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Raphaël DENIS

La loi normale des erreurs : coffre n°7 (princeps)


Wood, kraft paper, paint, rope, documentation and wallpaper
26 x 147 x 19 cm

Both artist and researcher, Raphaël Denis has been developing La Loi Normale des Erreurs since 2014. This series of installations documents and materialises the spoliation of works of art during the Second World War. With this work – a model for a larger installation that has entered the collections of the Centre Pompidou – the artist focuses on the figure of the Parisian gallery owner Paul Rosenberg (1881-1959) and the 162 paintings he tried to save in 1940 by hiding them in safe-deposit box no. 7 at the National Bank for Trade and Industry in Libourne, before fleeing to the United States to escape Nazi persecution. Discovered by the occupying forces and inventoried, the works were transported to Paris, where unscrupulous art dealers took possession of them. Raphaël Denis combines lists, archives and multiple sources to “produce intelligibility”[1] by creating a direct, sensory relationship with a collection of paintings that were assembled in a hurry and then violently separated. Represented in the form of packages of varied sizes (reduced to scale) and wrapped in packing paper, the works are placed on a rack that evokes both a shelf and a place of storage. Hidden away, the paintings have a ghostly presence, seeming both to wait and to be abandoned. This installation tells us as much about the importance of the historic art dealer Paul Rosenberg as it does about the cruel dispossession and looting of works of art by the Nazi regime. 


[1] Schulmann, Didier, « Vases communicants », in La Loi normale des erreurs & annexes (2014 – 2022), éd. Sator, 2022, p. 7

To learn more (article in French): Raphaël Denis, mémoire vive