Lab’Bel is a laboratory of ideas and innovation that aims to support artistic creation and promote its development.
Lab’Bel was created in the spring of 2010 to support contemporary artistic creation. The activities of this impertinent Laboratory of ideas and innovation lie between the constitution of a Collection, currently on long-term loan to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dole, and the production of exhibitions and artistic events in France and Europe. Lab’Bel is also at the origin of a series of performative, transversal projects, exploring topics as varied as Modernist architecture, poetry, music, etc.
At the same time, Lab’Bel is the author of a number of artistic publications and editions. Some of them—like The Laughing Cow© Collector’s Edition Boxes, created every year by great contemporary artists—are carried out in close collaboration with the Bel Group’s teams and serve as the framework for different types of research and experimentation.
Lab’Bel – Exhibitions
Lab’Bel has developed an exhibition programme in France and Europe in the absence of a specific venue dedicated to its activities. To carry out its projects, generally occurring in series, Lab’Bel collaborates in various ways with the structures that host them. These collaborations often lead to the production of artistic works, generally in situ.
“There is always a large degree of utopia at the genesis of an institution, if not a significant amount of dreaming. All the more at the outset of a Laboratory that has nothing to do with science but instead intends to brew ideas and develop artistic experiments. Lab’Bel has thus developed a series of long-term projects such as Metaphoria, built around the poetic works of Rui Costa and the idea of Europe seen as a common house where metaphors become real means of transportation; or the series of spatialised dialogues between an artist and a Modernist architectural structure; or even the 3 Easy Pieces series, coming to life in the public space of the city of Venice. Therefore, we have been able to realize unconventional exhibitions, following a rationale that is not that of the artistic mainstream but more in line with the role of a small Laboratory like our own.” Silvia Guerra, Artistic Director of Lab’Bel
“All of these experiences are the fruit of what is now a long-term collaboration, where energies come together, and encounters and actors increase over the course of the various projects, each offering the possibility of renewal. After all, a laboratory is primarily a place of discovery, where imagination and experimentation can give rise to the most fortunate strokes of luck.” Audrey Illouz, Art critic and curator, Director of the Micro Onde art centre
Lab’Bel – Public space performances
As it has no geographical ties, Lab’Bel regularly initiates artistic events, both in France and abroad, many of which combine the visual arts with other artistic disciplines (architecture, literature, music, theatre). Performance plays an important role, especially in the context of the different chapters of the 3 Easy Pieces project in Venice.
“What is still possible without too many problems with independent artistic projects and a small, open, institutional structure like Lab’Bel—to break free from the horizontal and vertical boundaries between artistic sectors, professional fields and management hierarchies—is often very difficult to achieve with large established institutions.” Michael Staab, one of the artists of the 3 Easy Pieces project
“By abandoning the equation that is ubiquitous or practically so in Venice—‘bigger, more beautiful, more expensive’, 3 Easy Pieces shows that artistic creation can still intentionally escape the rationales of representation and economic reappropriation underlying the current trend towards the biennialization of contemporary art. Even if this ‘low-key’ proposal is deployed from the off-centre position of contemporary art, and at its own pace, its renewal from one edition to another promises a renewed exploration of such issues.” Jacques Heinrich Toussaint, Art historian and independent curator, Assistant to Silvia Guerra at Lab’Bel
Lab’Bel – The Collection
Lab’Bel’s contemporary art Collection does not favour a specific media nor support and is open to all ages and nationalities in terms of the artists it supports. Instead, its peculiarity lies in its humour, impertinence and offbeat tone. On long-term loan to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dole, the Collection is made up exclusively of pieces produced after the 2000s, in order to shine a light on truly contemporary artists.
“In my opinion, the most beautiful collections are authentic and personal. They tell a story. And as the journey unfolds, the choices also reflect a collector’s subconscious or a company’s philosophy. This is precisely the approach of the Bel Group’s Artistic Laboratory, due in particular to the setting up of a strategic committee, and their desire to identify specific themes as starting points.” Séverine Waelchli, Director of the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
“We play, freely, with one or several collections, so as to give visitors a more educational art history, less authoritative, less teleological, more circuitous and cyclical.” Amélie Lavin, Chief Heritage Curator, Director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dole
Lab’Bel – Publishing
In addition to these activities, Lab’Bel is also involved in a variety of publishing projects (artistic editions, books, films). One of its most emblematic projects, The Laughing Cow© Collector’s Edition Boxes, is premiered every year at the FIAC to collectors from around the world, following an initial invitation from the Fair’s director in 2016.
