San Francisco gallery 836M is bringing renowned French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel to the City.

Jean-Michel Othoniel was in San Francisco for the official openings of the exhibits dedicated to his works of art, La Rose des Vents at the Conservatory of Flowers and the Peony, The Knot of Shame at 836M gallery.


Emma attended the lecture given by the French artist the week both sculptures were installed in their new San Francisco settings. She will tell you about Versailles, its gardens, the fountains... but also about the new golden flower that bloomed in the Golden Gate Park and the monumental Peony exhibited at 836M Gallery until January 14, 2016.


Versailles Comes to San Francisco
Othoniel won an international competition along with French landscape architect Louis Benech for the opportunity to renovate the Water Theater grove in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles. The resulting three sculptures, Les Belles Danses (The Beautiful Dances) opened in May 2015 and evoke King Louis XIV dancing on water. Othoniel is the first contemporary artist to have a permanent installation on the royal grounds in over 300 years.

The three fountain sculptures for the Water Theatre grove were produced using blown glass and gold leaf, materials the artist knows well with the final installation consisting of 1,750 glass beads that were blown and precisely designed in Murano and Basel to follow the curve of their metallic infrastructure. The result is a sculpture that both hovers above and integrates with the fountain below. The shimmering skins of the glass beads mixed with the water pulsing through and around them combine to conjure the once liquid state of the glass.


Jean-Michel Othoniel, The Beautiful Dances, Versailles 2015
The Rigaudoon of Peace (detail)
Fountain sculptures for the Water Theater grove, 
Gardens of the Palace of Versailles
Photo: Philippe Chancel


The inspiration for the sculptures in Versailles came from Othoniel’s tenure as an Artist-in-Residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston during the summer of 2011. During his residency, Othoniel discovered an 18th century book at the Boston Public Library titled L’Art de décrire la danse (The Art of Describing Dance) by Raoul-Auger Feuillet. A series of instructions and notations on how best to commit the ephemeral beauty and nature of dance to the page, the book was created for the express purpose of helping King Louis XIV remember his royal dance steps.



In San Francisco, 2 places to discover 2 magnificent works of art.


 Photo: Mo DeLong          

The exhibit at 836M features the sketches, watercolors and bronze models he created for his Versailles project as well as a series of new gold paintings.
Discover also the flamboyant Peony, The Knot of Shame. The sculpture was inspired by and paired with a piece from the American poet Brenda Shaughnessy, whose first line opens with, ''Was I ever truly happy, like some girl in a red tank top eating sunlight in Spring ?''

Othoniel's sculpture expresses what has been referred to as ''the erotic exuberance'' of Shaughnessy's poem. And while the mirrored glass and steel piece looks delicate and somehow lighter than air, in reality it weighs a ton.




In contrast, La Rose des Vents is a kinetic sculpture made from gold and aluminum and pays homage to the compass rose, an ancient device used to gauge wind direction. It is now installed in front of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, where it will be free to shimmer in the sun and move with the wind in the Fall. The gardeners in charge of the floral arrangement even waited for La Rose des Vents to be installed to complete the flowerbed surrounding it. Gorgeous and harmonious. 


Contribution : Emma Serroy - Leaf





#[email protected]

#[email protected]

836M Gallery - 836 Montgomery Street

the Conservatory of Flowers - 100 John F Kennedy Drive 

September 26, 2015 - January 14, 2016




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