Jean-Michel Othoniel

From June 8 2024, the Sara Hildén Art Museum will be presenting the latest work by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, including glass artworks, metal artworks and paintings.

Jean-Michel Othoniel (b. 1964, Saint-Étienne), who lives and works in Paris, has a predilection for fusible and reflective materials – especially blown glass, which has been a hallmark of his artistic work since the early 1990s. These material qualities enhance the ambiguity and contradictions of his art: monumental yet delicate, baroque yet minimal, poetic yet political.

Othoniel sometimes creates installations in gardens and historical sites around the world. The works take on an architectural character, but their overall sensibility is akin to the teachings of Feng Shui, which reconciles man and his environment.

After the exhibition at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (2023), Othoniel’s next institutional exhibition projects will be at the Sara Hildén Art Museum in Finland, the musée Ingres-Bourdelle in France and the Museu Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil in 2024.

For Othoniel, place is always relevant and each exhibition is site-specific. The theme of the exhibition at the Sara Hildén Art Museum is the wonder of nature, which Othoniel was inspired by a visit to the museum, the surrounding sculpture park and the lake.

On the ground floor of the museum, an installation with glass brick walls and fountains, reminiscent of oriental garden, will juxtapose Lake Näsijärvi and Finnish nature through large landscape windows. The Passifloras, in aluminium with gold leaves, evoking the splendour of the Palace of Versailles, and the Gold Lotuses in front of them, will contrast with the rough concrete walls of the Brutalist architecture of the museum building.

The exhibition will also include a selection of Othoniel’s knotted steel sculptures, Mirror Knots, lava glass obsidian sculptures, Invisibility Faces, and giant Necklaces. The exhibition will also feature Othoniel’s paintings, which, alongside his drawings, serve as the starting point for his work.

­“It is a pleasure and an honour to have Jean-Michel Othoniel in our museum, whose exhibitions all over the world are always great events. And this, the artist’s first exhibition in the Nordic countries, is no different”, says Sarianne Soikkonen, chief curator.

Othoniel’s fascinating aesthetic revolves around the concept of emotional geometry. This is related to the idea of the effect of colour and shapes. Othoniel often assembles his works from modular elements such as coloured glass beads or bricks. Beads are the most common element in his works, which he uses to create sculptures that resemble jewellery. The scale of his work ranges from the intimate to the monumental. Othoniel’s White and Red Necklace (2010), part of the Sara Hildén Foundation Collection, is a necklace of Murano glass 220 cm in height.

“The exhibition continues a series of presentations of artists from the Sara Hildén Foundation’s collection. It allows visitors to see a work from the collection with new eyes and to experience it as part of the artist’s other work”, says Anna Hjorth- Röntynen, museum director.

Jean-Michel Othoniel had solo exhibitions at major international institutions such as the Centre Pompidou (Paris), Petit Palais (Paris), Hara Museum (Tokyo), Leeum Samsung Museum of Art (Seoul), Macau Museum of Art (Macau), Brooklyn Museum (New York), Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Venice), Fondation Cartier pour l’art  contemporain (Paris). His works are part of the most prestigious public and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art – MoMA (New York), the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Louvre (Paris).

Othoniel has several public works: Le Kiosque des Noctambules (Nightwalkers’ Kiosk) in the Palais Royal metro station in Paris, the Gold Lotus in the Hoam Museum of Art in Seoul, the Kin No Kokoro in Mori Garden in Tokyo, and many others. Les Belles Danses, completed in 2014, made him the first contemporary artist to design a permanent work for the Palace of Versailles, Château de Versailles: a giant fountain was realised as part of the renovation of the water theatre park.

The exhibition at the Sara Hildén Museum is organized in collaboration with the artist, his studio and Perrotin gallery.

Jussi Koivunen.

Jean-Michel Othoniel, White and Red Necklace, 2010. Murano glass, 220 x 60 x 18 cm. Sara Hildén Foundation