Moulin Rouge is a large wooden sculpture of a windmill, which is mostly painted white and features four sails and a pyramid-shaped roof covered with red-brown tarmac. On the sculpture’s front panel is a rectangular hole resembling a doorway and towards the bottom left corner of the panel is a much smaller round hole. The structure is much smaller in size than a real windmill and has four sides that gently taper towards the top. A little over halfway up and running all the way around the object is a thin platform lined with a rail made from wood and rope, and above this on the front section of the work are written the words ‘Moulin Rouge’ in black paint on a small, rectangular piece of wood. The sails can spin around (although there is no indication that viewers are invited to move them) and are painted with thick black bands that alternate with thinner white stripes. On the front of the work, in the section below the platform, straight black lines form a truncated H-shape that frames the doorway-type opening and partly bisects the small round hole, and similar lines also run horizontally around the bottom of the object on all sides. When peering through the holes at the front, viewers can see the bare wood of the work’s interior, although they are not permitted to enter the structure. On each of the other three sides of the windmill, towards the top, there is a vertically oriented, black-outlined rectangle with a straight line running horizontally across its centre, which seems to suggest a window.
This work was first made by the German artist Andreas Slominski in 1998 and reconstructed in 2002, and is built primarily from wooden panels that are bolted together. Slominski has made many other works in the form of windmills, including at least two others with the same title. One of these is a smaller, plain white windmill made in 2001 that also features a thin platform, while the other, created the following year, is a larger, terracotta-coloured, faux-brick windmill with a sign that reads ‘LA REVUE MOULIN ROUGE’ on its front, as well as what looks like an entrance to a music hall decorated with collaged photographs of dancers and performers.
The title Moulin Rouge translates into English as ‘red windmill’ and is derived from the famous cabaret venue of the same name that first opened in Paris in 1889 and still exists today, although it has since been rebuilt once and refurbished numerous times. The venue is distinctive due to the large red tower in the shape of a windmill that protrudes from its roof. The Moulin Rouge also has art historical significance, since it is located in Montmartre, an area of Paris in which many avant-garde artists lived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many of whom frequented this establishment.
The windmill is an evocative symbol of Europe’s agrarian past and may also relate to Slominski’s upbringing in Emsland in northern Germany, which borders the Netherlands and features many windmills across its landscape (see Löckemann 2010, p.88). However, the scaled-down size of Moulin Rouge means that it also resembles a garden ornament or a structure that one might find on a miniature golf course. The curator Nancy Spector has argued that all of Slominski’s windmill works engage with the contradiction between imagery that evokes ‘more innocent eras when life was seemingly less complicated’ and the use of a self-consciously ‘kitsch’ style, which might suggest a more critical take on ‘the inherent dangers of such blind nostalgia’ (Spector 1999, p.14).
Many of Slominski’s works evoke a range of possible reference points without providing any fixed narrative or meaning, and the artist has given very few interviews during his career. The art critic Germano Celant has argued that Slominki’s choice to leave his work open to interpretation evolved as a reaction against the legacy of a number of German artists from the previous generation – such as Georg Baselitz and Jörg Immendorf – and the predominantly neo-expressionist style with which their paintings and sculptures are associated. Instead, Celant has stated, artists of Slominski’s generation preferred an approach in which ‘the interpreter took the place of the creator and meaning no longer resided in the work but in the interpretation of the observer and reader’ (Celant, ‘Slominski the Magician’, in Andreas Slominski, exhibition catalogue, Fondazione Prada, Milan 2006, p.12).
Nancy Spector, ‘Of Traps, Tricks, and other Riddles’, in Andreas Slominski, exhibition catalogue, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin 1999, pp.11–16.
Andreas Slominski, exhibition catalogue, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt 2006.
Karsten Löckemann, ‘The Many Tongues of Windmills’, Andreas Slominski, exhibition catalogue, Sammlung Goetz, Munich 2010, pp.88–93.
Supported by Christie’s.