Gaëlle Bourges (La bande à)


Who were the two female subjects in one of Manet’s famous paintings, Olympia? In her latest work, Gaëlle Bourges looks into the work’s composition, not just in relation to the white woman at the centre of the painting but also to that of the black woman who is holding out flowers to her - and about whom we know only one thing, her first name: Laure.

Investigating the artistic imaginative universe which feeds our representations and perceptions is something Gaëlle Bourges has been doing for a long time. In LAURA, she gives audiences an alternative reading of a painting the analysis of which usually focusses on the nudity of its white heroine: Olympia by Manet. Behind Olympia stands another figure, whose presence has all but been ignored. The only thing we know about Laure, the black woman laden with flowers, is that she lived at 11 rue de Vintimille, in the north of Paris. By fitting their two names into each other, LAURA points to the transformation of Laure into Olympia. Without showing the picture, Gaëlle Bourges and the four performers set about delineating it and bringing out its social and symbolic depths. Other works are also summoned up, from those that inspired Manet himself to Olympia II by Aimé Mpane, in which the two female roles are inversed. Following on from Le Bain, a show inspired by bathing scenes from XVIth century Western Painting, Gaëlle Bourges continues to shift the way we look at the history of art – restoring to their rightful place those women who shaped it.