Life and work
Philippe Parreno is a French artist who lives and works in Paris, France. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Grenoble from 1983 until 1988 and at the Institut des Hautes Etudes en arts plastiques at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris from 1988 until 1989.
Parreno rose to prominence in the 1990s, earning critical acclaim for his work which employs a diversity of media including film, sculpture, performance, drawing and text. Taking the exhibition as a medium, Parreno radically redefined the exhibition experience by exploring its possibilities as a coherent “object” rather than as a collection of individual works. To this end, he conceives his shows as a scripted space where a series of events unfolds. The visitor is guided through the galleries by the orchestration of sound and image, which heightens their sensory experience. This is a question of creating, in a given volume, as much space and time as possible by folding and unfolding the space onto itself.
Parreno used this format in his 2013 exhibition Anywhere, Anywhere Out Of The World  where he radically transformed the monumental space of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Parreno orchestrated the exhibition along the lines of a dramatic composition where the spectral presence of objects, music, lights, and films guide and manipulated the visitor’s experience, offering a journey through his works, both old and new, transforming this monologue into a polyphony.
In Dancing around the Bride  in 2012 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art curated by Carlos Basualdo in collaboration with Erica F. Battle, Parreno acted as a metteur-en-scène (orchestrator), activating the role of time and motion around the artworks of John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Marcel Duchamp. At his eponymous 2010 exhibition  at the Serpentine Gallery, spectators moved in groups from room to room following a soundtrack.
Sound was again a key element in the 2013 exhibition, The Bride and The Bachelors , at the Barbican, London. The varied sequence of Parreno’s subtle orchestration of live and pre-recorded sound around the works of Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg and Duchamp was arranged in concert with live dance performances, enabling the exhibition to change over time. When in 2013, the Palais de Tokyo, Paris gave Parreno carte blanche for ' Anywhere, Anywhere Out of the World, he radically transformed the entire space. Turning the building itself into a living constantly evolving organism Parreno used sound, image and performance to guide the visitor through works, both old and new.
During Art Basel, 2012, Parreno presented two major new works at Fondation Beyeler – Marilyn (2012) and C.H.Z. (Continuously Habitable Zones) (2011) .Marilyn was subsequently shown at Parreno’s first solo exhibition in Russia at the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow  and at the 55th Venice Biennale at François Pinault's museum, Palazzo Grassi.
Collaboration is integral to Parreno’s work. In June 2006, Universal released a feature-length documentary directed by Parreno and Scottish artist Douglas Gordon entitled Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, which premiered out of competition at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Using 17 cameras, this unique football film follows legendary French midfielder Zinedine Zidane throughout an entire Real Madrid vs Villarreal match in front of 80,000 fans at the Santiago Bernabeau stadium. Two of the cameras were borrowed from the U.S. army and have the largest zoom available. The film tracks Zidane’s every move on and off the ball, in the thick of the action. Subtitles includes the player’s thoughts and observations on his playing career. The motion unfolds in a flow accentuated by an emotive original score by Scottish rock band, Mogwai.
In 2007 Parreno directed and co-curated with Hans Ulrich Obrist, a group exhibition, Il Tempo del Postino (Postman Time)  for the Manchester International Festival, which then showed at Art Basel, 2009. Organised by Fondation Beyeler and Theater Basel it was devised as a group exhibition that would occupy time rather than space with the artists involved presenting a sequential display of time-based art on the theatre stage. By focusing on time-based work, this unique group show aimed to redefine how the visual arts can be experienced. Set in classic theatre architecture, it transformed the established exhibition model into an exhilarating, shared audience experience. More than fifteen artists collaborated in this project including Doug Aitken, Matthew Barney & Jonathan Bepler, Tacita Dean, Trisha Donnelly, Olafur Eliasson, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Carsten Höller, Pierre Huyghe, Koo Jeong-A, Philippe Parreno, Anri Sala, Tino Sehgal, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Thomas Demand, and Peter Fischli / David Weiss.
