Designed by Laurent Le Bon, with exhibition staging by Isabelle Cornaro, L’esprit commence et finit au bout des doigts (the mind begins and ends at the tips of our fingers) is dedicated to 20 years of support for artistic crafts by the Fondation Bettencourt Schueller. Showing in the magnificent Orbe New York at the Palais de Tokyo, the exhibition is organised into four sequences, playing on light intensity variation and the expansion of spaces and opening with a historical perspective seeking to magnify hands, distinct and alone, and then embodied.
The title of the exhibition is a quotation taken from a 1932 Paul Valéry novel Idée fixe ou deux Hommes à la mer (English language title: Idée Fixe. A Dialogue by the Sea). It echoes quotations from the author inscribed on the pediments of the Palais de Chaillot, a neighbouring building from the same period.
The first sequence of the exhibition is an invitation to discover that by which “everything begins and ends”: the anonymous, multiple, free hand, the hand of all possibilities.
Presenting works from a wide variety of mediums dating from the 15th century to the present (drawings, prints, photographs, casts, x-rays, manuscripts, books etc.), this cabinet of curiosities, whose staging is inspired by the work of Italian architect Carlo Scarpa, is a counterpoint to the exhibitions of the contemporary French scene on show at the same time in the Palais de Tokyo’s other spaces. There’s a contemporaneity here too, but one expressed in accord with the riches of the Beaux-Arts de Paris heritage collections.
By their nature and provenance, the choice of works also feeds the debate on the differences between fine art and arts & crafts. It gives perspective to the distinction between artist and craftsman established in the 17th century.