Vauxhall’s Cabinet is a gallery that specialises in artists’ artists. Notably intelligent and subtle, its list of creatives includes Turner Prize-winner Mark Leckey, digital artist Ed Atkins and the pioneering installation artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz. While the gallery is temporarily closed to the general public, it has used this as an opportunity to do something very Cabinet: educate. This week, it has published a flurry of ephemera – films, texts and images – on its website by the late artist and writer Pierre Klossowski.
Klossowski’s work – like that of his younger brother Balthus – is not lacking in controversy or a dose of the erotic. The documentation of past Klossowski exhibitions brought together here paints a picture of a fascinating character whose works stretched far beyond the pastel drawings of young men that he is best known for. The result is a kind of online exhibition/research project. It includes links to a novel written by the artist and republished by the gallery’s own imprint Vauxhall&Company; texts by Klossowski and the philosopher Michel Foucault; and an embedded video of the 1979 film Roberte, which he co-wrote.
Pierre Klossowski’s own story is fascinating. He was born in Paris in 1905 to a Polish family, and emerged in psychoanalytic circles in the 1930s when he became good friends with the surrealist writer Georges Bataille. The pair had a shared fascination with the work and philosophy of the Marquis de Sade. During this period, he translated texts by Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and Heidegger into French and began writing novels. He gave up writing in 1970 to focus on creating large-scale drawings, leading to a major retrospective in 1981 in Kunsthalle Bern and work in Documenta 7.
The film shown by the gallery, based on Klossowski’s novel Roberte Ce Soir, is entirely in French, but viewers can download an English translation of the script. Putting the art into “arthouse”, it is as much about philosophy and art as it is about narrative. There is something delightful about Cabinet’s offering – never has there been a moment where slow, considered art can flourish more.