In 2012 Parreno collaborated with artist Liam Gillick on To the Moon via the Beach . Shown at The Amphitheatre in Arles, this was a piece concerning work, production, and change, with the title reflecting its shifting nature and the promise of a journey. On entering the exhibition, visitors encountered an area covered in tons of sand. Over four days, this ‘beach’ area was transformed by sand sculptors into a moonscape, which formed a constantly changing backdrop to a series of 22 artists’ projects. The whole process was made visible with equal importance placed upon the production, presentation, and exchange of ideas.
Most recently Parreno was involved in a unique collaboration with a number of artists and curators, including Tino Sehgal, Liam Gillick, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Asad Raza, and Pierre Boulez, for which he was also a curator. The exhibition Solaris Chronicles  at the LUMA Foundation Arles Campus was presented in two phases and examined, through a series of artistic interventions and projects, the creative vision of architect Frank Gehry. Centred on large-scale models of many of Gehry’s seminal works, the constantly shifting mise-en-scène created by the artists formed a bridge between art and architecture, transforming the usual relationship and collaborative processes between the two practices.
In June 2015, Parreno will present a solo exhibition at Park Avenue Armory, New York, his largest installation in the U.S. to date. For the exhibition he will construct a multi-sensory journey within the monumental interior of the Wade Thompson Drill Hall—guiding and manipulating the audience’s experience and perception through film, light, objects, memory, and the spectral presence of performed and recorded sound.
Philippe Parreno has exhibited and published internationally. His work is included in the permanent collections of major international museums and institutions.
His work is included in the collections of many institutions such as the Centre Georges Pompidou, France; 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan; the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Walker Art Center (USA); Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, USA; the Guggenheim Museum New York, USA; and Tate Modern, London.
Selected Key Works
Marilyn is the portrait of a ghost.
The film conjures up Marilyn Monroe through a phantasmagoric séance in a suite at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, where she lived in the 1950s. Phantasmagoria was an early form of cinema, a kind of circus act where conjurers would use lighting and artificial smoke to summon an ethereal apparition in an attempt to bring back the dead.
Here, the image is taken from the point of view of the deceased Marilyn. The film reproduces Marilyn Monroe’s presence by means of three algorithms: the camera becomes her eyes, a computer reconstructs the prosody of her voice and a robot recreates her handwriting. The Hollywood icon is carnated in an image that is in fact an automaton, something resembling a human, and yet not quite real.
C.H.Z (Continuously Habitable Zones) (2011)
C.H.Z. stands for “Continuously Habitable Zones,” an astrobiological term used for planets offering viable conditions for life to grow. Recent scientific studies have shown that life would be more likely to develop on a planet with two or more small suns (dwarf suns) rather than on a planet with one very bright sun. In such zones the saturated photosynthesis would produce black vegetation. For this film, Parreno collaborated with landscape architect Bas Smets to design the set, an extraterrestrial landscape near Porto, Portugal, that continues to grow to this day. Merging science and fiction, the landscape is practically void of light, presenting a disorientating black environment. The landscape is both alien and familiar - unclear as to whether this is a new inhospitable planet or the aftermath of some catastrophic event on Earth. Alongside the film, Parreno created a series of intricate, detailed ink drawings.
Invisible Boy (2010)
A portrait of an illegal immigrant Chinese child through the imaginary monsters that incarnate his fears and anxieties. A fiction tacked onto a reality. The reality of the illegal aliens in Manhattan’s Chinatown. People who are called ‘invisible’. This portrait gives an image to someone who doesn’t have one and, at the same time, a real person gains the social identity he’s missing by becoming a fictional character. High definition images make sensible impressions of a city as we cross over to the imaginary. Fantasy and social realism, fiction and documentary overlap. Like Superman or Spiderman, Invisible Boy is a contemporary superhero produced by the city today. His monsters appear slowly, at the beginning as scratches on the film stock, someplace in between the diegesis and the actual world. They are the boy’s superpowers. This is a tale in which a boy’s paranoia produces a topographic vision of a city.
