Peter Doig meets Albert Camus in Beijing
New show pairs painter’s best-known pictures with quotes from the French Algerian writer
The Faurschou Foundation is a relatively new, privately owned art institution, founded by the Danish collector and former gallerist Jens Faurschou. Nevertheless, it has already established a strong reputation, staging solo exhibitions by such artists as Ai Weiwei, Louise Bourgeois, Danh Vo, and Bill Viola at its exhibition spaces in Copenhagen and Beijing.
Its new Peter Doig exhibition, opening in the Chinese capital today, can only add to this. The show, entiled Cabins and Canoes: The Unreasonable Silence of the World, is curated by Francis Outred, chairman and head of post-war and contemporary art for Europe, Middle East, Russia and India at Christie’s, and draws together a highly valuable selection of works, including some of Doig’s best-known canvases, such as Swamped (1990), The Architect’s Home in the Ravine (1991), and Daytime Astronomy (1997-8).
These are big pictures; Swamped sold at Christie’s in New York two years ago for $25,925,000, setting a new record for the artist at auction, while The Architect’s Home in the Ravine went for $16,370,908 at Christie’s, London in 2016.
Why the high numbers? Well, Doig’s paintings are easy to enjoy, but harder to sum up in words. There’s beauty in the landscape, a sense of wayward wandering, and a hint of subterfuge and alienation. The Faurschou Foundation focusses on the last two aspects, by pairing Doig’s paintings with lines from the French-Algerian author Albert Camus.
That might seem like an odd pairing; Camus’ books seem more austere and moral than Doig’s lush pictures. Yet the match appears to be pretty close in a line from Camus’ 1942 essay The Myth of Sisyphus, from which the show takes its subtitle: “Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.”
There's certainly some of that in these pictures and perhaps gallery goers will pick up a little of that silence in Beijing this spring.