What would you do if you witnessed a piece of art being destroyed? It's this exact unnerving situation that the French conceptual artist Loris Gréaud put his guests through during the unveiling of his first major US exhibition, 'The Unplayed Notes Museum', at Dallas Contemporary. At the opening, the show - which occupies the institution's entire 26,000 sq ft space and spans sculpture, paintings and film - was destroyed by a band of seemingly normal guests - just as Gréaud had planned.
'I wanted to create a museum within a museum,' says Gréaud of the anarchistic concept, which saw the gallery's alarms go off and lights shut down as people violently overturned works, defaced paintings and smashed sculptures. He continues: '[The destruction] is a nihilistic gesture, but its more than just commenting on the art world. It's a way for people to confront their feelings of fear and desire. We've all wanted to act out, revolt and destroy something.'
Working with actors and stuntmen, Gréaud carefully choreographed the destruction that would take place in mere minutes, with numerous rehearsals taking place in the weeks running up to the big reveal. Of course, Gréaud first had to fill Dallas Contemporary's five gallery spaces, which he did with real work made over the course of a year.
Gréaud sought to create a new natural history museum of sorts and his creations weave together elements of botany, sexuality, chemistry and zoology. From a herd of unrecognisable animals surrounding a tree from Vietnam, its roots exposed in the air, to a brooding group of abstracted classical statues, the exhibit is pure Gréaud, whose work has consistently manifested itself as fearless, and mutli-faceted experiences. A cluster of towering angels, each six metres tall, stand in a stoic circle in one gallery. One lies smashed on the floor.
Speaking to us a few days before the opening night's debauchery, Gréaud said, 'I feel really proud of the work now that the installation is finished,' admitting that he was anxious about what would happen on the evening itself, despite having the full support of Dallas Contemporary. 'We destroyed one piece during a rehearsal, and it was really painful,' he says.
Post-destruction, the untouched exhibition is a provocative reaffirmation of the intentions and events of that one night. 'More important than the event is what's left,' Gréaud said after, stating that his ultimate intention was to focus on the show's two opposing states: perfection and destruction. Asked whether he would do it again, Gréaud's answer is a prompt no.