Daniel Buren installd his famous columns inside the Royal Palace, a sumptuous building built for Richelieu in the 17th century,

260 columns striped in black and white

Installed in the main courtyard of the Royal Palace, the installation is made up of 260 columns striped in black and white. All the columns take root in the basement and emerge in the open air at different heights, which creates a particular rhythm, and a strong contrast with the classical architecture of the Palace that surrounds them. Among multiple explanations, an undeniable reference is in any case made to ancient times, the columns representing, among other symbols, an archaeological land. A work that since its construction in 1985, has almost been destroyed several times !

Daniel Buren

Controversy concerning the columns

After its creation, heated controversy erupted over the disfigurement caused by the columns on the monument of the Royal Palace. Jacques Chirac, Mayor of Paris, even tried to stop the work in 1986, and the Minister of Culture at the time, François Léotard, even mentioned the possibility of destroying the installation. A project that will be forgotten after many legal actions, initiated by the artist Daniel Buren himself. The work was renovated in 2008, and today has succeeded in establishing itself in the landscape of the Royal Palace. Without yet being unanimous…

The viewer’s sensitivity and reflection

These columns were created by the artist Daniel Buren, a French painter and sculptor, born in Boulogne-Billancourt on March 25, 1938. Daniel Buren creates hundreds of site-specific works all over the world that underline, contrast or highlight the characteristics of the places that host him. Buren’s works, which are measured against a set of questions related to perception, color, architecture or spatial relations, aim to allow direct perception and to provoke a response that solicits the viewer’s sensitivity and reflection. His art invades space to reveal its spatial, institutional and aesthetic limits. Neither painting, nor sculpture, nor architecture, nor decor, each of Buren’s creations renews the relationship between the work, the place and the spectator.

An obssession due to chance

“I don’t exhibit striped bands, but striped bands in a certain context” Daniel Buren This obsession of Daniel Buren for stripes is due to chance. In September 1965, he discovered a striped awning fabric at the Saint-Pierre Market, the components of which then became the very basis of his artistic vocabulary: an alternation of white and colored vertical bands 8.7 cm wide. The choice of an industrially produced motif perfectly meets the artist’s desire for objectivity, allowing him to accentuate the impersonal character of his work. At first, Buren uses this banal canvas as a support: he first paints organic and random shapes which reveal the bands in part, then reduces his gesture until he only covers the two extreme bands with white acrylic paint. In 1967, Buren carried out “wild displays” in the street. He also carries out leaflet distributions, subway interventions and sandwich-man parades.

The Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale

From 1968, his personal exhibition at the Apollinaire gallery in Milan and his participation in the international “Prospect” events in 1968 and 1969 in Düsseldorf, marked the beginning of his celebrity. He thus began to exhibit in museums in the 1970s. Buren was excluded from the Fifth International Exhibition of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1971 by Donald Judd and Dan Flavin, for having stigmatized the dominant architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright with the suspension of a piece of striped fabric of 200 m2 right in the middle of the building’s central spiral. A year later, during Documenta V in Kassel, he lined the picture rails on which the works of other artists were hung with striped paper. It was in 1986 that Daniel Buren produced his most famous work entitled “Les Deux Plateaux“, an in situ installation commissioned by the State for the main courtyard of the Palais-Royal. Better known under the name of “Columns Buren” this work generates a national controversy and establishes the notoriety of the artist. In 1986 Buren obtained the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale for the prize for the best pavilion.

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