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Two important new works by Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, Flora and Bust, both 2017, have joined the Modern’s permanent collection, which already includes their Grand Paris Texas, 2009, and Holes, 1997. Flora is based on Hubbard / Birchler’s discoveries about the unknown American artist Flora Mayo, with whom the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti had a love affair in Paris in the 1920s. While Giacometti is one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century, Mayo’s oeuvre has been destroyed and her biography relegated to a footnote in Giacometti scholarship.
Interweaving reconstruction, reenactment, and documentary into a hybrid form of storytelling, Hubbard / Birchler reframe history through a feminist perspective and bring Mayo’s compelling biography to life. The double-sided film installation is conceived as a conversation between Flora Mayo and her son, David Mayo—whom the artists discovered after an exhaustive international search. Flora unfurls as a multifaceted dialogue across time, between a mother and son, Mayo and Giacometti, Europe and the United States, art history and contemporary life, evidence and imagination.
Bust is inspired by a photograph of Mayo and Giacometti flanking a portrait bust she made of him. The work expands the formal and conceptual layers of Hubbard / Birchler’s storytelling, juxtaposing Flora’s narrative of ephemerality and loss with the tangible re-imagining of the sculpture. Flora and Bust premiered in the Swiss Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale and will be on view at the Modern from September 5, 2021, through January 2, 2022. The site-responsive installation will include items related to the works’ genesis, on loan from the artists.