Published 29.11.08

Breaking all records of attendance, a retrospective at the MAMCO in Geneva of a contemporary Swiss artist shows that Sylvie Fleury is more than just an art fashionista. She is a master in contemporary iconography.

Hub caps and shopping bags are amongst Sylvie Fleury obsessions and they play a large part in her show at Geneva’s Modern and Contemporary Art Museum (Mamco). So do high heels, neons and mushrooms.

You can’t help feel that Fleury’s show has come at just the right time. Her exuberance is an instant antidote to the reigning gloom. The exhibition may not have set out to be joyful, but it is. It’s like walking into a contemporary Alice’s Wonderland, with undersized rockets instead of flower pots and oversized popcorn instead of hats.

Is she being playful, or is she being perverse? Symbols of consumerism and glamour mix with the vestiges of crash tests and punctured Gucci bags. In mesmerizing videos, creatures of extraordinary beauty wash a 1960’s car in stiletto heels or drift around a mechanics work shop. Real-sized demolition cars are bright pink, red or purple, as if laquered with lady’s nail polish.

And everywhere you look large neon messages remind us to “Be amazing” and “That every minute is special” or to “Soothe” “Lighten” or “Purify”. There is even a purpose-built catwalk above a furry white floor and visitors, as they advance one step at a time, admit to feeling like stars the time it takes to cross the room.

The suggestive qualities of the exhibition provoke a form of escapism not unlike that of a spiritual experience. Marcel Duchamp’s transfiguration of everyday objects is considered art at the second degree, but he never had much of a sense of humor. With Sylvie Fleury, we enter art at the third level, because there is a constant reminder of irony in her use of epoxy and sequins. Art may never be the same again, but the real fun is that Fleury seems to be telling us that it’s all a big spoof.

Entitled Sequins and Dependencies or the Fascination of Oblivion, the show occupies all four floors of the museum and runs until 29 January. Children are flocking there with their parents.

Michèle Laird, née Haffner, trained as a journalist, became an international arts administrator (visual arts and theatre), successively in Paris, New York and London before moving to Switzerland, where she now covers the art beat and presides several associations.

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