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Petits Rats

May 20, 2023 - July 4, 2023

In her second solo exhibition, the Italian artist (b. 1968) showcases her photographs of Edgar Degas’s works presented in the 2020 exhibition ‘Degas’ at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP). Degas was largely inspired by ‘les petits rats,’ which were the ballerinas-in-training at the Paris Opera Ballet company. In the ‘Degas’ exhibition, 73 statues of dancers were on view. The Italian artist photographed these statues in the MASP storeroom when the works were in their post-cataloguing state. Therefore, labels are seen dangling alongside the statues’ limbs and torsos. She uses a single source of lighting to infuse the Degas works with movement, which traces the dialogues between the ballerinas and accentuates the materiality of the bronze material. This offers an illusion of malleability to the figures, bringing them to life.

The term ‘les petits rats’ literally translates to ‘the little rats,’ signifying the dancers’ low status. Due to their desperation to climb the ranks, these young dancers were the most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and were confined by social perceptions of gender and class. In this exhibition, the artist deviates from her past exploration of the materiality of images and focuses on the making of image and narrative. She keeps the locking hinges of the shelving unit in frame to remind viewers of the subtext of the sculptures. She gives a behind-the-scenes look of the exhibition, which can be seen as analogous with what would happen ‘backstage’ to the dancers in training at the Ballet. Audiences will see how she brings the emotions of the ‘petits rats’ to life in this exhibition – a great chance to view Degas’s works in a unique way.


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