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Yto Barrada

Mobilier Urbain

About Yto Barrada

Yto Barrada's (b. 1971, Paris) work combines the strategies of the documentary film with the metaphorical approach to imagery in her photographic, installation, and sculptural work. Engaging with the performativity of archival practices and public interventions and often comprised of both original work and found objects, Barrada’s installations reinterpret social relationships, uncover subaltern histories, and reveal the prevalence of fiction in institutionalized narratives.

Her work is held in the collections of Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Tate, London. Her exhibitions have included Kunsthalle, Basel; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; Jeu de Paume, Paris; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Renaissance Society, Chicago; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Hayward Gallery, London; Museu de Arte de São Paulo; The Power Plant, Toronto; and the 2007 and 2011 Venice Biennales.

She won the inaugural Ellen Auerbach Award in Berlin in 2006, was named Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year in 2011, won the Abraaj Group Art Prize in 2015, and was awarded the 2019 Roy R. Neuberger Prize. The prize includes a special exhibition titled The Dye Garden, held at the Neuberger Museum of Art in 2019 and is the artist's premiere presentation of the work in the United States, following its first showing at the American Academy in Rome in 2018.

Barrada is the founder of Cinémathèque de Tanger (2006–ongoing), North Africa’s premier cinema cultural center and film archive, housed in a renovated 1930s film theater in Tangier.

Press Release

  • Yto Barrada: Mobilier Urbain

    LONDON, April 20, 2012—Pace London is delighted to announce an exhibition of work by Moroccan artist Yto Barrada, on view at 6-10 Lexington Street from May 24 to July 14, 2012. This exhibition marks the first time Barrada’s work has been presented in a commercial UK gallery and many of the works on view have never before been presented in this country.

    Yto Barrada (b.1971) lives and works in Tangier, and the city is a key source of inspiration and subject matter for her work. The exhibition, entitled Mobilier Urbain, is an ensemble of sculptures and photographs which examines, among other themes, the relationship between unchecked urban development, the botanical landscape, and the subtle forms of resistance that humans—and plants—attempt against the forces of monoculture.

    The works on view in Mobilier Urbain span Barrada’s varied career. Gran Royal Turismo (2003) is a table-sized automated model of a rather bleak little city, preened for the arrival of a political dignitary. When a convoy of black Mercedes emerges from a tunnel, palm trees push out of the ground, sidewalks and walls flip to reveal freshly painted surfaces, and flags blossom ahead of the convoy’s arrival route. The city has been transformed for the eyes of the officials in those cars.

    A recurring motif in Barrada’s work is the tree, notably the palm tree—both a co-opted icon of exoticism and a pawn to be played in the game of urban planning. A new work entitled Twin Palm Island (2011) places two palm tree-shaped signs onto children’s wagons. The work raises questions about the ranks of palm trees, transplanted from the warm south, which line Tangier’s avenues. Also called to account is the maturity of the officials who place them there. Photographs from the series Autocar show details of the company logos painted on the sides of buses in the Port of Tangier. It is of particular resonance to Barrada that the photos do not give away their stories, but simply allude to them: the illiterate children who read the destinations by these icons and smuggle themselves into the undercarriages and wheels wells of the buses, in the hope of escaping to the European destinations the icons represent. Telephone Books records another kind of coded language, the drawings and tally marks which the artists’ grandmother used to record family telephone numbers, as she could not read or write.

    Of Mobilier Urbain, Marie Muracciole, the curator of Barrada’s traveling exhibition RIFFS, writes: “For Yto Barrada, Tangier is a collage of temporalities, where official history is peeling off the damp walls, a city transformed by Europe’s Schengen accords into a geopolitical dead-end. But for the artist, the city is also the stage of a necessary resistance to the global economy's absolutist logic of development.

    In this exhibition, sculptures—Gran Royal Turismo (a model in which « Potemkin » set dressing rises out of the ground, ahead of the arrival of an official convoy) and Twin Palm Island, (a movable piece of illuminated signage, which literally transports its exotic cargo)—dialogue with the artist book A Guide to Trees for Governors and Gardeners, an acerbic and droll critique of modern Urban Planning.

    Barrada opposes the dominant discourses with a less-visible regime of signs. She gives them a surface on which to appear with photographs like Telephone Books.”