Whitehot Magazine

Apollo’s Decathlon: The Conceptual Olympiad (Paris 2024)

Château de Montsoreau Museum of Contemporary Art


The Olympics started out as an ancient Panhellenic festival with sport, music, and literature contests. This year, conceptual art joins the competition at Philippe Méaille’s Château de Montsoreau Museum of Contemporary Art in the Loire Valley. Philippe’s collection is known for its deep holdings of conceptual art created by the English art group Art & Language, whose collaboration and archive goes back to 1965. From June 14th to August 11th, a temporary exhibition will be shown at the Château de Montsoreau Museum. For Apollo’s Decathlon, each invited artist, representing one of the 203 countries competing in the 2024 Paris Olympics, will compete in one of ten categories: painting, drawing, poetry, music, digital art/new media, sculpture, performance, fiction, installation, and photography. Artists’ works will be printed in A4 black-and-white formats to create a temporary exhibition that bears the label “Conceptual Olympiad.” Recognizing the need for top-tier expertise, Philippe assembled an interesting team of art professionals. I’ve sat down with Lara Pan, who has worked as a self-described “magic consultant” for this project, and who has helped direct a unique artistic web. 

Joseph Nechvatal: You, Lara, are the consultant for the upcoming summer exhibition Apollo’s Decathlon. Right?

Lara Pan: Yes. As you know, this idea came from Philipe Meaille and Marie Caroline Chaudruc, put together in a very short amount of time. This project is a live, ongoing structure curated by artists for artists. As a consultant, I have been serving more like a magician – connecting artists, countries, galleries, and curators; directing an artistic web. The result has been serendipitous, with artists connecting with others they think would be fitting for the show. This has been an experiment in terms of exploring participation and collaboration, but we are learning more and more with each passing day.  

This has been a race against time and a large undertaking in terms of figuring out who to reach out to from all of the countries being represented, but we are absolutely hoping for the best. 

JN: I love that idea, as it echoes a show I organized for Collaborative Projects in 1982 called Up With People. What are your thoughts as a consultant on this project, Lara? What does it mean for you? 

LP:  I have been delighted to participate in this big challenge. I want to emphasize I am not hoping to receive work from all 203 countries, as we are focusing on the quality of artists over quantity. The museum has been very impressed with the high level of work submitted so far. I am touched by the immediate response from great artists from far the African continent and remote islands. I  especially want to thank Lidija Khachatourian from AKKA Project, who has been instrumental in fostering some of these new relationships. The positivity and the high-level work have been very overwhelming.

JN: How does Apollo’s Decathlon relate to the Art & Language tradition and its emphasis on the archive? 

LP: I find it captivating to observe the evolution of conceptual art from the 1960s to the present day. It’s enthralling to witness how new media, especially digital art, has emerged as a contemporary vehicle for conceptual expression.  

This project epitomizes the essence of freedom. Art transcends borders and rejects the confines of war; it pulsates with pure energy. Apollo’s Decathlon is an homage to conceptual art. We revel here in the idea of concept and in the liberty of expression. 

JN: Originally the victor of the Olympic Games received a kotino: a wreath of wild olive branches. Is there a jury and prizes?

LP: I’m honored and a bit surprised that this singular idea, this experimental exhibition, has been joined by giants of the French art world. The role of the jury’s president has been taken up by internationally renowned Éric de Chassey. The other members are equally impressive, such as gallerist Michèle Didier and collector Sandra Hegedus, as well as some other surprise guests. 

As we are exploring the idea of archiving, we are preparing a little surprise for all artists that will participate. We might print a mini clandestine booklet with all the names and websites of the artists in this project. It could be a nice present and an unusual artist’s guide. 

For the winners, in lieu of traditional gold, silver, or bronze medals, Art &Language have envisioned a special conceptual artwork to symbolize excellence, setting a new standard for artistic achievement on the Olympic stage. 

On view June 14 through August 11, 2024 at Château de Montsoreau Museum of Contemporary Art. WM

Joseph Nechvatal

Joseph Nechvatal is an American artist and writer currently living in Paris. His The Viral Tempest limited edition art LP was recently published by Pentiments Records and his newest book of poetry, Styling Sagaciousness: Oh Great No!, by Punctum Books. His 1995 cyber-sex farce novella ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~venus©~Ñ~vibrator, even was published by Orbis Tertius Press in 2023.

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