Whitehot Magazine

Ugo Rondinone; I Love John Giorno at Palais de Tokyo



UGO RONDINONE; I LOVE JOHN GIORNO at PALAIS DE TOKYO featuring Anne Collier, Verne Dawson, Judith Eisler, John Giorno, Mark Handforth, Matthew Higgs, Pierre Huyghe, Francoise Janicot, Scott King, Elizabeth Peyton, Michael Stipe, Ugo Rondinone, Erik Satie, Billy Sullivan, Rirkirit Tiravanija, and Andy Warhol

Show runs til Jan. 10 2016


The first retrospective of John Giorno’s creative and transgressive artistic career is an homage to the artists John Giorno and Ugo Rondinone, their eighteen-year relationship and a celebration of their very modern and mutual muse-hood. Magnificently curated by Ugo, he says, “I structured an exhibition in eight chapters, each representing a layer of Giorno’s multifaceted work.”  The show includes videos, original poetry recordings, and a massive hall of archival material, paintings and sculptures created for the show.

Opening night found a long block of Parisians eagerly awaiting entry. “John Giorno is a rock star,” explained one pretty young designer. The first room is a black and white film of a barefoot John performing his iconic, “Thankx 4 Nothing,” in dramatic black and white, with synchronized TV screens beneath the large screens. It’s a perfect introduction to John’s energized poetry performances, which I have been avidly following since the sixties, “in the golden age of promiscuity.”

Included in the film screenings is Warhol’s famous “Sleep” focusing on the gorgeous, young, sleeping Giorno. There’s also a rare Warhol home movie shot in Old Lyme, Connecticut of the nude John. “I was the first superstar Andy got rid of. Warhol eventually got rid of everybody,” John told me.  “In ’64, I met Brion Gysin and Burroughs and switched from Andy to them.”

Installation view, Palais de Tokyo

Two years of serious archival work paper fill an entire room, from early family photos of his Brooklyn babyhood, to suburban childhood, and then on to bohemian travels. Arcane poetry publications, original manuscripts, and Giorno broadsides highlight his fifty-year career as a New York and international bard, whose work reflects the Beat generation, the punk movement and the new millennium.

 John’s fireplace and Shrine room from his Bowery loft are replicated for this show. Ugo’s bronze reproduction of the nineteenth century fireplace includes John’s chalk drawing. The slightly enlarged Shrine room has a Nepalese statue embellished with John’s mother’s jewels. “What else was I going to do with them?” John asked, as we strolled through the show the day before the opening.

Included in the Shrine room are rare and ancient Tibetan works from the 14th century, on loan from the Musee Guimet. This collaboration especially pleased John, as the Guimet has one of the greatest Buddhist art collections in the world. Since 1984, John has been a follower of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Verne Dawson, Portriat of John Giorno 

Ugo Rondinone and John Giorno

Other highlights: the original recordings of “Dial –A-Poem” (1968), a revolutionary phone service for listening to spoken word, reactivated for the show, with free phone service for Paris. New York artists Verne Dawson, Elizabeth Peyton and Billy Sullivan have painted wonderful portraits.

Elsewhere in Paris, Ugo’s work  “Diary of Clouds” is part of the amazing exhibition, ”A Brief History of the Future” at the Louvre. Thomas Cole, Honore Daumier, Ai Weiwei, Rodin, and international art treasures explore this esoteric concept. Not to be missed. Jean de Loisy, who is also the President of the Palais de Tokyo, who expressed his pleasure in presenting “I Love John Giorno”, curates the show.

The dinner for John and Ugo, held at the glamorous Celine building, had hundreds of guests honoring this show. Barbara Gladstone, Doreen Remens, Rick Owens, Elizabeth Dee, Vito Schnabel, were among those attending while Paris' boulevards were alight with posters proclaiming “I Love John Giorno.” WM



Ilka Scobie

Native New Yorker Ilka Scobie is a poet who teaches in the public school system. She writes about art for London Artlyst and recently co-curated a group show ART AM 3 in Soncino, Italy. Featured artists included Tano Festa, Mario Schifano, Ugo Rondinone, John Giorno, Rita Barros and Elisabeth Kley along with forty other contemporary Italian and American artists. Her recent poems have appeared in Urban Grafitti, Vanitas and Poetry in Performance. She is also a deputy editor of LiveMag, a New York based literary magazine. 

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