L’Encyclopédie III

Guillermo KuitcaEncyclopédie III

In his ongoing Encyclopédie series, begun in the late 1990s, Argentinian artist Guillermo Kuitca investigates the graphic and conceptual means used to convey ideas about architecture. Through varied processes of disintegration—diluting ink, delaminating photographic paper—the artist transforms historic architectural engravings into meditations on time’s ability to ravage even the most celebrated monuments, and the benefits, or pitfalls, of restoration. The floor plans and maps Kuitca reworks in this series were originally created to illustrate monuments in the mid-eighteenth-century publication, Encyclopédie. Edited by French Enlightenment philosopher Denis Diderot, the volume aspired to compile a record of all knowledge through texts and images like the architectural engravings at the base of Kuitca’s work.

Encyclopédie III (2010) presents Kuitca’s rendering of the marble floor that adorns the sanctuary and choir of Paris’s Notre-Dâme cathedral. A matrix of architectural fragments, the acrylic and graphite drawing on canvas presages the destruction of the French monument on April 16, 2019 by a fire that reduced the church’s wooden frame to ashes. Paradoxically, authorities’ reluctance to equip the building with fire security for fear of “disfiguring the monument” only quickened its ruin (New York Times). At the same time, the swift decision to rebuild the damaged cathedral reaffirmed the building’s magnitude in the French cultural imagination. As Viennese art historian Alois Riegl observed in his 1903 essay, “The Modern Cult of Monuments,” “the fundamental requirement of deliberate monuments is restoration.” (LH)

About the artist

Guillermo Kuitca was born in 1961 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he continues to live and work. In 1991, he gained international exposure through the exhibition Projects: 30 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Through further shows in London, Miami, and Zürich, he became firmly established as one of Argentina’s most important artists. Kuitca’s work, which straddles figuration and abstraction, is known for its use of maps and architectural plans. He is also recognized for his “cubidoid” oil paintings. His works address themes of isolation and dislocation and often representations of doors and thresholds. Recent solo exhibitions were held at the Lille Métropole Musée d’art moderne in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, France (2021), Hauser & Wirth in Zürich (2021), and Galería Elba Benítez in Madrid (2019). Kuitca represented his country at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Last year he curated an exhibition called Les Citoyens for the Triennale Milano and Fondation Cartier. His paintings and works on paper are found in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and others. He is represented by Hauser & Wirth.

Encyclopédie III
Guillermo Kuitca, Encyclopédie III, 2010
(artwork © Guillermo Kuitca; photograph by Alex Delfanne and licensed from Hauser & Wirth)
Encyclopédie III (installation 1)
Detail view
(photograph by Daniele Molajoli)