The Narcissus Theorem

Jean-Michel Othoniel, known in Paris for his artwork at the Palais-Royal subway station, leads us here into the world of Narcissus. 70 sculptures are shown In Paris Petit-Palais, during the autumn of 2021.

In awe, I climbed the glass clad steps to this ancient palace. Jean-Michel Othoniel had used Indian hand-made, azurcolored glass bricks, the color of the sky, to reach the gilded porch. I was wondering what it represents: the entrance from one world to another; from reality to fiction; from this world to the next? Whatever it might be, the magic operates!

This sunny autumn day, I started my visit by taking a coffee in the museum’s garden where 26 sculptures were either hung up in the trees, like pearl necklaces; hidden in the foilage or placed in its marble corridors. Narcissus makes himself known everywhere, as the visitor can’t hide from his own image, reflected in the sculptures’ mirrors.

The exhibition is fitting for our epoch, when we measure our worth according to “selfies” – posted on Internet for general approval. Othoniel is definitely a man of his time.

I walked down to the ground floor in the museum, after having admired the huge and colorful glass lamp, hanging from the high ceiling. There the atmosphere changed, as I entered a dark glass cave. It was an interesting contrast to the upper floor.

There the artist shows the result of his cooperation with a Mexican scientist, Aubin Arroyo. The mathematician’s “wild knots” reminded Othoniel of his own glass pearls. The scientist’s results marries the artist’s creations. It also shows the incredible human complexities with its endless constellations. We are alike but still so unlike each other. And that’s what’s so beautiful and mystical. Othoniel’s glass mirrors, as well as Arroyo’s knots point to the cosmic eternity.

Thus Narcissus mythology  gets another, deeper and less ego-centered significance. Let’s instead get inspired by life’s magic. Art is a reflection of our frail humanity and in the same time of our infinite creativity. From glass works to mathematical formulas, the step might not be that long after all.

Anne Edelstam, Paris

Le Théorème de Narcisse

Petit Palais, Paris

28 September 2021 – 2 January 2022       

About Anne

Swedish journalist, photographer, editor and writer. Based in Paris, France.