June 8, 1968 (2009)
A re-enactment of the train voyage that transported assassinated Senator Robert Kennedy’s corpse from New York to Washington D.C. on June 8, 1968. The film takes the point of view of the dead. A tracking shot moves through rural and urban American landscapes. People who have come to pay their respects line the tracks, staring as if in an immobile trance. These silent characters watch a moment in history pass by and form a community with the spectators of the film around this invisible body. The past comes back to haunt us in an image.The size of the projection varies from 10 to 15 metres in width in order for the protagonists to be the same scale as the viewers.
Marquees (2006 – ongoing, light sculptures)
Since 2006 Parreno has been creating these light works that resemble the type of illuminated canopies that feature on theatres and old fashioned cinemas. These glowing pieces span the realms of sculpture, architecture and art acting as ambiguous gateways to the outside world.
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006)
In June 2006, Universal released a feature-length documentary directed by Parreno and Scottish artist-filmmaker Douglas Gordon entitled Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, which premiered out of competition at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Using 17 cameras, this unique football film follows legendary French midfielder Zinédine Zidane throughout an entire Real Madrid vs Villareal match in front of 80,000 fans at the Santiago Bernabeau stadium. Tracking Zidane’s every move on and off the ball, in the thick of the action and on the periphery it includes the player’s thoughts and observations on his playing career, the intense excitement of the watching crowd, and is accompanied by an emotive score by Scottish rock band, Mogwai. Produced by Anna Lena Vaney, Sigurjon Sighvatsson and Victorien Vaney.
The Power Station (2004)
Video exhibit for the Power Station installation.
The Boy from Mars (2003)
In 2001 Pareno was invited by his friend the artist Rirkrit Tiravanija to build a common space for The Land project in Chiang Mai, Thailand. A building that generates its own energy through a pulley system run by buffalo. Designed by architect François Roche, it was constructed solely in order to be filmed. Points of light appear then fly away silently. The film searches for the origin of these bursts of energy, then gets lost, becomes fascinated by reflections of the sun, takes in frames full of sky, then lingers on the buffalo tethered to this strange building. In the end the screen goes black and Devendra Banhart sings. The building generated the electricity needed to make the film. This is the story of a film that produced a building, architecture that provided the scenario for a film and a film that produced a song. The film is one element of a two-headed mutant, one half of inseparable twins, reality and the image, who share the same body. Science fiction or rather architecture fiction.
No Ghost Just a Shell (1999 – 2003)
No Ghost Just a Shell was initiated by Parreno and Pierre Huyghe in 1999. They acquired the copyright for a figure called 'Annlee' and her original image from the Japanese agency ‘Kworks’, which develops figures (almost actors) for cartoons, comic strips, advertising and video games of the booming Japanese Manga industry. 'Annlee' was a cheap model: the price of a Manga figure relates to the complexity of its character traits and thus its ability to adapt to a story-line and 'survive' several episodes. 'Annlee' had no particular qualities, and so she would have disappeared from the scene very quickly. "True heroes are rare and extremely expensive …" (Parreno). Buying 'Annlee' rescued her from an industry that had condemned her to death.
The No Ghost Just a Shell project was intended to go on for a number of years. It offered 'Annlee' free of charge to a series of artists, use her for their 'own' stories. She thereby became the sign of a collectivity.
Speech Bubbles (1997 - ongoing)
Parreno has created installations of thousands of helium balloons in the shape of cartoon speech bubbles in a number of his exhibitions. These speech bubbles were originally created for trade union members to write their own slogans during a demonstration. Parreno has also presented them as a cloud of bubbles that cover the ceilings of expansive spaces. Empty of words and collecting on the ceiling, they suggest a potential or suspended discourse that may or may not occur.
