Artistic direction + Design of the book RAVAGE by Peter Martensen.
168 pages + 3 months of minutious work.
In collaboration with Galerie Maria Lund, le Musée d’art moderne et contemporain Saint-Etienne Métropole, Kerber Verlag, and l’Ambassade du Danemark en France.
Art direction: Marc Kandalaft.
Graphic design and typography: Marc Kandalaft and Angéline Martin.
Peter Martensen is a singular artist. Continually seeking an artistic and existential truth, he charts his own course, through his painting, detached from the sometimes aleatory trends of the art world. Martensen is indisputably one of the major figures of the Danish contemporary art scene. Many Danish museums have offered their walls to him. Since then, he has been featured in Sweden, Italy, Korea as well as in New York and Paris.
Ravage is his first monographic exhibition in a French museum and on the Parisian institutional scene. The presentation at Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Saint-Étienne Métropole will be followed by an exhibition at Maison du Danemark in Paris. It is the result of an exemplary Franco-Danish partnership. The drawings of Peter Martensen have already featured in the fascinating MAMC+ exhibition initiated by Lorand Hegyi and entitled Intriguing Uncertainties which was entirely devoted to this recurrent and superb practice of drawing. The MAMC+ has a tradition of offering its exhibition spaces to contemporary foreign artists exhibiting in a French museum for the first time. This was the case with Tony Cragg, Gerhard Richter, Zeng Fanzhi and more recently with Lee Bae. In the same manner, Maison du Danemark has been organizing for the last 60 years, exhibitions which enable the French public to become familiar with the dynamic Danish art scene.
For this spring of 2017, Ravage quite naturally fits in as part of the 10th Saint-Étienne International Design Biennial and its theme les mutations du travail – shifting work paradigms. With his improbable and poetic staging, Peter Martensen is not just revisiting “History”, or what we could categorize as genre scenes, like his compatriot Hammershøi. Certain of his works, along the lines of Caravaggio or Jacques-Louis David, anticipate the outcomes of these shifting work paradigms. He shares however, with Goya and William Blake, the sentiment that “a wise man does not see the same tree as the madman”.
Martensen is very sensitive to the classic tradition ; he approaches its limits and even surpasses them. The simultaneity of known worlds and logics, normally incompatible, bestow on his paintings a surreal and unreal touch, while remaining undeniably realistic. With Martensen we are always somewhere, but not always where we think we are.
For the preparation of the exhibition Peter Martensen very generously welcomed us in his studio at Tasilik. When reflecting on and conceiving the two successive exhibitions in his company, our exchanges were of the highest quality, both morally and intellectually. Warm thanks therefore to him for having accepted with such grace and humour our intrusion into his domain.
We should like to express our gratitude and thanks to Mrs. Maria Lund and to Mr. Lars Møller Witt for their unfailing commitment and support. They have contributed significantly to the pertinence of this exhibition. Thanks to their mediation, several collectors generously agreed to deprive themselves of their paintings and drawings by Peter Martensen for the duration of the exhibition. We are grateful to the institutions which have lent their works, in particular the Vejle Kunstmuseum, the FRAC Normandie Rouen and the Munkensdam Gymnasium. The support of the New Carlsberg Foundation and the Danish Arts Foundation have also greatly contributed to the success of these exhibitions. We wish to express our gratitude to the writer, Jens Christian Grøndahl, whose work has a wide following in France.
We should also like to thank Merete Sanderhoff, curator at the Copenhagen State Museum of Art, for her fine comprehension and rich analysis of Peter Martensen’s career and work. From an original standpoint, she revisits for the French public the history of contemporary art practices in Denmark. We are also thankful to Lorand Hegyi, former director of the MAMC+, who accepted to cast his distinguished eye on the work of the artist.
The Ravage exhibition attests to the importance of Peter Martensen on the contemporary international scene.
Marius Hansteen, culture and press officer of the Royal Embassy of Denmark
Martine Dancer-Mourès, curator, head director of the Museum