Hermès Foundation opens the first solo exhibition in Belgium by French artist Marion Verboom

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Hermès Foundation opens the first solo exhibition in Belgium by French artist Marion Verboom
Marion Verboom, Chla, 2022, plaster, steel and concrete, 117 x 62 x 40 cm, courtesy of the artist and The Pill gallery © Nicolas Brasseur © Adagp, Paris, 2022.

BRUSSELS.- Joël Riff's first exhibition as curator at La Verrière, “Chryséléphantine” is a celebration of composite sculpture, a rich, profuse genre noted for its sumptuous combinations of raw materials and its encyclopaedic repertory of motifs. The first solo exhibition in Belgium by French artist Marion Verboom, “Chryséléphantine” is conceived as a contextualisation of her work, in association with seven guest personalities. The show includes works on loan and new pieces inspired by Verboom’s stay in Brussels. The broad range of media includes Cubist statuary, silver gelatin photographic prints, oil paintings on canvas, wheel-thrown ceramics, furniture and text, and Marion Verboom’s own modelled and mould-cast pieces. The exhibition launches a new curatorial programme at La Verrière, with a new-look publication conceived as an extension of the exhibition space and an artwork in its own right.

“Chryselephantine” is a term employed by Marion Verboom in an interview in the pages of her newly-published monograph1. She adds: “I came across [it] on an explanatory panel in Delphi. I was struck by the dichotomy between the image of a small, delicate flower – the chrysanthemum – and a thick-skinned pachyderm, all in one word.”

Marion Verboom’s new solo exhibition also marks a decade of collaboration with curator Joël Riff, beginning in 2012 with the group show “Outre-forêt #4” at the independent art space 6b in Saint-Denis (north of Paris), followed by “Duetto” in 2020, and “Faire essaim” in 2021 at Moly-Sabata (Sablons, France). Joël Riff penned a portrait of Verboom in his nomination of her for the Prix Aware in 2019. He has written ten pieces about new works by the artist in his series Curiosité and the Revue de la céramique et du verre, and conducted the interview published in her new monograph (Éditions Dilecta in 2022). “Chryséléphantine” furthers his collaboration with Amélie Lucas-Gary and Maude Maris, and initiates conversations with Richard Deacon, Tjok Dessauvage, touche-touche and Chloé Vernerey.


For more than a decade, Marion Verboom’s sculptural practice has been rooted in her delight in her raw materials and their working. Her pieces are characterised by a bold combination of craft skills and a boundless appetite for motifs sampled from diverse civilisations which she then combines. Verboom’s first solo show in Belgium presents work selected from the vast inventory of forms she has developed since her training at the Beaux-Arts in Paris (she graduated in 2009), followed by two years at De Ateliers in Amsterdam. Her encylopaedic approach includes an open-ended piece, Achronie, beginning in 2016, featuring a series of columns sectioned and stacked in a variety of configurations with each module functioning as a letter in an exponential alphabet.

“Chryséléphantine” includes selected pieces in dialogue with Marion Verboom’s sculptures, a format designed to extend and diffract our experience of her work. First developed in ancient Egypt, the term chryselephantine is traditionally applied to objects in gold and ivory and combined, per the renowned statue of Zeus in Olympia, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Its creator, the celebrated ancient Greek sculptor Phidias, also made the Athena Parthenos. Both colossi – supreme, sumptuous examples of the genre – have since disappeared leaving only their empty temple settings, famous across the world today, though stripped of their original contents and purpose. Chryselephantine enjoyed a revival with Art Deco, with bronze replacing the gold. In this historical, technical and intellectual context, the exhibition invites exploration of chryselephantine’s potential as a contemporary medium, and its intersection with a value set nurtured by growing awareness of our raw materials, their provenance, circulation and transformation. The project also includes sculptural moulds and bases, focusing attention on how sculptures are made and displayed.

“Chryséléphantine” gives form to an idea long nurtured by Marion Verboom, to exhibit the moulds from her series Achronie, an ensemble that has multiplied over a number of years. Removed from its workshop context, this work tool becomes an object of contemplation in its own right, and an eloquent substitute for lengthy explanations of Verboom’s working methods. The plaster shells, dotted with air pockets, retain the contours of models originally produced in terracotta and now reproducible in series, leaving the moulds as the reserve carapaces of hundreds of fragments dispersed worldwide. At La Verrière, their presence opens up new perspectives on Marion Verboom’s work.

Marion Verboom also presents a new series inspired by the rich artistic heritage encountered during a visit to Brussels, in direct reference to several of the city’s monuments and public collections, treading a fine line which – like chryselephantine itself – visits monumental sculpture and goldsmithing alike. The artist’s Belgian journey also sheds light on a family treasure – a battered musical instrument passed down from her eponymous, Flemish great-grandfather, who played principal flute in the orchestra of Brussels’s splendid opera house, the Théâtre de la Monnaie.

“Chryséléphantine” also shares the rudiments and thrill of a sculpture class, beginning with the artworks by Richard Deacon, Marion Verboom’s course tutor at
the Beaux-Arts in Paris. They create a double atmosphere of toil and sweetness. This direct, creative lineage prompts another, perceived connection with the linear style
of Cubist sculptor Henri Laurens. Thanks to an exceptional loan, Marion Verboom’s approach to figuration in her work is presented in the historic wake of Laurens’s sculptural silhouettes. Furthering the imaginative celebration of minerality, we find delicious, irresistible harmonies with paintings by Maude Maris. The two artists are contemporaries, moving in similar circles, and undoubtedly sharing common sources of inspiration. Simulated rocks by touche-touche continue the theme, together with Eburnean ceramics by Chloé Vernerey. Virtuosic Belgian potter Tjok Dessauvage sublimates an appetite for the remembered splendours of antiquity. The journey continues in the accompanying publication, which opens with a new text by French novelist Amélie Lucas-Gary, the first of a series.

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