Patti Smith : Land 250
Patti Smith
Land 250
Linda Chenit, March 10, 2008
Patti Smith_My horse Namibie, 2005_Fondation Cartier
Patti Smith_My horse Namibie, 2005_Fondation Cartier


The Fondation Cartier is hosting a major solo exhibition - Land 250 - of the visual work of American artist and performer Patti Smith. Drawn from pieces created between 1967 and 2007, it strives to provide an insight into her lyrical, spiritual and poetic universe. Her expressive voice serves to magnify the installations created specifically for the exhibition: a synthesis of photographs, drawings and films. Patti Smith was born in Chicago and grew up in New Jersey. A maverick teenager with a passion for Rimbaud, she moved to New York in 1967, where she met Robert Mapplethorpe. In 1969, the pair moved into the Chelsea Hotel and befriended such artists and writers as Sam Shepard, Brice Marden, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. Absorbing herself in performance and poetry, she was inspired to create a fusion of improvisation, politics and rock’n’roll.

Patti Smith_My accoustic guitare
Patti Smith_My accoustic guitare


She released her first single “Hey Joe/Piss Factory” in 1974, and along with the group Television helped create a strong protopunk movement at the legendary CBGB. In 1975, her first album Horses, graced with the iconic portrait by Robert Mapplethorpe, received international recognition, including the Grand Prix du disque Charles Cros (1975). In 1977, a serious accident forced her into a long convalescence, during which she immersed herself in poetry and published Babel. The following year, her drawings were shown for the first time in New York at the Robert Miller Gallery.


Patti Smith, Ouse River where Virginia Woolf died in 1941
Patti Smith, Ouse River where Virginia Woolf died in 1941


She also released the album Easter, which featured the single “Because the Night,” co-written with Bruce Springsteen. In 1979, she left New York City and career behind, and moved to Detroit, Michigan to marry musician Fred Sonic Smith from the group MC5. They had two children and recorded Dream of Life, which included the anthem “People Have the Power.” In 1995, after the untimely death of her husband, she returned with her children to New York City and resumed her public life. In 2005, Patti Smith was awarded the Insignes de Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Republic. In 2007, she was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, the highest accolade awarded to contemporary musicians.


Fred Frith by Heike Liss
Fred Frith by Heike Liss


While the name Patti Smith evokes an image of a founder of the New York punk-rock scene, she has explored the visual arts and poetry since the late 1960s. The exhibition at the Fondation Cartier embraces the various facets of her creative process. Patti Smith began to take photographs in 1967 for use in collages. In 1995, she returned to photography using a vintage Polaroid Land 250: “The immediacy of the process was a relief from the long involved process of drawing, recording, or writing a poem.” Many of Smith’s photographs embody significant personal meaning: Robert Mapplethorpe’s slippers, Virginia Woolf’s bed, Hermann Hesse’s typewriter and Arthur Rimbaud’s utensils. Others serve as a visual record of her well-traveled life.

Patti Smith_Selfportrait, New York
Patti Smith_Selfportrait, New York


The exhibition also features a selection of the artist’s drawings, several of which are borrowed from prestigious institutions such as the MoMA and the Centre Pompidou or from private collections. The powerful yet subtle drawings have been executed with a calligraphic sense of line entwined with poetry and text. They represent her solitary side. Her collaborative side is represented in films directed by Robert Frank, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jem Cohen and the audio performance of The Coral Sea with Kevin Shields. She will shoot a short film, specially commissioned for the exhibition. The exhibit also includes cherished belongings taken from her personal archives. Among them original manuscripts, a photograph taken by Constantin Brancusi and a stone from the river in which Virginia Woolf committed suicide.

Patti Smith_Robert Mapplethorpe, 1977-78
Patti Smith_Robert Mapplethorpe, 1977-78


The source of much of her inspiration has been key figures of French culture, including Arthur Rimbaud, Nicole Stéphane, Jean Genet, Antonin Artaud and René Daumal. Paris echoes throughout, from drawings executed in the Montparnasse district, where she lived during her first Parisian sojourn in 1969, to recent photographs taken in the garden of the Fondation Cartier, situated nearby.

Patti Smith_Robert Mapplethorpe
Patti Smith_Robert Mapplethorpe


To reflect the multitude of fields explored by Patti Smith, the exhibition is intended to be a comprehensive project that expands beyond the exhibition space. The Fondation Cartier is giving free rein to Patti Smith to oversee the programming for the Nomadic Nights as well as performing herself, offering solo and band performances as well as informal poetry readings. The Fondation Cartier’s bookshop will, for a time, become the artist’s personal library. Her choice of books, CDs, films and objects will enable visitors to further penetrate the rich universe of this iconic artist.

Patti Smith_Insignes de Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 2005_France
Patti Smith_Insignes de Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 2005_France


http://fondation.cartier.com