If the collection is the soul of the museum, it must not remain within four walls, inaccessible. The biggest challenge for an institution is to keep it alive, active, in permanent exchange with the public. This mission is fully accomplished when the works in the collection inspire other artists and temporary exhibitions.

When exhibiting the work of François Andes at the exhibition “The Crossing of Disaster”, the Oscar Niemeyer Museum offers this opportunity to its visitors. The artist's work finds an echo in the significant collection of Asian art, with almost three thousand works, which belongs to the MON collection.

By curatorial choice, 18 works from this collection take part in the Andes exhibition. We invite the public to visit or revisit the exhibition “Asia: the Earth, Men, Gods”, in Room 5, where  approximately 300 works of Asian art are displayed. It is a unique opportunity to establish an interesting parallel between the two.

“The Crossing of Disaster”” was designed during periods of artistic residency by François Andes and curator Luiz Gustavo Carvalho, held in Brazil, Vietnam, Cambodia, and South Korea, between 2016 and 2019. It is an instigating set of works – drawings, in situ interventions, sculptures, costumes, and masks – which takes the audience to a fascinating exchange between the culture of Asian countries and Brazil.

Held by the Oscar Niemeyer Museum and presented for the first time in Brazil, the exhibition unites cultures to reflect on the relationship between man and nature and reveals the rich imaginary of the artist, inhabited by dreamlike landscapes and extraordinary creatures. Andes searches in mythology for ways to reinvent or, at least, cross our reality. Something which is only possible through art.

Juliana Vellozo Almeida Vosnika
Chief Executive Officer
Museu Oscar Niemeyer

The crossing of disaster

How can human society contemplate such landscapes ravaged by their organised genocides while hurtling into the 21st century in the throes of an ecocide of disastrous consequences? Ancient Agora has become an anachronistic space often covered by ghost towns, quickly erected, enclosing jealously within them the data which could preserve the collective memory of the human race after its disappearance.

The crossing of disaster presents an ensemble of works which interrogates the evolution of relationships maintained by man with nature, starting from a curator/artist exchange which discovers new landscapes and revisits a story during different periods of artistic residence in Vietnam, Camboja, South Korea and Brazil, between 2016 and 2020. In the first exhibition of François Andes in Latin America, this dialogue is further enriched thanks to the impressive works, which are part of the Asian Collection of the Oscar Niemeyer Museum. Continuing the extensive list of artists such as Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso or Max Ernst, who was enchanted by the richness and complexity of things produced outside European aesthetic criteria, François Andes's sensitive view reacts to works from several historical periods and different Asian cultures - from sculptures of the Northern Wei dynasty to Chinese landscapes of the Qing dynasty, from Japanese fans to sculptures of mother goddesses, central figures in Hindu and Vietnamese cosmogonies.

A passage between the realm of life and death, from an ancient world to a new world, a territory of infinite exploration, often carrying in itself the origin of life and being able to penetrate the most inhospitable territories, the rivers and forests in the exhibition also bear a reflection on the borders between the wilderness and civilized spaces, a privileged territory of Artemis in Greek mythology, Oxum in Yoruba culture and the Mother Goddesses in Vietnam.

François Andes presents us with a vast and fascinating imaginary bestiary, populated with dreams, struggles and ancestral symbols from different mythologies. The unveiled protagonists are archaic and timeless, and ultimately show us that what tends to become perennial dangerously approaches fatality. These monsters and gods of a humanized animality are ready for war, astonishment, silence and also love, revealing metamorphoses of desires and anxieties. The artist forces us to look around us and to focus on the beings that pullulate in bars, barracks, ministries, brothels, executive meetings and political palavers.

Thus, we are transported into an abnormal, distorted, sarcastic, grotesque, wild and promiscuous world... A landscape that can’t be found on any terrestrial map, where Thanatos and Eros play wildly along the clearings in the light of day, always accompanied by an underground stream of lyricism which murmurs softly through its invisible channels. It is, in a way, the reverse of the world we inhabit, where our cult of social appearances and concern for public morals and hygiene create dirty and unpleasant sewers that twist beneath the surface.

François Andes seeks by drawing an answer to the problem of psychological representation from its foundation - a literal denuding until the essential is touched. A deep look at human relationships: love in hate, freedom in love, joy in freedom. But his art is also that of testimony. For example, in the way he treats a single turtle, a mythological and sacred animal in Vietnamese culture. The lines of the drawing describe not only the turtle, but also its meaning, which the artist plays with and twists in the process of revealing a testimony. Here, the meaning of the turtle is transformed and worked as a formal element of the composition. It becomes a turtle-tank, a turtle-soldier, a turtle-house, a turtle-uterus.

The artist juxtaposes our world with unusual fauna and populace thrust onto paper in a raw and visceral manner, thus joining a tradition which distances him from the surrealist formulas and brings him closer to the world of Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Breughel or Alfred Kubin. His universe of a maker of gods and devils offers us a work that transposes the limits of the conditions of existence as it strives after the clairvoyance of the seer.

As in Euripides' Orestes, the superhuman in Andes’ oeuvre begins where the human remains. To immerse ourselves in this work is to approach our ancestry as well as our own bestiality - perhaps the only way to cross the disaster that is now very real.

Luiz Gustavo Carvalho