Othoniel in Versailles:
Jean-Michel Othoniel's series of three fountain sculptures, Les Belles Danses (The Beautiful Dances), are the first permanent artworks to be showcased in the gardens of Versailles in over 300 years.
The sculptures were produced using blown glass and gold leaf, with the final installation consisting of 1,750 blown glass beads 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, evoking King Louis XIV dancing on water.
With a marked taste for metamorphosis, sublimation, and transmutation, Jean-Michel Othoniel (born on January 27, 1964 in Saint-Étienne and works in Paris) shows a fondness for materials with reversible properties.
He started out, at the beginning of the 1990s, with works made out of wax or sulfur, showing them at the Kassel documentary by 1992. A turning point in his output came following year when he began employing glass. Working with the finest glassmakers in Murano, he explored the properties of a material that subsequently became a hallmark of his work.
From 1996, he put this plan into action with works placed in the landscape; hanging giant necklaces in the gardens of the Villa Medici, Rome, and from trees in the gardens of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice (1997), as well as in the Alhambra and the Generalife in Granada (1999). In 2000, he carried out a public order for the first time, transforming the Paris subway station of Palais-Royal–Musée du Louvre into Le Kiosque des Noctambules, a double crown of glass and aluminum concealing a bench conducive to brief encounters in the sleeping city.
Each of his many exhibitions has offered an opportunity to experiment with the multifaceted potential of glass: in 2003, at the exhibition “Crystal Palace” at the Fondation Cartier in Paris and the MoCA in Miami, he had made blown-glass forms that soon morphed into enigmatic sculptures somewhere between jewelry, architecture, and erotic object. The following year, in 2004, under the umbrella of the exhibition “Contrepoint”, came an invitation from the Musée du Louvre to exhibit in the spectacular Mesopotamian rooms, an occasion for the artist to show his first freestanding necklaces.