‘Artists Can Be Guides in This Troubled Epoch’: Thaddaeus Ropac Backs a Pro-European Exhibition and Benefit Auction

On the eve of crucial European elections, works by leading artists including Elmgreen & Dragset and Marina Abramovic will celebrate a united Europe.

Elmgreen & Dragset. Anger Management, 2018. Courtesy the artists and Victoria Miro, London/Venice.

As Europeans head to the polls, leading artists and dealers are joining forces to show their support of the European project through an exhibition and benefit auction in London.

United Artists for Europe, an initiative launched by the French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy, has been backed by leading artists from across the continent, including Marina Abramović, Elmgreen & Dragset, as well as Grayson Perry and Marc Quinn, among others. They are contributed works to the show and benefit auction. Each piece is, in some way, a testament to European “culture, ideals, and values,” according to the press statement.

The exhibition will be hosted by Thaddaeus Ropac’s London gallery between May 21 and 23 before the works head to auction at Maison Assouline, which is nearby. Asked about United Artists for Europe, Ropac tells artnet News: “I believe in this vision of Europe, to have artists and philosophers coming together and creating a statement in this way is something I wanted to support,”

The show is timed to take place on the eve of the European elections, which will be held from May 23 to May 26. The vote is a crucial one for the European Union’s future, as populist nationalists and Eurosceptics look set to gain more seats in the European Parliament. As Brexit negotiations remain at an impasse, British voters are also due to go to the polls to elect what could be their last members of the European Parliament.

The art dealer and star auctioneer Simon de Pury is one of the initiators of United Artists for Europe. He is due to lead the sale at Maison Assouline in London’s Piccadilly on June 3. “Since I was born 70 years ago, Europe lives in peace and growing prosperity. For the first time in my lifetime, this harmony seems threatened. I think that the artists can be guides in this troubled epoch,” de Pury said in a statement.

The artist list is not finalized, but several major names have committed their support by participating thus far, including  Daniel Buren, Marlene Dumas, and Douglas Gordon. Marc Quinn, and Juergen Teller are also planning to exhibit pieces. The Danish/Norwegian duo Elmgreen & Dragset’s contribution is a punch bag in the colors of the European flag—no explanation for this one needed.

The exhibition will be curated by Tancrède Hertzog and Léopold Legros. “Art is king in Europe, everywhere there are museums, monuments, an artistic scene, a cultural harmony. By creating borders again, this is what we will impoverish,” the two French curators said a joint statement.

Photographer Juergen Teller will exhibit Kristin Scott Thomas No.1, London 2017, which features the actress donning a European Union hoodie. Some works were made especially for the exhibition, including Belgian artist Jan Fabre’sIn Varietate Concordia (Stamp I, Stamp II), made from jewel beetle wing-cases meticulously adhered to dibond in the form of stamps.

Each participating artist has signed a pro-European “appeal” as well. Written by Levy, it will be officially launched at the opening at Thaddaeus Ropac.

On May 22, Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artistic director of Serpentine Galleries will be in conversation with British novelist Adam Thirlwell. That same evening, Lévy will perform his play called “Looking For Europe.” The prominent and, at times, polarizing intellectual had previously performed another anti-Brexit play last year. A talks programme at Thaddaeus Ropac is also in the works for May 23, though the details have not been publicly confirmed.

United Artists for Europe will be on view at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Ely House, from May 21 through 23. The auction will be held at Maison Assouline on June 3.


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