El arte contemporáneo se abre paso en los subterráneos de La Défense

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The exhibition “Les Extatiques,” which showcases abandoned places reclaimed by nature, presents nearly 70 works in the underground area of the business district starting Friday, February 2nd. The exhibition will be open until February 25th.

The “submerged cathedral” will host contemporary artworks from February 2nd. Displayed under the massive esplanade dominated by office towers, nearly 70 artworks are already on display in the open air.

The Interstices collective has gathered photographs, paintings, sculptures, installations, and videos from about twenty artists for the “Les Extatiques” exhibition. The vast 5000 m2 dark gallery is just one part of the “residual” spaces that emerged during the design of La Défense and its imposing skyscrapers in the 1960s.

It is a volume that “does not have an initial function” and “is encased between technical volumes, roadways, and RATP stations,” according to Noellie Faustino, the director of the event department of Paris La Défense, the manager of the business district. This underground network has been reinvested by Paris La Défense in recent years as the district aims to exploit their unique nature.

It is closed to the general public, similar to the concept of open heritage days where access is granted to usually closed off locations. Describing it as industrial sites “created for one or two generations and then abandoned,” Nicolas Obadia, co-founder of the Interstices collective, explains that the objective is to question “current conditions of planetary occupation and the finiteness of resources” without taking a moralizing view of the impact of human activity.

Visitors can explore the underground concrete temple, resembling a ghostly hangar, in a chill, guided only by a faint light from the surface. The exhibition includes a variety of works, such as vegetal images created with rust and printed on fabric, a fresco depicting a post-apocalyptic urban landscape, sculptures made from recycled materials, and light installations.

One of the installations, “Image latente” by Alexandre Urbrain, offers a visual and auditory experience through three-dimensional projections on a water screen, inspired by intensive agricultural techniques. Due to safety regulations, the “cathedral” of La Défense can only accommodate 19 people at a time for guided 90-minute tours organized by members of the Interstices collective, in the presence of several artists.

The immersive underground tour also includes a visit to the former workshop of Raymond Moretti, where the sculptor stored a monumental creation made of wood, plexiglass, glass, and metal in the early 1970s. The “Les Extatiques” exhibition will run until February 25th.

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