Hangar Y – the new cultural venue in Greater Paris, at the crossroads of art, science and technology, history and nature – opens its doors to the general public on 22 March 2023 with a major inaugural exhibition organised by the Art Explora Foundation, invited by Hangar Y as part of its patronage programme, and featured for the first six months.

In the Air, the flying machines, orchestrated by Marie-Laure Bernadac, an independent curator and the exhibition’s honorary chief curator, in collaboration with Blanche de Lestrange, Art Explora’s artistic director, pays tribute to Hangar Y’s initial function. It offers an in-depth exploration of the history of aeronautics with a hundred or so works and archives on display: poetic paintings, installations, monumental sculptures that play on repurposing machines, contemplative or political videos, photographs, scale models and other historical records.

" Echoing the Foundation’s twofold mission to support creation in all its forms and to build bridges between disciplines in order to reach an ever-wider audience,  Hangar Y makes it possible to exhibit works of art in an outstanding setting – given its history,  attractive venue and grounds – while developing outreach tools that are open and accessible to all. The works are by artists already established on the international scene as well as by emerging creators.The aim of our programming is to allow everyone to not be simply visitors but to be actors in what they see or feel through universal themes, intended for all generations, in connection with Hangar Y’s scientific origins and past. Very early on, we wanted to delve into the outstanding history of this building related to aerostats, aeronautics, science, technology, progress and fascination for flight, and to confront it with artists’ perspectives.
This multifaceted exhibition, conceived as a vast cabinet of curiosities, combines contemporary and historical views, ranging from works of art brut to objects belonging to museum collections, including archives from France’s National Air and Space Museum, based on this fascinating subject »

Blanche de Lestrange, artistic director of Art Explora

This project began with Hangar Y, the historical site where the first aerostat trials were conducted. Consequently, we needed to use the site’s past as a basis, to call to mind the origins of the architecture and to summon up the Hangar with photographs, archives and collector pieces. However, above all, we needed to invite contemporary artists, ‘flying maniacs’ who, in various ways, explore the subject of flight, from blimps to drones, and including planes and rockets. As such, the exhibition is the story of those adventures, of ‘sky builders’ who have been charting new paths in space and linking the Earth to the cosmos and other planets ever since the first trip to the Moon. Planes are getting bad press nowadays, as they are major sky polluters and energy consumers with a high carbon footprint. They are also perceived, in times of war, as terrifying weapons that drop bombs and kill. Our exhibition is not the story of the dark side of aeronautics, but rather a reminder of human ingenuity, achievements by the first navigators, the beauty of hot-air balloons and planes, and above all, the fascination those objects hold for artists.”

Marie-Laure Bernadac, commissaire de l'exposition

The exhibition

In the air, the flying machines

Ali Cherri, The Flying Machine, 2017, Courtesy Ali Cherri et galerie Imane Farès

Hangar Y’s inaugural exhibition, In the Air, the Flying Machines, is organised by Art Explora on Hangar Y’s invitation, as part of its patronage programme. The exhibition pays tribute to Hangar Y’s initial function, offering an in-depth exploration of the history of flying machines.

Given humankind’s universal fascination for flight and the numerous inventions that made it possible to aspire to that goal throughout the 20th century, the exhibition’s curator, Marie-Laure Bernadac, in collaboration with Art Explora’s artistic director Blanche de Lestrange, focused on how these machines for elevating and transporting people in the air, as well as their transformations over time, have inspired artists.

Although the origins of these innovations can be traced as far back as the Renaissance in Leonardo de Vinci’s sketches, the advent of the first flying machines in the 19th century inspired the artistic avant-garde of the early 20th century as well as many contemporary and art brut artists.

The exhibition brings together more than sixty works covering a variety of artistic movements over a large part of the 20th century. Borrowing aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont’s book title (Dans l’air, 1904), the exhibition presents a selection of poetic paintings, installations, monumental sculptures that play on repurposing machines, contemplative or political videos, photographs and scale models.

The exhibition presents 20th century artists and inventors like André-Victor Édouard Devambez, Léon Spilliaert or Gustav Mesmer, alongside major figures of international artistic creation such as Adel Abdessemed, Doug Aitken, Fiona Banner, Alighiero Boetti, Mircea Cantor, Ali Cherri, Sylvie Fleury, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Sophie Jung, Robert Longo, Ahmet Öğüt, Laure Prouvost, Shimabuku ou Roman Signer, not to mention iconic artists of art brut like André Robillard. An immersive and inclusive journey highlights their shared interest in the history, technology, form and aesthetics, function and symbolism of these flying objects.

In the same mindset as the works of art, the exhibition also showcases unique objects and fascinating collections related to flying objects: planes, airships and spare parts, connected with the era of ‘Ballonmania’ at the turn of the 19th century, wind tunnel models, collections from France’s National Air and Space Museum and stock images… to pay tribute to the history of Hangar Y, a landmark building for aerostats.

