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With the exhibition “Le Chat” in Paris, Philippe Geluck wants to “bring joy”

INTERVIEWA “vaccine against gloom”. Philippe Geluck’s Cat is exhibited in a tutu, golfer, fakir or even weightlifter on the avenue des Champs-Élysées. The Belgian artist offers in the heart of Paris an exhibition of 20 monumental statues two meters high, in bronze and weighing two and a half tons each. “Le Chat déambule” remains in Paris until June 9 before traveling through several cities in France and abroad. The designer told on Europe 1 how he had modeled his works but also how he hopes to bring joy in a complicated period thanks to them.

“Bring joy”

Among the 20 statues present on the Champs-Élysées, some parody famous works and characters such as the dancer from Botero, Atlas or Saint-Sébastien. In the first case, the Cat, in a tutu, must rely on the help of a mouse and a jack to successfully lift his leg. “I like the absurd, the surrealism. I sometimes like the stupidity too”, explains Philippe Geluck. Several of them, however, have a “desire to say something about the news”. His version of Saint Sebastian is thus pierced with pencils in homage to artists “martyred by totalitarian regimes”, while Atlas carries a sphere crammed with compressed plastic bottles on his shoulders.

Despite these messages, the main thing remains for him that his exhibition “brings joy. We need it so much.” Philippe Geluck was in the driver’s seat for the creation of his works of which he worked on each original model. “First in a small iron wire that I twist in all directions to create a very small model. Then, I have a steel skeleton made. On this, I put my clay and I model.” A step that he considers “very sensual, very enjoyable, much more than the drawing”. It was then “his brother in sculpture”, François Deboucq, who produced the final model. A total of 65 people worked on the project until it was installed, says the author.

Accessible to everyone

“I wanted the project to be fully offered, accessible to everyone, free. Outdoors, that’s ideal,” said the Belgian artist. The exhibition, initially scheduled for April 2020, had been postponed because of the confinement. This time, the artist smiles, the event complies with “the recommendations of Prime Minister Castex, who asks people to come out”. According to him, “the exhibition has already attracted tens of thousands of visitors, which makes it the biggest success of the moment. But it’s easy, since there are no exhibitions open anywhere.”

Philippe Geluck had for a time considered Versailles to show his work but “I was told that in my work we did not see any relationship with the Sun King”, he explains. However, he believes “that the most beautiful avenue in the world has even more mouths”, especially since “the Palace of Versailles is closed for the moment. Rabbits and tulips are the only visitors allowed.”

End of tour in Brussels

After Paris, the exhibition will move to Bordeaux, then Caen. The cities of Milan, Geneva and Luxembourg will also host the sculptures and perhaps even New York. One thing is certain, “the tour will last a few years and will end in Brussels at the time of the inauguration of the Museum of the Cat and the drawing of humor in the Royal Park”.

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Once this tour is over, the statues “will end up in the gardens of collectors, wealthy art lovers who have purchased them. Already 16 out of 20 are sold”, at a price of 300,000 euros each, specifies Philippe Geluck. The entire profit collected will go to the cultural project: the tour but also a pot for the Chat Museum. “The exhibition did not cost the City of Paris or the taxpayer a cent,” he recalls.

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