"Great artists have chance in their talent and talent in their chance," wrote Victor Hugo.
From the middle of the 19th century to the present day, many artists have entrusted their talent to chance alone. Freeing themselves from the agreed rules of representation, they played with the idea of an opportunistic creation from which any determined result is excluded. Fortuitous, unexpected, coincidence, surprise, random or inadvertent encounters then become the masterpiece.
Victor Hugo searches for the afterlife in ink stains, Edgar Degas launches himself into the uncertainty of monotypes, André Breton and the Surrealists play with exquisite corpses, Man Ray captures an archaeological world in a layer of dust, Niki de Saint Phalle shoots with a rifle at plaster bathers filled with paint, Jacques Villeglé collects torn posters on city walls, César compresses rubbish, Arman makes the dustbins, Spoerri traps abandoned objects.
Thimbles, drips, splashes and burns, folded, torn or crumpled paper, rubbings, body prints and painting made with feet, traces left by snails, objects worked by time form a work in which the artist's gesture has been the trigger for a process whose outcome is unpredictable.
This catalogue lists about fifty "hazardous" devices experimented during the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries by some eighty artists for whom "everything can become an opportunity for a lively consciousness capable of fertilizing chance" (Vladimir Jankélévitch).
Exhibition, Centre de le Vieille Charité, Marseille from 21 October 2019 to 31 January 2020.
384 pages / 250 illustrations
Éditions Rmn-Grand Palais