French artist Olivier Grossetête builds (and demolishes) spectacular cardboard structures across the globe

A cardboard bridge floating in Avignon, France
Arlene Harris

July 15 2018 2:30 AM


For most artists, the definition of success is having your work displayed in a prestigious gallery or knowing that your pieces are being viewed in buildings or spaces by large audiences for a long period of time. For Olivier Grossetête, however, his greatest achievements are destroyed – usually within 24 hours of their creation.

The French artist, who will be featuring for the second time at the Galway International Arts Festival, specialises in making colossal structures out of cardboard boxes and with the help of willing volunteers, destroys the entire project the following day.

This unique, if somewhat bizarre, process was borne out of a desire to move away from the “staid and formal” nature of most art exhibitions. “When I was in my fourth year at the École des Beaux-Arts in Valence, I began to lose interest in fine art and drawing and wanted to get away from the enclosed nature of galleries and do something artistic out in the open or on the streets,” explains Grossetête. “I wanted to do something different and the oppressive nature of art as it was had become almost a burden to me. So, in 1998 I had the idea of making a statement and wrote the words c’est du travail (this is work) on 6,000 sheets of white paper. Then I took the sheets down to the local revenue office and spread them out in front of the box where people pay their taxes.”

Needless to say this caused a bit of a stir and before long, people gathered to see what was going on. “It was a bit of a crazy idea,” admits the 45-year-old. “But I felt that by simply writing this down it was a declaration of work that I had taken from a concept and put it into action. A group of people stayed to discuss what we thought art was and also what was wealth and we addressed a lot of important questions.

Olivier Grossetête


Making a big statement with white paper isn’t always possible but cardboard is a 3D version of that. I thought it would be a very interesting material to work with as it isn’t always what you think it is – for example many movie sets are made with cardboard. I was also interested in the pretence involved in power so my first big cardboard creation was a tower within the hall of the art college – it was big and impressive but also because of what it was made with, it was also fake – and then we destroyed it.”

Grossetête is currently booked to create 35 structures in countries across Europe, Asia and South America, but the artist says his creative streak began a lot earlier

Source: French artist Olivier Grossetête builds (and demolishes) spectacular cardboard structures across the globe

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