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Alain Gruber

(b Besançon, Oct 25, 1745; d Besançon, Aug 1, 1819).

French architect and stage designer. He was the son of Pierre-François Pâris, a master builder turned architect. He was brought up in the modest court of the Prince-Bishop of Basle at Porrentruy in Switzerland, where from 1750 his father was official architect and topographer. He went to Paris probably in 1760 to study under the architect Louis-François Trouard, and after three unsuccessful attempts at the Prix de Rome in 1766, 1768 and 1769, he obtained the support of the Marquis de Marigny and the Duc d’Aumont with his project for entertainments at the wedding of the Dauphin and Marie-Antoinette, planned for 1770. He then went to the Académie de France in Rome as tutor to Trouard’s young son. During his five years there he associated with Cardinal de Bernis, Charles de Wailly, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Bergeret de Grancourt and contributed to the Abbé de Saint-Non’s Voyage pittoresque with drawings of antique monuments at Pompeii, Paestum, Herculaneum and elsewhere. He also travelled through Italy, from Sicily to Venice and the Piedmont, and kept travel journals of considerable interest. His many portfolios of architectural drawings were highly successful on his return to Paris and brought him employment: improvements to the Duc d’Aumont’s residence on the Place Louis XV (...

Article

Nadja Rottner

French critic and philosopher Nicolas Bourriaud adopted the term ‘relational aesthetics’ in the mid-1990s to refer to the work of a selected group of artists, and what he considers their novel approach to a socially conscious art of participation: an art that takes as its content the human relations elicited by the artwork. Its key practitioners, most of them emerging in the 1990s, include Rirkrit Tiravanija , Philippe Parreno (b 1964), Liam Gillick, Pierre Huyghe, Maurizio Cattelan, Carsten Höller , and Vanessa Beecroft . For example, Carsten Höller installed Test Site (2006) at the Tate Modern in London so that visitors could enjoy the amusement park thrill of large playground slides in the museum’s Turbine Hall, and bond with fellow viewers over their experience. Bourriaud’s collected writings in Relational Aesthetics (1998, Eng. edn 2002) helped to spark a new wave of interest in participatory art.

While Bourriaud omits acknowledging the historical roots of relational art, Marxist-influenced critiques of the changing conditions of modern life, and arguments for art’s ability to improve man’s relationship with reality have a long history in 20th-century art. Critics Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer were among the first to developed new models for an art of politicized participation in the 1920s. The relational art of the 1990s and early 2000s is a continuation and an extension of traditions of participatory art throughout the 20th century (such as ...