Passe-Muraille : from Nan Goldin to Sol LeWitt, artworks chosen from the Yvon Lambert's Collection


When he opened his gallery in the mid 1960s, Yvon Lambert was moving in the same direction as the leading avant-garde of European and American artists of his generation, who were particularly concerned with the seismic societal shifts in the period immediately after the Second World War. As a group, they were driven by a profound desire to stand traditional, academic thinking on its head and to redefine ways of thinking about, producing and sharing art. The artwork becomes an idea, a concept, a minimal shape, an attitude even, thereby inventing a new relationship with the observer.

These works may formally and intellectually break with the past – as evidenced here by the text work « Ruptured » by Laurence Weiner, they also strive to maintain a link to what has gone before, all the while sketching a future filled with hope and ambition for an art market of a different ilk.

 Sol LeWitt seeks to reinvent our relationship with architecture through his celebrated wall paintings and geometric sculptures. But he cannot totally abandon his references to the past, be they Muybridge’s chronophotographs or Bach’s contrapuntal music or indeed the great fresque painters of the Florentine renaissance to whom we also find a reference in this room in young artist Quentin Lefranc’s window installation. Open to the world and to the sky that is reflected all around this first room, his work provides a chromatic echo of the Robert Barry diptyque that hangs alongside. Here, words invade a monochrome background, appearing as the scenery of the mind, an invitation to meditate, wait, listen, understand, forget…



When the time came to consider how to rethink artistic production in the sixties, it seemed impossible for many artists to represent the human form in the aftermath of the horrors of the Second World War. The geometric or minimal shapes of Sol LeWitt are part of this movement. He removes the human form completely from his works yet at the same time invites the observer in, creating a new vocabulary of shapes that places the viewer as the focal point in the exhibition space.

On the opposite wall, Douglas Gordon burns the eyes and mouths of stars of theatre and cinema, reminding us of the difficult relationship we often have with the cult of the image, and in particular with representations of the human form. The iconoclastic period of the Byzantine empire comes to mind, or the destruction of the Bamiyan buddhas by the Taliban or, closer to home, the adolescent anger that can lead us to rip up a now embarrassing but once loved photograph of a childhood icon. Above us, emerging from the dark as if from hell, Gil Magid’s red neon “I Can Burn Your Face”. She tells the tale of those working in the shadows, whose cover could be burned at any moment, leaving them (and us) deeply vulnerable. Finally, the deathbed image in charcoal by Adel Abdessemed, whose work examines with extreme sensibility the darker side of today’s existence. The words of Italian author and poet Cesare Pavese, loved by Yvon Lambert, spring to mind:

« Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi / Death with come and she will have your eyes ».



On March 17th 2020, as the lockdown imposed by Covid 19 was announced in France, photographer François Halard began work on a series of photographs taken in the intimacy of his Arles home, a miraculous space filled with the works of art and the signs and traces of artists whose paths he has crossed. Each of the 56 daily photographs tells the very particular tale of the relationship we share with the spaces in which we live, of how our personality leaves an indelible trace. In an echo of these works, the photograph taken by Louise Lawler in Yvon Lambert’s house, in which we identify a painting by Cy Twombly, examines the way in which collectors hang masterpieces in a domestic environment.

On the opposite wall, Miquel Barcelo. A proponent of the return to painting at the start of the eighties, he references the grand masters of the early twentieth century (Picasso, Mantegna…), a time when art was in a permanent state of freedom and (re)invention, when still life was allowed to move out of the shadows of more ancient art into the limelight, and in so doing telling us much of our relationship to the world. Next to his table scenes are Niele Toroni’s tondi, his favoured backdrop for a gesture that he has repeated unceasingly since the sixties – the application of number 50 paintbrush strokes at regular 30 cm intervals. On a canvas, the wall, or sometimes a surface normally destined for everyday use, he shows us, stroke after stroke, what the act of painting actually is.

As you leave this room, you will see an installation by Christian Boltanski, a reminder of the importance of keeping memories of the past, of holding onto the image of those that the dramas of history have swept away. Since the end of the sixties, his singular installations and photographs have been a regular and poetic reminder of the past trauma with which we must learn to live.



In the seventies, Anselm Kiefer began a work that he situated at the heart of the dramas of the twentieth century. From Velimir Khlebnikov to Paul Celan, Richard Wagner to Pierre Corneille, Emmanuel Kant and Caspar David Friedrich to the Queens of France, Anselm Kiefer wrestles with the heritage of the past with dizzying energy and erudition. Here, there is trouble in paradise. Partly obscured by a vast curtain of lead, we can make out a glorious jungle of a garden of Eden, with a snake hovering in the foreground.

The work could almost serve as the backdrop to the lives of the protagonists of Nan Goldin’s photographs. Her gods and goddesses live out the dramas and passions of their lives in a world that has been torn apart. Her photographs depict the lives of those whose paths she has crossed. They love, laugh, hold, kiss and suffer, cry, die and live in the most intense way imaginable. But drugs and AIDS elbow their way into the tumult of the 1980s and death is around every corner. And so these photographs too are a reminder of those who have been loved and are here no more. And even if the nine photographs depict a small group of private, intertwined lives, they touch us precisely because their drama is universal.

The American artist Jenny Holzer uses a palette familiar to Géricault or to Goya, as she depicts the violence of the repressive system of justice in the United States during the second Gulf war. Secret service documents found online have been painstakingly recreated by hand in paint. They tell of the punishment imposed on those who were wrongly imprisoned in the jails of Guantanamo.



Both artist and architect, Arakawa’s focusses on the processes of human thought and the search for the creation of meaning in works of art. Here the artist shows us the fundamental transformation at work in the way art was created from the 1960s. The observer is no longer the silent spectator of the past. He is transformed into a detective, unravelling the clues left by the artist as he invites him in to experience a multitude of new methods and ‘uses’ for art.

So too David Askevold, the pioneer of experimental video art, develops a body of work inspired by rituals, games and the science of dreams.



Through the photograph of a body half hidden behind a veil, or the portrait that becomes visible as the fog on a bathroom mirror recedes, Elina Brotherus invites us to share her interminable, complex, shifting quest for herself. The cold, pure light of the Nordic painters imbues seemingly banal scenes with strangeness; before our eyes a potentially poetic tale becomes troubling in a world as familiar as it is unknown.

Troubling too is the trilogy of short films by the video artist Salla Tykka. In this meticulously structured investigation of the mechanics of cinematic production and performance, she displays to what extent the story we believe we are seeing and the personality and actions of the characters therein depends on the methodology employed.

As the show comes to a close, light must give way to darkness. So dictates the neon installation by Stefan Brüggeman. It only remains to glance at the ghostly double of Ian Curtis, iconic singer of Joy Division, who died at the age of 24, represented here by the artist Slater Bradley.