The Laughing Cow© Collector’s Edition Boxes
The Collector’s Edition Box project was born from a desire to shake up perceptions of contemporary art, its modes of distribution and its market, through an affordable “collector’s” edition of the famous cheese box. Every year since 2014, an artist has embarked on the exercise of reinterpreting and reinventing The Laughing Cow’s© 24-portion box, its familiar codes and what it has built up over time in an attempt to integrate it into their practice and shift public perception.
“We do not have the typical museum vision of contemporary art; instead, we have a mission to make art accessible in its immediacy and vibrancy. […] I think it is wonderful that a brand can be questioned by artists who have a different, surprising point of view, and their own ideas about its identity.” Béatrice Grenade, Bel Group’s Chief Marketing Transformation Officer
“Let us keep instead the courageous act, the ambition to support creation as a poetic approach. It is worth noting that there is a real historical continuity from The Laughing Cow’s first visual created by Benjamin Rabier to the approach taken by the Laboratory.” Laurent Bourdereau, Director of The House of The Laughing Cow©
Films and publications
Lab’Bel is also behind a series of publications and films documenting most of its projects. These are available directly on the Laboratory’s website.
“[…] the editors of Lab’Bel have a poetic practice of curating, and do not seem to obey the academic slogan of being subjugated by the work (the etymology of subjugated meaning ‘mute’, ‘exceeded’). They know that the artist wants to begin conversations. Lab’Bel’s editorial policy opens conversations like one opens a box of cheese.” Sylvie Boulanger, Director of the cneai= (centre national édition art image)
Lab’Bel’s permanent team is made up of Laurent Fiévet, its Director, and Silvia Guerra, its Artistic Director.
They are accompanied by a committee of contemporary art professionals who advise and collaborate on the various projects implemented.
Born in 1969, Laurent Fiévet is the great grandson of Léon Bel, founder of the Bel cheese factories. He holds a PhD in Cinematographic and Audiovisual Studies and has taught the aesthetics of image and film analysis at the universities of the Sorbonne Nouvelle and Paris-7 for ten years.
A visual artist since 2003, he creates video installations using images from the fields of cinema and painting, which he reworks through editing, and then confronts and re-deploys in dialogue with the exhibition spaces, most often in the form of immersive installations. Organized in thematic series, his works offer different types of reflections on the Image and its modes of perception. Fundamentally ambivalent and drawing on different registers of interpretation, they reveal the dysfunctions of our individual and collective memory. He has also collaborated in the production of musical and theatrical shows.
In addition to these artistic activities and his involvement in the supervisory board of Unibel, the main holding company of the Bel Group, Laurent Fiévet has acted as Director of Lab’Bel since 2010. Alone and/or in collaboration with Silvia Guerra, he has curated many of the programme’s exhibitions and artistic events.
Art critic and curator, Silvia Guerra studied the history of art at Coimbra (Portugal) and at the Università di Ca’ Foscari in Venice (Italy). She published a bilingual thesis on contemporary art foundations: A Arte Contemporanea contada por duas fundaçoes culturais europeias: a Fundação de Serralves no Porto ao Fondazione Querini Stampalia em Veneza (Contemporary art told through the examples of two European cultural foundations: the Serralves Foundation in Porto and the Querini Stampalia Foundation in Venice).
Her professional practice began in 2001 with the coordination of the German Pavilion team at the Venice Biennale, presenting artist Gregor Schneider and his work “Totes Haus Ur”.
In 2006, after three years as a project manager specializing in contemporary art at the
Institute for the Arts of the Portuguese Ministry of Culture, she began to work as a freelance curator. She curated the following exhibitions: Under Hitchcock
(Solar Vila do Conde, 2007), No Name (Tráfico, Lisbon, 2009), and Readings in Times of Crisis (Porto, Loulé, Lisbon, Paris, 2009/2010). In this last curatorial project, Silvia Guerra explored the question of how to exhibit ideas rather than works, and to replace turn-of-the-century theoretical references with new ones, such as those set out by Boris Groys or Giorgio Agamben. Her Readings in Times of Crisis were held during sessions at the Petit Cabanon in Porto, in Loulé as part of MobileHome curated by Nuno Faria, and in Paris, at Bétonsalon (The Public School). Today, Silvia Guerra’s work continues to question the curator’s artistic creativity and experiments with new forms of exhibiting through new media like social networks (FlickR) and USB media to promote the mobility of exhibitions (No Name), etc.