SEUL CELUI QUI CONNAÎT LE DÉSIR Ragnar Kjartansson at Palais de Tokyo, Paris

Ragnar Kjartansson, Scenes from western culture, 2015.
Film still.
Courtesy of the artist & Luhring Augustine (New York); i8 Gallery (Reykjavik)


Seul celui qui connaît le désir is the first solo show in France of the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson (born in 1976, lives and works in Reykjavik), whose singular work is a cross between performance and cinema, sculpture and opera, plein air painting and music. In a poetic and surprising manner, the exhibition, opening on the 21st of October 2015 at Palais de Tokyo portrays everyday desires, longing for the transcendent, blurring the boundary between mundane and sublime.

Kjartansson has created several original pieces for his show at Palais de Tokyo. These include Bonjour (2015), a performance which will repeat, during the entire duration of the show, the fleeting encounter between a man and a woman in a life-size setting, and Scenes from Western Culture (2015), a video installation made up of a set of cinematic and idyllic portraits, which simultaneously celebrate and deplore the desires produced by western culture, or Only the one who knows desire (2015), a large scale free standing painting of icy mountains and rocks, in the tradition of theatre set painting.

The exhibition project conceived by Kjartansson follows a meaningful series of experiences inspired by World Light (1937-1940), the Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness’ well-known four volume epic novel. Considered as the masterpiece of this leading figure of 20th-century Icelandic literature, as well as some sort of bible for a lot of artists in the country, the book tells the tragic and eminently romantic story of a cursed poet.

For the title of Kjartansson’s show, Palais de Tokyo has adopted the name of a poem by Goethe. A complex object, at the crossroads between literature and music, this poem has been variously adapted and translated. Coming from a novel of apprenticeship, it became a musical composition by Tchaikovsky (1869), then a Frank Sinatra song in 1949.

Sometimes you need to add a little theatre to life and vice versa.
— Ragnar Kjartansson

A monographic book published by Palais de Tokyo is accompanying this show.

World Light-The Life and Death of an Artist, 2015
Commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna
Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine (New York); I8 Gallery (Reykjavik).


Palais de Tokyo – 13, avenue du Président Wilson 75116 Paris
21 October 2015 – 10 January 2016