4 oct 2021

Bianca Bondi, the art magician who bewitches the Fondation Louis Vuitton

From September 22 to January 24, Bianca Bondi will take over one of the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s Open Spaces , exhibition spaces dedicated to emerging creation. It creates a sumptuous indoor garden where a salt fountain stands. Within Frank Gehry’s architecture, the evolving work, named  “DayDream”, changes with the seasons .

A haven of peace is hidden in the heart of the Bois de Boulogne. At the Fondation Louis Vuitton, in the immense architecture of Frank Gehry, Bianca Bondi has transformed a room, perched on the top floor, into a sumptuous indoor garden with pink walls. In the center of the room, the artist has erected a white fountain composed of a dozen basins, strewn with feathers and shells, containing water of several hues while a branch of moss hangs above the fountain. Flowers and a dense vegetation proliferates in the four corners of the space, spreading a delicately woody smell. A soft cocoon where you wander in a feeling of floating to the sound of a captivating chant. A waking dream projecting the visitor into a misty and delicate atmosphere inviting rest and peace. “My first introduction to art was nature” says the artist from South Africa. Since then, Bianca Bondi – now 35 years old – has continued to create evolving works, in which both organic and artificial elements undergo a slow transformation.

Bianca Bondi, The Daydream, 2021, exhibition view, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris.

The young woman is used to summoning the five senses. In Tarbes, last year, in the immense space of the Le Parvis art center, the artist reproduced fourteen salt ponds on the ground illuminated by a soft pink light, while bird songs resounded in this jungle-like exhibition where vegetation proliferated. Inspired by an occult practice from the Middle Ages, it transformed the art center into a soothing and meditative place of divination. It is in the continuity of this previous exhibition, called “Still Waters”, that Bianca Bondi designed her installation at the Fondation Louis Vuitton. She wanted to make it the bright side of this esoteric journey. While a serious and enveloping music takes possession of his ears, an earthy smell with floral accents captivates the visitor’s nose. Every parameter is carefully considered,  from the temperature of the room to its exposure to sunlight, as the artist has taken advantage of the precious advantages of the Foundation’s space, with its high ceilings and a skylight of natural light. Bianca Bondi thus creates a poetic experience where the memory of the work counts more than the work itself: synesthesia reinforces the symbolic aura of the installation, making each moment more palpable and inscribing it in our emotional memory. The artist reproduces biotopes where flora and fauna, the inert and the mineral, the living and the non-living mingle within capsules where she proliferates life such as her Blooms, Plexiglas boxes under which she keeps domestic objects eaten away by salt.

In the manner of an artist-alchemist, like the Franco-Moroccan Hicham Berrada, who films chemical reactions under glass , or the French Mimosa Echard whose works are based on a contamination between personal objects and various fermented liquids,  Bianca Bondi lets chemistry bring its share of the unpredictable to her works. When she arrived in Paris, during her art studies at the École nationale supérieure d’arts de Paris-Cergy, the young woman tried her hand at many scientific experiments, and discovered, by chance, salt. Fascinated by this material capable of a thousand metamorphoses, she has made it the central ingredient of her practice. Between oxidation, crystallization, solidification, she carries out chemical reactions of all kinds, guided by her instinct and her knowledge of chemistry, which she has acquired as a self-taught person during all these years of practice. With this natural and ultra-sensitive tool, she carries out a chemical reaction, the consequences of which she cannot control, like the coloured basins of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, which are entirely covered in salt and whose colours change every second, to the rhythm of the absorption of rainwater. Far from considering herself the owner of her works, Bianca Bondi conceives of creation as a gift of the material where it is not up to the artist to decide what should become of her productions but rather the organic materials that determine their future. Bianca Bondi’s practice thus testifies to her respect and her deep confidence in the living and its mutations. Like a scientist, the artist is content to determine a protocol in which she gives birth to her sculptures, which she treats as entities endowed with sensitivity, requiring special care.

Thus, a few hours before the opening at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the young woman hastens to ‘feed’ her sculpture, while noting, surprised, its latest developments. Adept at botany and magic, the young woman became passionate about these subjects at a very young age: at the age of seven, she read textbooks and novels carefully and even founded a witch band with her friends where they prepared love filters and potions. It is now her art that she uses as a form of magic. If the young artist calls her idols – such as the American writer Rebecca Solnit – “nature geeks”, she herself seems to be one as the young visual artist, fascinated by pre-modern and extra-Eastern mystical rites, reconnects with the pre-Christian pagan spirituality of druids and shamans. Thus, at the Parvis in Tarbes, the scenography evoked the shape of Wicca daisies, symbols of protection. At the Fondation Louis Vuitton, she turns space into a chapel in honor of nature and its incredible possibilities. If the artist’s knowledge is worthy of a modern-day priestess, the young woman does not see herself as a contemporary witch, a term from which she prefers to keep her distance. Deeply rooted in a non-Western tradition, the artist’s practice also testifies to her experience in South Africa where she was introduced to metaphysical experiments at a very young age. At the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the artist invites visitors to a similar experience, bathed in a soft light, inviting them to let themselves be carried away, for the time of a waking dream, into the dreamlike universe of a magician artist.


With the participation of Jenn Hutt (sound),  Tara Msellati (floral arrangements)  and Yann Vasnier (perfumes). 


Bianca Bondi, “DayDream”, until January 24, 2022 at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris 16th.

Bianca Bondi, Still Waters, 2020. Installation view, Le Parvis, Tarbes, 2020.Photo credit: Bianca Bondi. Courtesy the artist and mor charpentier, Paris
Portrait of the artist. Photo credit: Saby Maviel.