- Fade to Black, 32 pages, 34 x 24 cm. Limited edition of 520 copies, 60 signed copies and 20 artist’s proofs. Produced and published in 2005 by mfc-michèle didier.
Selected Solo Exhibitions
Philippe Parreno, CCS Bard, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, USA 
Selected Group Exhibitions
Lucius Burckhardt and Cedric Price: A stroll through a fun palace, curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Pavilion of Switzerland at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia 
ILLUMinations, 54th Venice Biennale, 2011, Venice, Italy 
Van Bij de Buren-Belgie, Kasteel Keukenhof, Lisse, Netherlands
The 4th Auckland Triennial, Last Ride in the Hot Air Balloon, New Zealand
Il Tempo del Postino, Art Basel, Basel, Switzerland
Select Press Coverage
The White Review Interview with Philippe Parreno, September 2014
Art Info - Interview with Philippe Parreno, 26 October 2013
Wallpaper - Interview with Philippe Parreno, October 2013
frieze - My Influences - Interview with Philippe Parreno, October 2013
Interview - Interview with Philippe Parreno, October 2013
The Moscow News - Review of Marilyn at Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, 11 March 2013
Mousse - Conversation between Philippe Parreno and Anri Sala, February 2013
The Guardian - Interview with Philippe Parreno, 15 November 2010
Modern Painters - Interview with Philippe Parreno, October 2010
- The Rough Guide to Paris 2014 0241007771 "... earliest experimenters to the triumph of industrialization that was the power station. ... books, and, towards the end, Philippe Parreno's mesmerizing video works."
- Solaris Chronicles at LUMA Foundation, Arles, France (5 April - 28 September 2014)
- Anywhere, Anywhere Out of the World at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (23 October 2014 - 12 January 2014)
- Dancing around the Bride at Philadelphia Museum of Art (30 October 2012 - 21 January 2013)
- Philippe Parreno. at Serpentine Gallery (14 February - 9 June 2013)
- The Bride and the Bachelors at Barbican Art Gallery (14 February - 9 June 2013)
- Fondation Beyeler during Art Basel 2012 (10 June - 30 September 2012)
- Marilyn at Garage Center for Contemporary Culture (3 February - 4 April 2012)
- To the Moon via the Beach at Arles (5–8 July 2012)
- Il Tempo del Postino project website
- Pilar Corrias, London
- Air de Paris, Paris
- Esther Schipper Gallery, Berlin
- 1301PE, Los Angeles
- Palais de Tokyo, Paris
- Marilyn at Garage Center for Contemporary Culture (3 February - 4 April 2012)
- Philippe Parreno Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland (10 June - 30 September 2012)
- Philippe Parreno at Serpentine Gallery, London, UK (25 November 2010 - 13 February 2011)
- Philippe Parreno, at CCS Bard, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, USA (26 June - 26 September 2010)
- From November 5 Until They Fall Down, at Castello di Rivoli, Torino, Italy
- November, at Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland
- May, at Kunsthalle Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland (9 May - 16 August 2009)
- 8 Juin 1968, at Centre Pompidou - Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, France (3 June - 7 September 2009)
- Light Show, at Hayward Gallery, London, UK (30 January - 6 May 2013)
- The Bride and the Bachelors: Duchamp with Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns curated by Carlos Basualdo, Barbican Art Gallery, Barbican Centre, London, UK (14 February - 9 June 2013)
- Dancing around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp curated by Carlos Basualdo in collaboration with Erica F. Battle, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA (30 October 2012 - 21 January 2013)
- ILLUMinations, 54th Venice Biennale, 2011, Venice, Italy (4 June - 27 November 2011)
- Art of Communication: Anri Sala, Yang Ah Ham, Philippe Parreno, Jorge Pardo, at National Museum of Contemporary Art (South Korea) (18 October - 4 December 2011)
- theanyspacewhatever, at Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA (24 October 2008 – 7 January 2009)