CAHN CONTEMPORARY is a show-room, based in Bagnolet, dedicated to dialogue between archaeology and contemporary art through joint exhibitions with art galleries and the artists that they represent, but also, with independent curators. CAHN CONTEMPORARY was founded in 2019 by Jean-David Cahn, archaeologist and director of Galerie Cahn, a Basel-based gallery specialised in Ancient Art. CAHN CONTEMPORARY takes part in fairs as well.
Artists are seismographs
For me ancient art is vibrant and alive. Although Antiquity as a historical period has long come to an end, it continues to influence our society and our way of thinking. The critical discussion and qualification of science’s claims to objectivity are certainly not new, and obviously it must be admitted that a degree of subjectivity is also found in the field of classical studies. As a trained archaeologist I observe that academia does not have sovereignty over the interpretation of the past. Rather, findings and insights are dependent on the questions posed by researchers, on the sources available to them, on the school of thought they belong to, as well as on their point of view – and not least on the new data and research results.To my mind, this dynamic process is not problematic. Quite the contrary, I find it fascinating how society is able engage with the relics of the past over and over again, constantly reaching new conclusions and, on occasion, even redefining itself. For this reason, I invite only contemporary artists to participate in my art projects. I am interested in how artists living in today’s world interact with Antiquity, in their perception and understanding of the past and the manner in which they link it to the present. I would like to emphasise that I do not represent these contemporary artists professionally. Therefore, the projects are always organised jointly with a specialist in the contemporary field.I find it striking that in the days of my father, Herbert A. Cahn, scholars, museum directors, curators and professors regularly visited art fairs and gallery exhibitions, sharing their enthusiasm for the archaeological objects on display with art dealers in lively discussions. Nowadays, archaeological objects have been assigned a very different significance and are often seen first and foremost by many scholars as bearers of factual information, while their artistic value is considered far less important. For me, however, it is the fascination of the object for its own sake and not merely as a means to an end that is crucial. This is why I have turned towards contemporary art. Working together with living artists makes it possible to approach archaeological artefacts in a very different, intuitive manner.Jean-David Cahn