Pierre Restany’s Half Century : Report – Paris, 12 December 2006
International Colloquium
30 November – 1 December 2006
Auditorium of the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA), Paris
Archives de la Critique d’Art
International Association of Art Critics (AICA)
Institut National d’Histoire de l’ArtScientific Committee
Nicolas Bourriaud, Richard Leeman, Henry Meyric Hughes, Jean-Marc Poinsot

The two day seminar, ‘Le Demi-siècle de Pierre Restany / Pierre Restany’s Half Century’, organised by the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA), in partnership with the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) and the Archives de la critique d’art in Châteaugiron, near Rennes, took place at the INHA in Paris on 30 November / 1 December 2006. The convenors were Jean-Marc Poinsot, Professor of Contemporary Art and Director of Studies and Research at the INHA and President of the Archive de la Critique d’art at Châteaugiron, Richard Leeman, Senior Lecturer at the University of Bordeaux and expert adviser at the INHA, Henry Meyric Hughes, President of AICA and Nicolas Bourriaud, co-founder and, until recently, co-director of the Palais de Tokyo contemporary art space.

The seminar brought together artists, academics and critics from Europe and the Americas, to examine the various aspects of Pierre Restany’s long career, as poet, critic and promoter of contemporary art, architecture and design under the general headings of ‘Action’, Geographies’, ‘History’, ‘Theoretical Writing’ and ‘Networks’. In addition to moving testimonies from artists with whom Restany had been closely involved, at different points in their careers – Claude Bellegarde, Frans Krajcberg, Otto Piene, Jean-Pierre Raynaud and Alex Mlynarcik – scholars and specialists from different parts of the world examined Restany’s involvement with l’informel, his creation of Le Nouveau Réalisme, the adventure of ‘integral naturalism’ in Brazil, his discoveries in Eastern Europe and Japan, the rivalry and dialogue with the United States in the early 1960s, his reinterpretations of the ready-made, his hopes for a revolutionary new humanism in the technological age and the evolution of his critical thinking, in magazines such as Domus and D’Ars, in the last decades of his life. There were also screenings of a ten minutes’ interview of Restany from the film,Bellegarde, La Couleur vécue (2003), by Gilles Bastianelli and Ivan Koze and a rough cut from a 60 minutes’ documentary video on Restany, shot in 2001 by Marc Israël-Le Pelletier.

AICA members from a number of countries took part, including Michele Cone and Romy Golan from the USA, Denys Zacharopoulos from Greece and Sarah Wilson from the UK, with 15 of her students from the Courtauld Institute of Art. Ramon Tio Bellido, Secretary General of AICA and Henry Meyric Hughes, President of the Association, both moderated sessions and gave papers on, respectively, Restany’s promotion of lesser little-known artists from different countries and continents and his participation in three particularly important AICA Congresses in Eastern Europe, at the height of the Cold War. The papers delivered at the symposium, many of them based on original research into the archive donated by Pierre Restany himself, during his lifetime and, subsequently, by his widow, Jos Decock, to the Archives de la critique d’art, in Châteaugiron, will be published in full in 2007, together with contributions from a number of individuals who were unable to be present at the symposium.