“France’s leading female artist” is what’s used to describe Annette Messager, who will turn 65 this year. I was led to have a certain impression, but the works were surprisingly fresh and young.

Annette Messager: The MessengerAnnette Messager: The Messenger
Remains (family II) / 2000 / fabric, piece of plush toy, emptied plush toy, rope / 300×540cm / MAC/VAL, Musée d’art contemporain, du Val-de-marne, Vitry-sur-Seine

Many of her works use everyday materials such as plush toys, stuffed animals, fabrics, embroidery. “I like using stuffed animals because they’re genderless and very flexible,” Messager explains. Her works represent universality in society which comes from her personal interests and experiences, rather than focusing on specific persons, culture, race, nationality, or gender.

Annette Messager: The Messenger
The Secret Room of the Collector / Courtesy: Marian Goodman Gallery Paris/New York

Using objects from everyday life, her works freely moves between a coexistence of opposing ideas, such as humor and fear, pure and vicious, reality and imagination, human and animals, life and death, which seems to give off an impression of a pure and yet a fragile little girl.

Annette Messager: The Messenger
Pikes / 1991-1993 / pike, colored pencil and pastel drawing, glass, object, fabric, nylon stocking, string, piece of plush toy, colored pencil / overall dimensions variable / Collection Musée national d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

From small hand made figures to big computer operated installations, there is a common “playfulness” regardless of the size of her works. Whether it may be word plays, role games, or imaginary tales, they never make you bored. In other words, this unique “playfulness” or humor, is the reason Messager is so popular among people of all ages and genders.

Annette Messager: The Messenger
Them and Us, Us and Them / 2000 / Mirror, stuffed animal, plush toy / Overall dimensions variable / Courtesy: Marian Goodman Gallery Paris/New York

The title of this exhibition, “Annette Messager: The Messengers” is a play on words, since “Messager” means “messenger” in English, reflecting Messager’s sense of play and irony. As the “messenger,” the artist herself has said “Annette Messager has no message.”

Annette Messager: The Messenger
Story of Dresses / 1990 / dress, photograph, drawing, string, glass box / overall dimensions variable / FRAC collection, Languedoc-Roussillon, Montpellier / Anne-Marie et Marc Robelin Collection, Paris / Courtesy: Marian Goodman Gallery Paris / New York

Present society is in a deadlock with a lot of problems. Looking at the recent booms in the art market, it seems people are seeking answers to their personal problems through art.

Annette Messager: The Messenger
Chimaeras / 1982-1984 / acrylic and oil on black and white photograph on mesh, acrylic paint on wall / overall dimensions variable / Courtesy: Marian Goodman Gallery Paris / New York

However, Messager has said that “In art there are only questions. No answers, no solutions.” After all, answers only lie within ourselves.

Annette Messager: The Messenger
Inflated-Deflated / 2006 / painted parachute fabric, computerized motor-fan
overall dimensions variable / Courtesy: Marian Goodman Gallery Paris / New York

This exhibition could be an important platform in which viewers can come up with “answers” to the “questions” Messager brings to light through her works, making their own personal issues into social matters, and considering problems in society as their own. You’ll find “questions” that will be of an awakening.

Annette Messager: The Messenger
Date: August 9th – November 3rd, 2008
Hours: 10:00-22:00 (10:00-17:00) on Tuesdays
* 9/23 (Tue) open until 22:00
* Admission until 30 minutes before closing time. Open everyday.
Place: Mori Art Museum
Address: 53F Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 6-10-1 Roppongi Minatoku Tokyo, Japan
Ticket: Adult 1,500 yen (1,200 yen), Student (highschool, college, university) 1,000 yen (900 yen), Child (4 years to junior highschool) 500 yen (500 yen)
* Ticket also valid for admission to “MAM Project 008: Araki Tamana” and the Tokyo City View observation deck. Ticket valid for one visit only during the exhibition. All prices include tax. The price in ( ) is Advance.
Organizers: Mori Art Museum, Centre Pompidou, Paris, The Asahi Shimbun
In association with: Ambassade de France au Japon
Institutional Support: CULTURESFRANCE
Support: Japan Airlines, Nicolas Feuillatte, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE

Annette Messager: Born 1943, France. After winning an award for a photography contest while a student at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Message toured Southern Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, India, Israel, and the United States etc. She was deeply inspired seeing Jean Dubuffet’s Art Breut Collection at the Musée des arts décoratifs in 1967. She stayed in New York from 1980 to 1981. Since then, Message has held solo exhibitions at Musée d’art moderne de la Villa de Paris, Musée de Grenoble, The Museum of Modern Art, New York and other major museums in Europe and the USA. She presented at the France Pavillion at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, where she was awarded the Golden Lion Award.

Text and photos: Wakana Kawahito

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Sneha Divias