- Pierre Restany:A Man in Rhythm with His Time
Pierre was a born concentrator. He possessed an instinct for manifesting artistic ideas, concentrating the free-floating ideas of an artist into a sculpted paradigm. He was as close to his artist friends as one can be; he brought into (verbal) life what was until then un-verbalized artistic magma. Ideas left their personal origin and became universal. In this sense Pierre was an idéaire, a perceiving instrument or body who lived in the rhythm of his time. In December 1955, while serving as assistant to the French minister of construction, he met Yves Klein, by whom he was deeply impressed. Klein became the artistic center of the constellation that Pierre followed during the next decades.
Pierre was an indefatigable traveler who spanned the bridge of his ideas to the studios of his artistic friends. He did not really travel: he was simultaneously present in various continents. At the 2003 biennale in Venice, the French pavilion showed a large flag bearing a portrait of Pierre—but it was all over the exhibition that Pierre was missed by those who had known him.
After his critical identification of the "New Realism" (of Arman, Rotella, Niki de Saint-Phalle and others), the scale of his curiosity enlarged into architecture, design, sociology and Third World analysis. "The poorer we become," he told me, "the closer we approach the reality of the Third World. This means: proximity to nature and a sense for survival." When he was 48 years old Pierre lived with two friends for 6 weeks on the Amazon River delta. This changed his relationship to nature quite dramatically. He understood nature as a fundamental and great discipline. He felt that we have much to learn from marginal civilizations. Pierre envisioned the coming boundaries of communication—especially in a so-called information (better, disinformation) society. This, for him, opened the topic of the new millennium. I remember him saying: "We still use old geo-cultural and geo-political parameters, as for instance in the fields of finance, morality or religion. Maybe the new millennium will get rid of them. And will shape a new world map for us."
I talked a final time with Pierre at one of the bars at documenta XI in 2003. His bodily appearance seemed to have changed to transparency. Traces of a physical crisis became evident. Last winter he had to undergo a bypass operation from which he never really recovered. On 4 June 2003 his Paris friends gathered for a farewell ceremony in and in front of the church of St-Germain-des-Prés. Pierre Restany was buried in the Montparnasse cemetery. [End Page 7]