With paintings and videos, bizarre objects and settings, whimsical and fantastic machines, Kitano leads the visitor through surprises, gags and games, all the while mocking contemporary art, experimenting with the sciences and toying with clichés associated with his country, Japan.
With this exhibition, I was attempting to expand the definition of “art,” to make it less conventional, less snobby, more casual and accessible to everyone.Beat Takeshi Kitano
An Invitation from the Fondation Cartier
While this insatiable artist finds inspiration everywhere, two leitmotifs occur frequently within his work: his fascination and nostalgia for childhood, and his relationship with the image, which is fundamental to his creative approach. This passion for the image is also evidenced by a prolific output of paintings, many of which appear in his films. Reluctant to institutionalize his artwork, which he deems essentially a private endeavor, Kitano has never submitted to the numerous requests of museums to exhibit his work. His decision to accept the Fondation Cartier’s invitation resulted from meeting with its director, Hervé Chandès, and their numerous discussions during which arose the idea of a site-specific exhibition geared toward children, designed as one gigantic installation.
In creating Gosse de peintre, a kaleidoscopic project with clear autobiographical references, Beat Takeshi Kitano subverts the very idea of an exhibition. Inviting visitors to interact and participate, he has transformed the museum into an amusement park in which all the worlds of Beat Takeshi Kitano take stage. Popular culture and scientific inquiry, the imaginary and the satirical, tradition and education, the beautiful and the kitsch, all co-exist in a setting that is at once diverse and cohesive.
Meandering along a path studded with bizarre images, interactive workshops, gags and games, visitors enter a universe as joyful as it is rich and complex. Beat Takeshi Kitano lays bare his theory on the disappearance of the dinosaurs, proposes mathematical problems and scientific metaphors, and even presents documents and secret plans of the Imperial Japanese army. Transgenic fish—pre-stuffed with delectable sushi rolls—intermingle with chimeras and imaginary animals while a recalcitrant criminal escapes hanging (Beat Takeshi Kitano’s way of playing with the death penalty still existent in Japan). A gigantic, clattering, laughably inefficient sewing machine serves as an ironic metaphor for contemporary art. After having first visited an array of fun fair attractions such as a waffle stand, a cabinet of curiosities and a marionette theater, visitors young and old get to test their own artistic talents in various workshops.
Gosse de peintre also presents a large collection of Beat Takeshi Kitano’s paintings, exhibited here for the first time. Despite his prodigious output, Beat Takeshi Kitano considers himself an amateur painter. Figurative, even narrative in style, his recent paintings, some of which were produced for this exhibition, seem to explode in colors and are reminiscent of naïve art. While recovering from a motorcycle accident that almost cost him his life, Beat Takeshi Kitano realized in 1996 disturbing paintings depicting hybrid animal-flower creatures and presented in his film Hana-bi. These are displayed with a collection of Venetian vases inspired by these unsettling images and produced expressly for this project.
The Moving Image
Video and the moving image are significant in this exhibition. Excerpts from his TV comedy shows, previously unseen in France, are screened in a setting that features Beat Takeshi in his most outlandish costumes. As an exclusive for the Fondation Cartier, Beat Takeshi Kitano has shot short comedies featuring a humorous exploration of western clichés associated with Japan and a variety of experimental painting acts similar to those depicted in his most recent film Achilles and the Tortoise.