Mar 21st, 2016, 12:49 AM

House of Horrors: Art as Scary Amusement Park

By Nutsa Melitauri
Artifact from the House of Horrors. Image credit: Musée d'art moderne.
The House of Horrors show at the Palais de Tokyo is American artist Sturtevant's last installation before her death two years ago.

The House of Horrors at the Palais de Tokyo confirms Paris's reputation as a city with an abundance of extraordinary art exhibitions. The show is an installation by American artist Elaine Sturtevant, best known for her art based on works by other artists such as Andy Warhol, thus anticipating the debate about authenticity, authorship, and appropriation.

House of Horrors — or "Le Train Fantôme" —was Sturtevant last installation before her death two years ago. When she died in May 2014, the New York Times described Sturtevant, who lived and worked in Paris, as the artist who "borrowed others' work artfully". The House of Horror is more like a spectacle than an exhibition. Moving through the exhibition is not like visiting a museum and contemplating artifacts beautifully arranged on display. The House of Horrors is a totally different experience, akin to a trip to an outlandish amusement park.

Image credit: Musée d'art moderne de Paris. 

This unusual experience begins at the entrance when you are greeted by skeletons. You are asked to take a seat in a train — the “ghost train” in the show's French title — which spirits you away into total darkness. At first everything goes silent — and then suddenly you hear screaming, banging, and flying bats. As you are taken deeper into the show, different creepy creatures —monsters, zombies, skeletons, rats, beheaded corpses, ghosts —pop-up to frighten you. The gloomy lighting and special effects add to the tense and ominous atmosphere. In keeping with Sturtevant's art references, you meet famous figures from contemporary art history, such as Paul McCarthy mutilating his finger just like in the Painter, or the severed talking head inspired by a photo of Damien Hirst. There are also figures wearing hoods referencing to the Ku Klux Klan. There is no minimum age for this exhibition, but these creatures are disturbing and the show is definitely not for children.

Image credit: Musée d'art moderne de Paris. 

The House of Horrors is relatively inexpensive with tickets only €2 for adults. Due to its popularity there are frequently queues outside the Palais de Tokyo in the evenings. A better time to go is in the morning. The exhibition is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm, though on Thursdays it closes later at 10 pm. If you are looking for an extraordinary exhibition in Paris, the House of Horrors is a must-see. It's an unexpected, entertaining —and frightening — way to learn more about contemporary art. The exhibition runs until May 15.


The House of Horrors
Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris

11 avenue du Président Wilson, 75116  
Telephone: 01 53 67 40 00