A Brief History of the Future is unlike any exhibition I’ve ever seen in the Louvre. Based on Jacques Attali’s book of the same name, this musée imaginaire faces off ancient objects with contemporary commissions, creating a commentary on the nature of society and a reflection on the future using the past and present.
The exhibition goes beyond the academic, to the realms of the subjective and poetic. During the press preview, Attali called it “an artistic voyage through time”, saying that an exhibition is another language to talk about the future. A major theme throughout is fragility—of the world, of our lives, even of works of art. This fragility is paired with strength and destruction, but also with wonder and beauty.
The exhibition is divided into four main sections, the ordering of the world, the great empires, the enlargement of the world, and the world today. It is in the form of a circle; the conclusion of the exhibition can also lead back to its beginning.
The last room features an installation by Ai Weiwei called Fondation. Visitors can stand and sit on the bases of ancient Chinese columns and discuss what they have experienced in the exhibition, making this a forum of sorts. Conferences and dialogues will take place in this space. This relatively optimistic notion, that our visions for the future could have an impact, is counterbalanced by the beginning of the exhibition which exhibits, notably, a copy of Pieter Bruegel the Elder's The Blind Leading the Blind.
The juxtapositions created by the artworks on display are fascinating, and the sections are certainly thought provoking. However, some points are too facile, such as the section putting the attacks on the World Trade Center next to Guido Reni’s The Fall of Giants, seemingly to illustrate the decline of the “American Empire”. But on the whole, the exhibition results in interesting conversations about the direction of the future, and what (if any) role we have in shaping it.
The exhibition is not only is an examination of the future, but also of the role of museums today. Art here is political: what meaning can we get from ancient art, and why is it relevant for us? What are the artworks preserved through the centuries in museums: ruins or foundations?
THE FUTURE AND THE LOUVRE
This exhibition was a challenge for the Louvre, well within its mission of being a universal museum. Dominique de Font-Réaulx, director of the Musée national Eugène-Delacroix and one of the exhibition’s curators, insists that the museum should not be a closed space, but rather a place for the visitor to live, to meander, to have an adventure.
The future is a major preoccupation of energies the Musée du Louvre. With the Louvre Lens and future Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Petite Galerie, the “Pyramide” project, the museum is trying to position itself as “a place for the tomorrow”.
And, according to de Font-Réaulx, this is an important exhibition for the Louvre.
Une Brève Histoire du Monde at the Musée du Louvre (until January 4, 2016)
Address: Palais du Louvre 75001 Paris ∣ Métro: Palais-Royal Musée du Louvre (line 1 or 7) ∣ Opening hours: Wednesday to Monday from 9am to 6pm, open until 9:45pm on Wednesday and Friday