present them as a triptych inscribes these ordinary, everyday items into the history of art. This displacement leads to a change in our way of apprehending them, transforming them from plain, utilitarian objects into objects of our gaze, subjects of reflection. Indeed, with this work, Paolo Topy proposes that we reflect upon the relationship that the world of politics maintains with art, museums, the public (in this case, tourists), famous people and… populism.

Paolo Topy created this series after an exhibition of paintings by Sylvester Stallone, world-renowned bodybuilder and movie star, at the Modern Art Museum in Nice, a resort town that is popular with tourists from all walks of life and from around the world. As movie stars, sports stars and other celebrities are seeing their “art work” shown in museums, it is worth exploring the true motivations behind the organization of this type of event, as well as their implications and consequences.

The point is not to question the sincerity of the approach of the aforementioned “artists”. That would be pointless. For a long time now – since Henri Bergson (1859-1941) to be precise – it has been considered inappropriate to deprive anyone of the right to consider him or herself an artist. But it is within our rights to ask ourselves certain questions. It may be enough nowadays to adopt a certain look or attitude – or, even more so, to engage in activities like painting and sculpture – to be considered an artist; nevertheless, the question of the relationship we intend to have with artists, of the gaze we intend to bring to bear on these phenomena, and of the way we intend to experience and share art can still be posed.

Traditionally, art and artists were seen from an elitist point of view. The idea was that the role was predestined, and that training in a given technique simply underscored and facilitated it. More recently, the concepts of art and of being an artist have expanded and been democratized. Art schools have, accordingly, multiplied, and the proper curriculum is judged sufficient for teaching any young person with the slightest aptitude to learn to produce “art”. The system functions well, and produces a large number of “artists” every year. They in turn churn out plenty of “art”. We’ve never had so many (artists) or seen so much (artwork). They could be described as professional artists (they have degrees that identify them as such). Their production is officially recognized as art, both by the system that produced them and by its corollary, the art market. But is knowing how to produce work according to predetermined criteria sufficient for creating a work of art, for generating that moment of magic that art actually is?

Our celebrities – whether actors or bodybuilders or both – and their artistic hobbies appear all too easily as the reassuring counterpoint to that system. Simple amateurs, self-taught dilettantes, their role is to superficially reassure the public, which may be circumspect, dubitative or out-and-out confused when confronted with artistic productions that appear hermetic and intended for the initiated, and whose codes they don’t master. They have a far easier time identifying with these “amateur artists” whose desire to make art they share. This system, however, is every bit as well-oiled as the other. Generated by an efficient star system in which hype and marketing work hand in hand, our celebrities are also imposed products. Therefore, their “artwork” is tarnished by that system’s mechanisms and strategies.

Actual art, on the other hand, couldn’t give a damn about systems. It has the capacity to emerge anywhere, especially from environments where it is least expected, and occasionally – as a sort of ultimate mockery – even from within those very systems.

The political class’s responsibility is not to create theoretical, hypothetical conditions for this emergence, but to protect art. Nor should art be hijacked for politics’ profit. The glow of “star” artists isn’t meant to add luster to or popularize politicians by flattering the broader public’s skepticism and incredulity. By the same token, art schools’ are not meant to rehabilitate or restore the image of that same political class through their very existence.

In this triptych, the photographer’s gaze, his curiosity, his relationship to the world and his querying of it are what make “art”. He reveals these simple beach towels’ incongruous, to say the least, physical beauty; he challenges us and questions us. Unlike the work of artists and stars, bodybuilders though they may be, the towels are anonymous, the products of an industrial manufacturing process. Yet their beauty is striking. What they have to tell us is fascinating. Paolo Topy has deliberately rendered the towels’ material with infinite precision in order to highlight its cheap, mechanical aspect. They were produced with a simple printing process, and yet the magic is there. Where does it come from? From the object itself? No, it comes from the photographer’s relationship to his environment, to the world, to his way of organizing this encounter with the ineffable. Perhaps the artist is actually a magician, capable of transcending reality and his own relationship to it. Where does his peculiar status come from? From his ability to persuade us? To share this surprising experience with us? What experience is he actually offering us here? That of remaining alert and attentive to the world around us, of retaining our ability for marveling at trifles, while at the same time remaining vigilant, able to retain a critical eye.

Yves Peltier

This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!