Narcissus Theorem


This book is not yet published, but will be available from September 2022.

ISBN: 9782330156459 Category:

Jean-Michel Othoniel, Christophe Leribault


From September 2021, Jean-Michel Othoniel will be taking over the whole of the Petit Palais and its garden. It will be the biggest exhibition devoted to the artist in Paris since the My Way retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in 2011.

The Petit Palais itself and its history will provide the running thread of the exhibition, the works entering into a dialogue with the architecture of the building and its garden. For the occasion, Othoniel has come up with the Narcissus Theorem focusing on the man of the beautiful flower who in his own reflection also reflects the world around him.

Narcissism is not always a neurosis and can play a positive role in aesthetic creation. And sublimation is not always the negation of desire but can be a means of engaging with an ideal. Whereupon Narcissus no longer says ‘I love myself as I am’ but rather ‘I am as I love myself’. Featuring over 70 new works, the ‘Narcissus Theorem’ exhibition weaves the artist’s spell once again and explores the theory of reflections that he has been developing for nearly a decade in conjunction with the Mexican mathematician Aubin Arroyo, imbuing his recurring themes with a fresh and visionary meaning in the world of today. The exhibition welcomes us with a river of a thousand shimmering blue bricks flowing down the main staircase of the Petit Palais, indicating the start of the path that we will be following.

Inspired by the sumptuous architectural flourishes of the Petit Palais and the flowers of its garden, the artist has installed some twenty new works: mirrored pieces that reflect the frescoes of the peristyle painted by Paul Baudoüin, monumental water lilies placed on the mirrors of the water basins with their blue mosaics, gold necklaces attached to the branches of trees from the Orient, and pearls niched in the peristyle. The Crown of the Night comes from a forest in northern Europe and for a long time this sculpture was hidden beneath the 300-year old oaks of a cathedral-like forest. And now, like a coloured glass spider, it majestically fills the dome of the palace’s northern staircase.

Narcissus’s grotto awaits us at the foot of the staircase, where we find the whole universe of reflections so central to Othoniel’s art and astutely orchestrated by Aubin Arroyo, including the two-tone Precious Stonewall and monochrome triptychs. The wild knots created over the course of nearly a decade are like Borromean rings in which we discover our own reflections and which reflect themselves in an endless mise en abyme.

Additional information

Weight 300 g
Dimensions 17.5 x 23 cm
Publisher name Actes Sud
Publication date 30 September 2022
Number of pages 48
Format Paperback / softback
Dimensions 17.5 x 23 cm
Weight 300 g


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Graduating from the École nationale supérieure d'arts of Cergy-Pontoise in 1988, Jean-Michel Othoniel first garnered attention in 1992 at theDocumenta de Cassel where he exhibited his sulphur sculptures. A year later he introduced glass into his work and it gradually became his favoured material. These days, he exhibits his work in the world's leading museums, including the Centre Pompidou, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Plateau, the Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, and Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.