• Lingot en forme de disque plat, Elam (actuel Iran), Suse, vers 1500-1200 av. J.-C. © Musée du Louuvre, département des Antiquités orientales, Paris
    Lingot en forme de disque plat, Elam (actuel Iran), Suse, vers 1500-1200 av. J.-C. © Musée du Louuvre, département des Antiquités orientales, Paris
  • © Evariste Richer, South Face / North Face (détail), 2010
    © Evariste Richer, South Face / North Face (détail), 2010
  • Rouchomowsky Tiare de Saitapharnes fin XIXe © RMN Grand Palais musée du Louvre H Lewandowski
    Rouchomowsky Tiare de Saitapharnes fin XIXe © RMN Grand Palais musée du Louvre H Lewandowski
  • 1. Liza lou the damned, 2004 © Liza Lou photo Charles Duprat 2. Jason et la toison d'or, cratère en calice à figures rouges © RMN Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) Hervé Lewandowski
    1. Liza lou the damned, 2004 © Liza Lou photo Charles Duprat 2. Jason et la toison d'or, cratère en calice à figures rouges © RMN Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) Hervé Lewandowski

Gold


J4 niveau 2 (1 200 m²) | From Wednesday 25 April 2018 to Monday 10 September 2018

  • Last days!—More than 3000 years of history, 600 items and 43 modern artists

Gold is an object of desire and conquest, and a traditional symbol of power and wealth, but its plasticity also makes it the material of metamorphosis, a quality that has made it a favourite material in the arts.
Combining history with contemporary art, this exhibition assembles masterpieces that bear witness to Euro-Mediterranean civilizations’ fascination with the material over more than three millennia.
It includes archaeological objects (ingots, funeral masks, jewellery, etc.), objects from the Mucem’s collections (gold craftwork, reliquaries, ritual objects, etc.), films and documents, as well as modern and contemporary works of art by Ossip Zadkine, Victor Brauner, Yves Klein, James Lee Byars, Louise Bourgeois, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Johan Creten, Liza Lou, and the list goes on...
Nuggets and jewels, statues and relics, and religious and ceremonial objects cover the various subjects addressed by the exhibition: our fascination with gold and its hoarding, the frantic quest for the precious metal and its negative impact on humankind and the environment, the technical aspects of its transformation (from the most concrete actions to the alchemical illusion), its symbolic dimensions linked to divinity and power, and its festive, ritual and demonstrative aspects.
The exhibition is more than just another accumulation of treasures revealing nothing more than the element’s lost sheen: it is a dialogue between archaeology, history and contemporary art that allows visitors to understand gold as the stuff of dreams, a political construct and a source of creative brilliance.

43 modern and contemporary plastic artists on show in the exhibition

Martine Aballéa, Gilles Barbier, Isabelle Barruol, Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Bramly, Victor Brauner, James Lee Byars, Martine Cambois, César, Johan Creten, Marie-Noëlle Décoret, Hassan Darsi, Marcel Duchamp, Hubert Duprat, Christian Eckart, Bernard Faucon, Harald Fernagu, Robert Filliou, Sylvie Fleury, gethan&myles, Émile Gilioli, Thomas Hirschhorn, Hilario Isola, Yves Klein, Guillaume Leblon, Olivier Lounissi, Agathe Larpent, Liza Lou, Piero Manzoni, Tania Mouraud, Jean Michel Othoniel, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Stéphanie Saadé, Ghizlaine Sahli, Sebastião Salgado, Emilie Schalck, Franck Scurti, Jérémie Setton, Évariste Richer, Françoise Vergier, herman de vries, Ossip Zadkine.


General curators: Jean-Roch Bouiller, Conservator of Contemporary Art at the Mucem—Philippe Jockey, Professor of Greek History and Civilization at Aix-Marseille University—Myriame Morel-Deledalle, Conservator-in-Chief of Heritage and Manager of the History Section at the Mucem—Marcel Tavé, contemporary art advisor
Sponsored by Christian Dior.

With the generous support of the Louvre Museum.


