Pierre Huyghe is the catalogue of the artist’s travelling retrospective that started in December 2013 in Centre Pompidou, visited the Ludwig Museum in 2014 and ends right now in LACMA. 800 pictures of 90 projects illustrate Huyghe’s career of more than 20 years and give insight into the sometimes complex narratives that underpin the highly varied body of work of this leading figure of the relational aesthetics movement.
The catalogue, published by Hirmer Verlag in both German and English, is a chronological journey through Huyghe’s work starting with photographs from the 80s but focussing on mainly on the 90s and 2000s. Documenting work that comes in so many forms and for which the context is often the key to understand the artistic motivations is not easy. The book has an almost fanzine feel. Pages are beautifully laid out with multiple snapshots, taking you deeper and deeper in Huyghe’s world – an intriguing place populated with plants, animals, insects etc. The graphic design approach of balancing structure and chaos works really well, uniting the vast variety of media and makes the book engaging and pleasant to read.
Title, year and short paragraphs of text provide context for each work and the essays at the end of the book are giving further insights, but it stays challenging to understand the full meaning of what Huyghe does. Perhaps the catalogue has the impossible ambition – similar to the retrospective it accompanies – to summarise the oeuvre of an artist whose work lives in the relationship between his creation and the viewer. Work that is born out of interaction and that is often specific to the context in which it is seen.
This said, it has been a true pleasure to spend time with Huyghe’s work. It will always be enigmatic but after looking through this publication one starts understanding some narratives — and especially realises that Huyghe’s artistic brainpower is just too potent to be wrapped into a picture, or a museum show, probably even for this world.