Celine Condorelli, Museum Hours, 2024 / exhibition view
Celine Condorelli: Museum Hours
Apr 11 – Jun 8, 2024
Galeria Vera Cortês
Lisbon, Portugal

Galeria Vera Cortês is delighted to announce Céline Condorelli’s new solo exhibition at the gallery. Céline Condorelli was artist in residence at the National Gallery from Sept 2022 to September 2023, at the end of which she had an exhibition titled Pentimenti (The Corrections). All the works in this exhibition were developed during that time and intimately relate to the experience of the residency, but were not part of the exhibition at the time.

Condorelli spent much of her time during the residency at National Gallery within the rooms of the collection outside opening hours. Through this process she identified the multiple forms of looking that take place in the museum […]. As John Berger reminds us in reference to the fact that a photograph is the result of a series of decisions taken by a photographer, ‘every image embodies a way of seeing’.

“It was through this wealth of images that I started understanding that the museum itself is a machine for seeing. We know this from John Berger’s TV series Ways of Seeing (1972), which was partly filmed here [at the National Gallery]; already in the mid-1970s he was uncovering how conditioned we are by institutions telling us how to look as well as what to look at. This work relates to this desire to make visible a history of the audience and of the gaze, (rather than a history of art). But then the museum is forever reinventing and continuing this machinic viewing, endlessly producing new perceptual modes of seeing, at molecular and chemical level, at data level, at three-dimensional level, and hiding others – as it is ever so removed from the human labour that created the pictures in the first place.”

While walking through the galleries, Condorelli became aware of another kind of gaze looking back at her. Noticing the sitters of the collection’s numerous portraits, she felt their fixed outward gaze as no longer static, and, along with it, the imaginative potential of their witness to the audiences that have visited the Gallery over generations.

“There’s a third public that I think becomes obvious when you start spending a lot of time in the galleries: it’s not just the painters, but all these bodies that inhabit the canvases and stare back at you from the rooms. It’s a point of contact between people from the past somehow talking to us, so that when you are walking through the Gallery, you do feel addressed, and you definitely feel looked at.”

This playful inquiry led to the production of a short 16mm film, in collaboration with filmmaker Ben Rivers, focusing on the downward gazes of sitters and animals within paintings, interspliced with clips of spinning tops moving across the gallery floors. The spinning top as a toy has taken numerous forms, spanning histories and cultures across the globe, and is an item that has fascinated Condorelli as a sculptural model engineered for play. By introducing them into the gallery space, she proposes a form of contained energy that briefly animates the space and seemingly draws the attention of the painted gazes.

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