At last summer’s Venice Biennale, French artist Loris Gréaud presented a massive metal whale with an austere living chamber inside. Those who wanted to view it had to agree to spend a full 24 hours inside. Such is Mr. Gréaud’s way. He works over long durations, and often on a grand scale. (Though he has also gone quite small, as at the 2006 Frieze Art Fair, presenting nanosculptures invisible to the naked eye.) And now he is readying one of the largest-imaginable projects any contemporary artist could undertake, a combined exhibition with the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. It is the first time the museums have ever collaborated on such a project. The exhibition will open in May, 2013, and is being organized by Marie-Laure Bernadac at the Louvre and Michel Gauthier at the Centre Pompidou.
“[Louvre director] Henri Loyrette and myself have been wanting to do a joint project between the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou for some time,” Alain Seban, chairman, CEO and director of the Centre Pompidou, told The Observer by e-mail. “We both support and follow with great attention Loris’s work so we easily agreed on his name to initiate what we hope might be only the start of a durable cooperation between the two institution.”
“I was the lucky guy,” Mr. Gréaud, said by phone from Paris. “Of course, I said yes.” He requested two years of preparation time after being asked. “I’m very excited, but very scared at the same time, but very excited,” the artist said, and let out a laugh.
Mr. Gréaud, 33 (“like the Christ,” he said), was working in his studio when we spoke, editing movies on his laptop and preparing shipments. He has a lot to take care of before the Louvre-Pompidou double-header, like his debut at the Pace Gallery in New York in May. Despite widespread acclaim in France (he opened a solo show at the Palais de Tokyo at the age of 29) and appearances in Performa 09 and the 2009 New Museum triennial, it will be his first one-person outing in New York.
For the past three years, he’s also been at work on a short film called The Snorks: a Concert for Creatures, which features David Lynch and Charlotte Rampling. “It’s about a concert for deep-sea creatures,” the artist said. He’s signed up the New York avant hip-hop collective Anti-Pop Consortium to produce the soundtrack, and its members make an appearance in the film.
Though it’s too soon to discuss details of his Louvre-Pompidou exhibition, Mr. Gréaud offered some hints about his Pace show, “The Unplayed Notes.”
“It’s about the incineration of my work, and my artist proof,” he told us, referring to the edition of an artwork typically reserved for the artist, and often most coveted by collectors. “The heat of the incineration will create real material energy that will be able to produce something.”
As for the grand undertaking ahead of him, Mr. Gréaud sounded unconcerned. “I’m really prepared for the nightmare that it could produce,” he said. “I like that.”
Click the slide show above to see works by Mr. Gréaud.