Spirit of 1968

In this year’s movie hit Juno, the über-cool titular teen is asked to cite her favourite three musicians. Without missing a beat, she says ‘Iggy Pop, the Ramones and Patti Smith’. Coming from a 16-year-old in 2008, the nod of approval to the high priestess of Punk poetry is a surefire route to renewed recognition for Smith, but if she needed more, then the Cartier Foundation’s celebration of her visual work, titled Patti Smith: Land 250, should consolidate her position as one of the most important cultural figures of the past 40 years. Smith has long been known for writing poetry and immersing herself in her formative cultural milieu – photographs of Virginia Woolf’s bed, Hermann Hesse’s typewriter and Arthur Rimbaud’s utensils feature in the exhibition, as do collaborations with peers Robert Frank, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jem Cohen, for example. But much of the work is pure Patti Smith, a broad span of visual expression that encompasses 40 years of creativity through photography, drawings, film and poetry, beginning with the photographs she started taking in 1967 to use in collages, and continuing through to her use of Polaroid photography in 1995 and onwards. A short film and a specially created installation expand the exhibition beyond its status as a visual record, but in true Smith style, Land 250 goes beyond the gallery walls. An imaginative programme of events and performances curated by and featuring Smith, Nomadic Nights, will take place alongside the exhibition, and even the gallery bookshop has been turned into a personal Patti Smith library, with the artist adding her choice of books, CDs, films and ephemera to it. As the Western world goes gaga over celebrating the spirit of 1968, it seems fitting that a show celebrating a woman who had little to do with the year, but everything to do with its spirit, should be open for the summer of 2008.

Patti Smith: Land 250 is on at the Cartier Foundation, Paris, until 22 June

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