With his particular humor, Hans-Peter Feldmann attempts to make an incursion into our daily lives, sharing contemporary art, and making it accessible to a much wider public.
It is up to each person whether to eat it or to leave it intact.
The collector’s edition boxes will be distributed in French supermarkets from 17 November until late-December 2014 at the average price of The Laughing Cow® box.
Hans-Peter Feldmann by Michael Staab, Art critic and exhibition curator
Hans-Peter Feldmann’s artistic maturity allows him to appreciate art even amongst everyday objects. With an attentive eye, he observes the insignificant, common things of everyday life things whose beauty and strangeness so easily escape our notice. He highlights the peculiarities of simple, familiar objects, thus decoding and renewing our perception of this universe of the quotidian.
A punnet of strawberries, originally purchased as a dessert may become the object of a photographic series on individuality. Photographs of his neighbour as she cleans her windows on fixed days come to symbolize our well-ordered existence. Moreover, a collection of magazine covers shows us how image-processing techniques render the beauties represented therein as universally alike, with nothing individual or distinctive.
Feldmann also enjoys playing with our deep-seated notions of what art should or should not be. By repainting famous sculptures like Michelangelo’s David or the bust of Nefertiti,
he makes fun of the importance of such works in the history of art while lessening some of their aura and distance. He has only to put a red nose on a historical portrait to bring the people they represent back to life again. Always with a smile.
Feldmann is a phenomenon, a genuinely atypical artist who deliberately ignores the rules of the art market. He refuses to sign his works or to limit his prints, which nevertheless does not prevent his works from achieving very high prices.
Obviously, this pleases him, but his particular conception of art has even led him to create a work of art from a monetary windfall—the hundred thousand euros he received in 2011 when his exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York was awarded the Hugo Boss Prize. He turned this money into an exhibition, quite literally, by pinning it to the wall note by note. The rules of the art market make it such that this installation could have been worth many times the value of the notes themselves. But the artist refused to follow such rules.
Behind their light and playful exterior, Feldmann’s works are based on very profound motivations. He doesn’t see himself as a sort of joker limited to implied references or allusions, but as a human being who experiences genuine anguish, a prisoner of the constraints imposed on him by society. His art functions as a release. And it is this possibility of liberation through art that he likes to share with us.
A short biography of the artist
Hans-Peter Feldmann was born in 1941 in Düsseldorf. In the 1960s, he studied painting at the School of Fine Arts in Linz.
In 1968, he abandoned painting in favour of conceptual photographic series. In 1972 he participated in the international arts event Documenta. However in 1980, Feldmann withdrew from the international art scene, lamenting its indifference and lack of content. Having acquired a patent for metal toys from the 1920s, he opened a toy and antique store in Dusseldorf, in which he continues to work one day a week.
In the late 1980s, Feldmann made a return to the art scene, and in a short time, became one of the most internationally recognized German artists of conceptual art. Since that time, his work—photography, collages, artist’s books, sculptures, objects and reworked ready-mades—have been presented in numerous major museums across the world, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Reina Sofia in Madrid. He has also participated in major contemporary art manifestations such as Documenta in Kassel and at the Venice Biennale. Today, he is considered to be one of the leading German artists on the international art scene, whose work has had a considerable influence on subsequent generations. Furthermore, in France, his works, books and exhibitions have earned him an ever-growing number of admirers.
The Laughing Cow® and the arts
In 1921, when Léon Bel patented the brand name ‘The Laughing Cow®’, it had not yet occurred to him to entrust the creation of its visual identity to Benjamin Rabier. It was only in 1923, following a competition aimed at making the brand more appealing, that the famous design finally appeared on the product’s packaging. Subsequently the two men began a collaboration that would last well beyond the death of Rabier in 1939, as evidenced by the publication in the 1950s of albums filled with cheerful pictures of animals.
Although Rabier’s design is the best known today, the inventive advertising policy of Bel Cheese has led it to call upon the talents of many other illustrators as well. Luc-Marie Bayle, Corinne Baille, Hervé Baille, Paul Grimault and Albert Dubout have each lent their talents to the design of numerous gifts and surprises for young consumers. In 1954, the illustrator and radio presenter, Alain Saint-Ogan propelled The Laughing Cow® into his ‘Animal Paradise’*. With this began a promotional legacy that would later assume many other forms, including in the 1970s, when Jacques Parnel instigated a veritable revolution in the brand’s history by making the cow stand up and walk on its hind legs.
Parallel to its industrial activity, The Laughing Cow® has inspired many artists. Already in 1924, the painter Marcel Lenoir represented it in a still-life (which may still be seen in the Jura at La Maison de La vache qui rit®). The most famous re-appropriation is probably Bernard Rancillac’s, who in 1966 depicted The Laughing Cow® as a sun in his canvas Our Blessed Mother Cow (Notre-Sainte-Mère La Vache). By his own admission, this leader of the ‘Narrative Figuration’ movement employed the image as a symbol of western consumerist society while recalling the Hindu prohibition. More recently, Wim Delvoye redeployed The Laughing Cow® as part of an impressive collection of labels during the 2005 Biennale de Lyon. The Darwinian reference in his work’s title, On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life, boldly associates art history with the world of marketing.
In continuity with this double movement of collaboration and re-appropriation, it seemed only natural that the brand’s imagery be revisited by an artist. And it was to Hans-Peter Feldmann that Lab’Bel, Artistic Laboratory of the Bel Group, decided to entrust the exe- cution of this first collector’s edition box, inviting him to use his characteristic irreverence and playfulness to make The Laughing Cow® his own.
Artistic director, Lab’Bel, Artistic Laboratory of the Bel Group
*From 1954 onwards, Alain Saint-Ogan presented a radio programme called ‘La Vache qui rit au paradis des animaux’ on Radio Luxembourg.