Raymond Hains: Venice

Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin | Paris | London / Holzwarth Publications, Berlin 2018
With a text by Hervé Vanel

‘Between 1964 and 1971, Hains was travelling through Italy and spent many months in Venice; he was in the city during the highly controversial decision to award the Grand Prix of the 1964 Venice Biennale to Robert Rauschenberg. The coronation of this young American painter, then 39 years old and primarily associated with Pop Art, proved explosive indeed. Offended by this “abject” choice, critics wondered whether the jury had been corrupted by Leo Castelli, Rauschenberg’s gallerist, and asked, in all seriousness, whether “the art of the West would ever recover” from this “official triumph for pop-art”. With “the art of the West” they effectively meant “the School of Paris”, which had grown accustomed to winning the top prize and found it difficult to swallow the verdict. Hains did not share this aversion to the American art of his time and his reaction was surely closer to that of Pierre Restany, who, more pragmatically, issued a withering condemnation of the backwardness of French cultural policy: “The School of Paris was not betrayed by the decision of the international jury but undermined (in good faith, which makes it worse!) by the man [Jacques Lassaigne] who oversaw the official selection and was therefore responsible for its representation. That the guest of honour should have been the old master [Roger] Bissière, a former Cubist converted, late in life, to abstract Post-Impressionism, was, to say the least, a perfect absurdity in Venice in 1964, two years after the “triumph” of his pupil Manessier.”

Without wishing to allege a simple cause-and-effect relationship, the series of torn posters from the Venice Biennale garnered by Raymond Hains in 1964 and exhibited under the title La Biennale déchirée took place against the background of a “crisis” in the art world. Their aesthetic was, after all, midway between the urban, ad-driven style of Pop Art and the mannered expressionism of art informel. The gestuality, colour and composition effects – and even the particular texture of torn posters – meant that “affichisme might easily be confused with the productions of art informel”. As Alain Jouffroy argued, one could even read them as a “mockery” of the abstract painting of the period, which notably included the works of the School of Paris. They are, at least in part, Hains’s ironic response to the scandal of the 1964 Grand Prix, created as they were by deforming the Venice Biennale’s own self-image: its poster. […]
His target was never one Biennale rather than another and it was not part of his project to satirise any given country’s selection or national pride. It was more the very basis of the institution that he symbolically “exploded” every time he attacked the integrity of a national representation. “In any biennale,” he said, “the artists become instruments of their country’s cultural propaganda. I don’t want anybody imposing their ways of seeing on me; I am defending my heritage.” The Biennales éclatées thus continued his hypnagogic vision of the world, which had its origins in the 1940s and in which each step towards illegibility anticipated the advent of a sovereign state of dé-lire (delirium/dis-reading). […]’

H. Vanel, ‘Troublemaker: Notes on Raymond Hains and the Venice Biennale’, in Raymond Hains. Venice, exh. cat., 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Venice; Berlin: Galerie Max Hetzler and Holzwarth Publications, 2018, pp. 15, 16, 18, 27

Publisher: Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin | Paris | London / Holzwarth Publications, Berlin
Text: Hervé Vanel
Publication date: 2018
Binding: Hardcover
Dimensions: 24.5 x 29.5 x 1.2 cm
Pages: 52
ISBN: 978-3-947127-04-7

€ 35.00

Raymond Hains

Artist page on maxhetzler.com


Related Exhibition

Raymond Hains

57th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia

Central Pavilion, Giardini, Venice


Exhibition page on maxhetzler.com