Exhibition itinerary

Gold as wealth

Le Jugement de Midas Nicolas Mignard ©PBA Lille Dist. RMN Grand Palais F Dubuisson
Le Jugement de Midas Nicolas Mignard ©PBA Lille Dist. RMN Grand Palais F Dubuisson

Whenever gold is mentioned, what often comes to mind is a precious material in the form of ingots, which people have amassed in strong rooms where it is shielded from the covetous gaze of others. From Greek treasuries to Ali Baba’s cave, history and works of the imagination abound in depictions of riches hoarded in secret places.

Gold has always been a source of fascination, and the search for it has sometimes sparked bouts of gold fever. King Midas lost his wisdom when he was given the gift of being able to transform everything he touched into gold. For an ounce of gold, men who dreamt of adventure, free-dom and a quick fortune embarked on a frantic search for it. While reality was sometimes darker than the fiction, the historic gold rush episodes are proof of man’s ability to move mountains in order to get hold of it.

The malleability of gold

Johan Creten Why does Strange Fruit always look so Sweet ©Adagp Paris 2018 ©Courtesy J Creten Galerie Perrotin
Johan Creten Why does Strange Fruit always look so Sweet ©Adagp Paris 2018 ©Courtesy J Creten Galerie Perrotin

There is more to gold than accumulating it and searching for it. Possessing unrivalled malleability, it is a material that permits all kinds of virtuosic uses. As a result, it has served as a vehicle for various forms of expertise since antiquity. This section of the exhibition illustrates gold’s capacity to be transformed by artists.

In contemporary art it has been given all manner of forms and textures: the display embraces both the monumental sculp-tures of César and Johan Creten and the minimalist, fragile pieces of James Lee Bryars, Stéphanie Saadé and Hubert Duprat. From there to wanting to turn lead into gold it is only a small jump – one that was made by alchemists, who were drawn to the magical dimension of gold.

The symbolism of gold

Ossip Zadkine Oiseau d'or ©Adagp Paris 2018 ©Fr. Cochennec et E. Emo Musee Zadkine Roger Viollet
Ossip Zadkine Oiseau d'or ©Adagp Paris 2018 ©Fr. Cochennec et E. Emo Musee Zadkine Roger Viollet

Because it was reputed to be indestructible, gold was seen as an embodiment of the divine and eternity. Like reliquaries contai-ning the remains of martyred saints, it made it possible to dis-tinguish the ordinary from the extraordinary. Gold is the ultimate material of metamorphosis, adding lustre to the private, public and sacred realms.

Gold has also been synonymous with power. It is an attribute of elites, and its rarity, refinement and brilliance are an expression of wealth and pomp. It has adorned ceremonial dress of various forms (military, religious and political), and the luxury industry has exploited its innumerable facets. And yet not everything that glitters is gold. Marketing and advertising make abundant use of gold as a colour, proof that the material continues to be a source of unfailing fascination.

Christian Dior Parfums

Making of de la confection de la robe J’adore créée pour la campagne publicitaire du parfum en 2009 ©Sophie Carre
Making of de la confection de la robe J’adore créée pour la campagne publicitaire du parfum en 2009 ©Sophie Carre

Apart from financial support for this exhibition, the House of Dior is also providing loans from its archives of haute couture dresses, its most emblematic perfume bottles and the finest jewelry such as limited edition Baccarat. It is fully committed to one of the most brilliant cultural institutions of France and in doing so, also associates itself with an exhibition whose theme echoes its own aesthetic identity, shining a bright light on one of its most important core values.

Unparalleled installation by gethan&myles

Gethan&myles Lazare The Space Between How Things Are And How We Want Them To Be 2018
Gethan&myles Lazare The Space Between How Things Are And How We Want Them To Be 2018

Throughout the exhibition’ itenary, a specially produced cre-ation by gethan&myles is presented. The artist pair bought jewelry from the Crédit Municipal de Marseille (Mont de Piété), whose story they unfold.
Their task was to trace the people who brought these jewels to the Mont de Piété, to record their stories on the history and importance of these objects in their family life, and to make restitution. The jewels are displayed at Mucem in an ephemeral instal-lation that transcends the entire exhibition before being restored to their rightful owners. gethan&myles made the decision to devote their production budget for this buy-back and restitution.

 


Downloads

Dossier pédagogique exposition Or .pdf

Partners and sponsors

Sponsored by Christian Dior.
With the generous support of the Louvre Museum.