The installation Wantee narrates the disappearance of Laure Prouvost’s grandfather, who, while digging a long tunnel between his studio and Africa, disappears one day and never returns, leaving his wife the sole custodian of his works. From the story, we also learn that he is a conceptual artist and a dear friend of Kurt Schwitters’ (1887–1948), a prominent figure in the twentieth-century European art scene. The artwork was realized for a major retrospective of Schwitters’ work, held at the Tate Britain in London in 2013, and the title alludes to the artist as well: Wantee is a play on words that sounds like the abbreviation of “Would you like some tea?”—the question the video begins with—and refers to Schwitters’ fiancé’s nickname.
Set inside Prouvost’s grandparents’ living room, the video is an extravagant succession of anecdotes and stories of the artist’s troubled adventures and that which can happen to a work of art. Her grandfather’s sculptures and paintings have now been transformed into everyday objects: devoid of their status as works of art and essentially forgotten. The grandmother has brought them back to daily life and turned them into everyday objects like teacups and platters. Through Wantee, Prouvost reflects on commonplace concepts and clichés connected with the value system of contemporary art, as well as the museum as a place charged with the conservation of artworks and their fruition. As Prouvost says, «The work is somehow surreal and tends to play with plausibility, but also with the idea of missing information, being out of place and possibly getting it wrong. New meanings could appear just by not managing to make sense out of things. That’s when you bring surreal elements to the point of being plausible again.»
For the exhibition at Pirelli HangarBicocca, the video is displayed together with a series of objects, ceramics and drawings in a neverbefore-seen presentation of the artwork with which Laure Prouvost won the Turner Prize, British art’s most prestigious award, in 2013.