The artists in the exhibition

Doug Aitken, Earth Plane, 2015, © Jeff Mclane

Adel Abdessemed (b. 1971), Doug Aitken (b. 1968), Kutluğ Ataman (b. 1961), Renaud Auguste-Dormeuil (b. 1968), Fiona Banner (b. 1966), Giuseppe Barocchi (b. 1971), Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994), Robert Breer (1926-2011), Lee Bul (b. 1964), Mircea Cantor (b. 1977), Ali Cherri (b. 1976), André-Victor Édouard Devambez (1867-1944), Latifa Echakhch (b. 1974), V. R. Farné, Sylvie Fleury (b. 1961), Jean-Louis Florentz (1947-2004), Giovanni Galli (b. 1954), Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige (b. 1969), Kiluanji Kia Henda (b. 1979), Sophie Jung (b. 1982), Rachel Labastie (b. 1978), Bertrand Lavier (b. 1949), Robert Longo (b. 1953), Vera Lutter(b. 1960), Ibrahim Mahama (b. 1987), Étienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904), Nelly Maurel (b. 1974), Georges Méliès (1861-1938), Jorge Méndez Blake (b. 1974), Gustav Mesmer (1903-1994), Ahmet Öğüt (b. 1981), Panamarenko (1940-2019), Lucien Pelen (b. 1978), Pierre Petit (1902-1990) et Raymonde Petit (1901-1990), Laure Prouvost (b. 1978), Mohammad Hadi Rahnaward (b. 1986), André Robillard (b. 1931), Hiraki Sawa (b. 1977), Shimabuku (b. 1969), Roman Signer (b. 1938), Jean Smilowski (1927-1989), Charles Spencelayh (1865-1958), Léon Spilliaert (1881-1946), Arthur Vanabelle (1922-2014), Joseph Vignes (1920-2007).


The inaugural exhibition’s scenography was created by Agence NC, known for its scenographic work at La Galerie Dior, the Musée Carnavalet and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs with the exhibition Shocking: the Surreal World of Elsa Schiaparelli. The In the Air, the Flying Machines scenography plays on the obsessional aspect of a cabinet of curiosities, featuring flying objects, as an invitation to discover the imaginary world of these brilliant artists.

Agence NC was founded by Nathalie Crinière. It explores all sorts of scenography for exhibitions and museum tours: whether permanent or temporary, large or small, on heritage or a theme, subtle or spectacular, cultural or event-related, the agency’s signature style can be found in a wide range of projects. Its activity extends to major cultural venues in France and abroad. Driven by intuition and curiosity, Agence NC creates scenographic narratives whose ambition – in form and content – make each project unique.

Lee Bul, Willing To Be Vulnerable - Metalized
Balloon, 2022 - Photo Matthieu Joffres

Connected with the exhibition

As part of Art Explora’s commitment to bringing culture closer to the widest possible audience, the Foundation has developed a comprehensive programme for facilitation and audience engagement within Hangar Y.

First-ever audio tour with 12 soundtracks

12 listening stations (6 for adults – 6 for children) set up at different locations in the exhibition will allow visitors a more in-depth discovery of the works. Visitors are invited to scan a QR code displayed near a work of art to access the audio content on their own with their personal phones.

The audio content will also be available online on the  Hangar Y website and on the Art Explora Academy platform to help visitors get ready for the tour or continue to enjoy it afterwards. The soundtracks are an invitation to take the time to view the works for better understanding. The content will offer visitors an opportunity to reflect thanks to the offbeat, poetic narration. Nuits Noires collaborated with   Art Explora to produce the soundtracks.

Who has never dreamt of flying?  Tour for children

To create the soundtracks aimed at children (6-12 yrs. old), Art Explora asked pupils from the Monnet-Debussy (Year 5) and Jules Ferry (Year 3) primary schools in Meudon to share their personal doubts and dreams about flying, inspired by 6 works in the exhibition. In response to the children’s reactions, 7-year old podcaster Auden from Podcasts d’Auden lent his voice to the audio tour, which takes the children on an adventure packed with discoveries and interactions.

Le Parcours adulte In Elisa Deroche’s footsteps. Tour for adults

For the adult tour, Nuits Noires revived French aviator Elisa Deroche (1882-1919) – the first woman in the world to earn her pilot’s licence – to guide visitors on an imaginary journey inspired by 6 works in the exhibition. Her voice and her knowledge of the aeronautic world sheds light on the works of art in a humorous, informative way, using various narrative formats (testimonials, archives, etc.).

Tour for families

A booklet especially designed to guide families touring the Hangar Y exhibition – In the Air, Flying Machines – will be made available by  Art Explora.

The fun and educational booklet, created by graphic designer Sophie Cure, will be handed out free of charge to children aged 6 to 12. Designed like a flight sheet, it takes young visitors on a journey dedicated to discovering the exhibition.

The activities are presented in the form of ‘stopovers’ facing the works of art. Mystery-solving, drawing and observation games help to spark the children’s interest and to understand the artists’ different approaches. Once the tour is over, thanks to folding instructions, the booklet turns into a paper airplane!

Activities for schools and associations in Meudon

Throughout the exhibition, from 22 March to 10 September 2023, there will be tours reserved for school groups and associations from Meudon.

Every Monday, Year 1 (CP) to Year 7 (5ème) classes will be welcomed for a tour of the exhibition. Led by a Hangar Y guide and accompanied by Art Explora docents, children aged 6 to 12 will take off to discover the exhibition full of wonders, much like exploring a cabinet of curiosities.

The exhibition will be open to associations on Wednesday mornings for active tours aimed at 6 to12 year olds, through the Hangar Y sculpture park. Led by a guide, the outdoor tour is centred on the story of a new airship which, during an eventful flight over the park, drops some of the passengers it is carrying. Via an itinerary in the heart of the sculpture park, children play the role of explorers and try to locate the lost passengers.

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