César, a master of compressed sculpture

Compressed objects, flattened cars, giant human imprints, everything is super-sized with this remarkable contemporary sculptor, whose work is currently on exhibition at the Centre Pompidou

The César retrospective at the Centre Pompidou gives visitors the opportunity to rediscover this unusual artist, too long forgotten.

Bernard Blistène, Director of the MNAM (Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne) and the person who commissioned the exhibition, had the original idea of presenting César’s work in one immense room on the top floor of the museum to enable visitors to immerse themselves in the world of this non-conformist artist.

Trading the traditional tools of a sculptor for a blowtorch, César creates “weldings” from small metallic pieces of litter. Unlike Tinguely, César does not require the use of any mechanical devices to nevertheless create the impression of movement in his scrap metal animal sculptures.

With the help of a hydraulic press, he creates “compressions”, sheet metal or crushed objects, such as his cars flattened to a pancake.

Then comes the “human imprints”, a breast, giant thumbs like the one that takes centre-stage in the piazza, and the “envelopes” that imprison everyday objects in Perspex.

This masterfully curated exhibition will remain one of the finest tributes paid to this genius of contemporary sculpture.

By Nicole Pradon