Seven reasons why you'll like Philippe Parreno’s work

What does cinema, football and strange science have to do with the artist’s work?

Philippe Parreno, 2014 Photo credit: Andrea Rossetti

Philippe Parreno, 2014

Photo credit: Andrea Rossetti


French avant-garde artist Philippe Parreno came to prominence in the 1990s and works in a wide-range of media including film, sculpture, sound and performance. Here we learn about his current work Anywhen on display at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and how he incorporates the familiar and unexpected in his work.

Pick what appeals to you and see the connection with Parreno’s work:

1. Surprises 

Installation view of Hyundai Commission 2016: Philippe Parreno, Anywhen 2016 Photo credit: Tate Photography

Installation view of Hyundai Commission 2016: Philippe Parreno, Anywhen 2016

Photo credit: Tate Photography

Describing himself as ‘insanely curious’, Parreno often experiments with time and space, creating bizarre scenarios and alternative realities. Playing a key role within Anywhen, the audience are invited to journey through a path of light, images and sound. His work encourages us to explore the borders between reality and fiction as the exhibition changes throughout the day. Parreno returns every month to add new events and sequences to the exhibition, describing the project as a ‘mechanised journey’.

2. Collaboration

The commission includes a moving light, Another Day With Another Sun 2014, made in collaboration with the conceptual artist Liam Gillick.  

Known for working with others, Parreno has previously teamed up with fellow artists, as well as set designers, architects, writers, illustrators, digital technicians, film-makers, philosophers, politicians, musicians and cinematographers. Rather than focusing on the end product, Parreno believes that all creation begins with a conversation and prefers to explore ideas with other creatives.  

I think it’s OK to let yourself be influenced by others in order to construct something. I mean, I don’t want to play tennis against a wall
Philippe Parreno 

3. Manga 

Philippe Parreno, film still from Anywhere Out of the World (2000) 3D animation, Digital Betacam Color, sound, Runtime: 4 min

Philippe Parreno, film still from Anywhere Out of the World (2000) 3D animation, Digital Betacam Color, sound, Runtime: 4 min

In 1999 Parreno and artist Pierre Huyghe bought the rights to a Japanese manga character, which they named Annlee. They then invited a number of artist friends, including Liam Gillick, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, to use the character within their work. Titled No Ghost Just a Shell 1999-2002, the project saw eighteen artists provide various narratives for Annlee, who became a symbol of collectivity.

In 2002, Huyghe and Parreno created the independent Annlee Association, transferring copyright ownership back to Annlee herself. This meant that future artists required the character’s permission to use her image, highlighting the idea of an image having its own personhood.

4. Music

For Anywhen, Parreno collaborated with award-winning sound designer Nicolas Becker and a number of musicians to create a sound which blends recorded elements and live audio from outside the gallery, including buskers, street sounds and aeroplanes passing-by. The changing soundscape combines the natural and technological, blurring our sense of inside and outside.

The artist has previously explained, ‘I’m interested in how sound can drive things. The master will be the sound and the slave will be the image’.

5. Strange science

Installation view of Hyundai Commission 2016: Philippe Parreno, Anywhen 2016

Installation view of Hyundai Commission 2016: Philippe Parreno, Anywhen 2016

Photo credit: Andrew Dunkley

During the six months of the commission, micro-organisms positioned in a room adjacent to the Turbine Hall learn to react to and activate elements of the installation. Controlled by a bioreactor designed especially for the work, the micro-organisms evolve and interact with the artwork by determining the sequence of events within the space. In an almost science fiction-like fashion, Parreno is exploring the possibility of these organisms developing patterns of memory.

6. Football

Film still from Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006) with Douglas Gordon 35 mm Colour, sound Runtime: 90 min © Philippe Parreno, Douglas Gordon © ADAGP, Paris

Film still from Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006) with Douglas Gordon 35 mm Colour, sound Runtime: 90 min © Philippe Parreno, Douglas Gordon © ADAGP, Paris

Perhaps one of his best known works, the 2006 film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, directed together with Douglas Gordon, focuses on the famous footballer Zinédine Zidane through the course of a 90-minute match. Shot in real-time using 17 different cameras, the film documents the French sportsman from all angles, telling the same story in 17 different ways. The repetition of the image and multiple perspectives highlights the tension between an intimate portrait of an individual and the surrounding crowd of 80,000 football fans.

7. Cinema

Philippe Parreno, Marquee, Guggenheim, NY 2008

Philippe Parreno
Marquee, Guggenheim, NY 2008
Acrylic, steel, LEDs (light-emitting diodes), and incandescent, fluorescent, and neon lights
Installation view, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2008
Photo: Kristopher McKay
© The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

Parreno often incorporates elements of film, experimenting with duration, perspective and chance. Anywhen includes a number of films, periodically shown on a screen which descends from the roof to the floor. One film features the actress, comedian and ventriloquist Nina Conti speaking alongside beautiful images of a cuttlefish, a species that communicates by lighting up different areas of its skin.

At the other end of the Turbine Hall, the artist has installed a newly created Marquee, a light sculpture that resembles the type of lights that feature on old fashioned cinemas. The Marquee creates a sense of fantasy and suggests you are entering a space of make-believe.

Hyundai Commission: Philippe Parreno: Anywhen is on at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall until 2 April 2017

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