Fondation Cartier

The art exhibition symbolizes a sensory relationship with nature.

From December 9, 2023, to April 21, 2024, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain presents ‘Breath of an Architect’, an exhibition especially created for the institution by architect Bijoy Jain, founder of Studio Mumbai in India. Bijoy Jain’s work reflects a deep concern for the relationship between man and nature, in which time and gesture are essential factors. Exploring the links between art, architecture, and material, Bijoy offers at the Fondation Cartier a space of reverie and contemplation in dialogue with Jean Nouvel’s iconic building.

“As an architect, it is about the consideration one gives to the making of things, about being immersive and attentive to the environment, the materials, and its inhabitants, in the possibility for space and architecture to be inclusive.”

– Bijoy Jain

Bijoy Jain imagines the exhibition as a physical and emotional experience. ‘Breath of an Architect’ is an invitation to breathe, wander in quietude and rediscover silence. Convening light and shadow, lightness and gravity, wood, brick, earth, stone, and water, the architect composes a sensory experience, in resonance with the materials. Crafted in rhythm with the breath and shaped by hand, the exhibition’s installation is composed of architectural fragments. Stone and terracotta sculptures, facades of traditional Indian dwellings, rendered panels, lines of pigment drawn with thread, bamboo structures inspired by tazias – funerary monuments carried on the shoulders in memory of a Saint during Shiite Muslim processions – these transitory, ephemeral structures present a world that is both infinite and intimate and carry us to places both near and far.

On a suggestion from Hervé Chandès, general exhibition curator and Fondation Cartier’s artistic managing director, Bijoy has also invited Chinese painter living in Beijing HU Liu and Turkish-born Danish ceramist living in Paris Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye to join him in creating the exhibition. All three give the same importance to the ritual mastery of gesture, to resonance, and dialogue with material; they share the same ethos and sensibility. HU Liu’s monochrome black drawings are created using graphite, repeating iterations of the same movement to reveal the essence of natural elements: grass caressed by the wind, the rolling of the waves, or the silhouette of tree branches, conveying a timeless solemnity. Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye’s ceramics are also the culmination of great skill and dexterity, as well as an intense dialogue with the clay, weightlessness in the experience of her work.

For Bijoy, the physical world we inhabit is a palimpsest of our cultural evolution. Humanity moves through a landscape in constant evolution, one whose successive writings are intertwined. In ‘Breath of an Architect’, we are offered a glimpse, however fleeting, of architecture’s sensorial emanations, the intuitive forces that bind us to the elements and our emotional relationship with space.

The Fondation Cartier co-produced a film by filmmaking duo Ila Bêka & Louise Lemoine, who spent a day following Bijoy through the streets of Mumbai. The film paints an intimate portrait of the architect, exploring the roots of his architectural practice, and the way in which the built and cultural environment shapes our imagination. Additionally, they published a richly illustrated book, designed by Japanese art director Taku Satoh, offering readers an unprecedented exploration of Bijoy’s singular aesthetic and philosophy. Conversations between Bijoy and Taku Satoh, Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye and HU Liu reveal affinities with the architect’s work, as well as a shared sensibility.

‘Breath of an Architect’ will run until April 21, 2024. For more information, visit here.

Pranav is a writer and editor who always strives to weave stories and narratives with his words. He has written for multiple publications across a wide variety of beats. A keen opinion enthusiast, Pranav pursues the art of writing balanced pieces that explore every available POV before making his conclusion. In his free time, Pranav rages at his favourite sports teams and practices impressions.