Jacques Villeglé (1926-2022)
A dead artist. The thrill of it:
“One morning the clock radio went off and there was an announcement that a very important sculptor had been killed in a car accident in Bennington… Then they said the name, and it was David Smith, and I remember sort of dancing all around my bedroom thinking, ‘Yes, I’m going to do my dissertation on David Smith.’”1
I know the feeling. Jacques Villeglé died June 6, in Paris, aged 96.
Born Jacques Mahé de la Villeglé, which does convey a certain sense of privilege or, in his case, privilege renounced. In the late ‘forties Villeglé started ripping up those thick wads of posters overlaid over posters ripped and torn again that you find on the street, then cutting them up again into compositions, abstract more or less, as if they were his.
Not any more. Because I happen ahem to be the proud owner of two authentic Villeglés, each about two inches across. They were being handed out free in a large bowl, like candy, at an uptown New York gallery that was showing his work, and just like candy I politely took two, leaving some for the others. This being an uptown gallery there weren’t any others anyhow, that stuff ‘s not exactly Vault-in-Geneva material.
Now Villeglé has, for the last time, resigned his privilege, and I’m dancing around my bedroom because, unlike the Bitch Kitty, what’s been passed on is neither rights nor ownership nor privilege, but the reverse:
“ché, per quanti si dice più lì ‘nostro tanto possiede più di ben ciascuno e più di caritate arde in quel chiostro.” Purgatorio 15.55-57
Rosalind Krauss; quoted in Amy Newman, Challenging Art. Artforum, 1962-1974. (New York: Soho Press, 2000), 78.