Aurélie Ferruel et Florentine Guédon, "Culte", 2017, collection des artistes, tissu, coton, lin, peinture et bois, toiles 240 x 115 cm © A. Ferruel et F. Guédon ; photo © Nicolas Pfeiffer

Artists and farmers

The "Artists and Farmers" exhibition explores the rich and varied connections between artists and farmers, through the spectrum of the challenges facing the agricultural world today. Bringing together some 150 artworks, the exhibition aims to give context to and emphasize the intersections between art and agriculture, while examining the way in which this exchange has developed as the relationship between humans and their environment has been redefined.

In recent years, some artists have sought to go beyond the idealised and sometimes limited view of the rural world portrayed in the Épinal images, to instead look at the social, economic and environmental realities faced by farmers today. These artists are seeking to better represent and understand a group of people who are at both the centre of society and its margins, and who, after having comprised the majority of the French population for centuries, today carry out their profession bound by the twin contradictions of increased productivity and a respect for nature. Although the years after the Second World War marked a decisive turning point for agricultural production in the West, shifting to an intensive and industrial model, the early twenty-first century has seen a time of unprecedented transformation and new understanding.

This exchange between art and agriculture conveys essential perspectives and words on the current challenges facing those who work the land. Taking a thematic approach, the exhibition addresses issues of how farmers are portrayed, seeds and the making of landscape, as well as farming practices and know-how, bringing to the forefront both historic and emerging artists who have placed the figure and the work of farmers at the heart of their artistic practice. In particular, it re-examines the arrival of the rural world into museums in the 19th century through the work of painters such as Jean-François Millet, Rosa Bonheur and Jules Breton, whose artworks the Musée d’Orsay has exceptionally agreed to loan. With their interest in the outdoors, the countryside and animals, these artists introduced portrayals of farming life and work into the field of fine arts. The twentieth century saw a continued interest in and a desire to preserve this rural way of life through the creation of museums of ethnology and traditional practices, which are represented here thanks to important loans by the Mucem (Marseille). It is this way of life that is being reinterpreted by artists today.

Some of the artists who have been instrumental in portraying the contemporary world of farming in France are present, such as filmmaker Agnès Varda, as well as pioneering artists Ágnes Dénes, Lois Weinberger and Gianfranco Baruchello, who from the 1970s onwards, made the act of planting an artistic and political gesture. All convey, in various ways – though generally through direct relationships with farmers themselves – multifaceted accounts that had previously often been romanticised or even set aside. Through their artworks, these artists draw our attention to the realities and difficulties of farming life, and present new depictions of it, while challenging the distance between places of production and places of consumption. Each artwork provides us with a way to re-establish our bonds with the living world and the very hands that feed us, opening up fertile creative ground for reconnecting artistic and agricultural practices.

Maria Thereza Alves, Jean Amblard, Mathieu Asselin, Adrián Balseca, Gianfranco Baruchello, Julien Beneyton, Michel Blazy, Rosa Bonheur, Thierry Boutonnier, Jules Breton, Mathilde Caylou, Pierre Creton, Henri Cueco, Marinette Cueco, Ágnes Dénes, Morgane Denzler, Morgan Fache, Nina Ferrer-Gleize, Aurélie Ferruel et Florentine Guédon, Sylvain Gouraud, Annabel Guérédrat, Suzanne Husky, Fabrice Hyber, Inland, Kako & Stéphane Kenkle, Léon Lhermitte, Aurelia Mihai, Jean-François Millet, Asunción Molinos Gordo, Nelly Monnier et Éric Tabuchi, Tony Morgan, Hassan Musa, Myvillages, Le Nouveau Ministère De l’Agriculture (Suzanne Husky et Stéphanie Sagot), Aurélie Olivier, Daniel Otero Torres, Jean-Baptiste Perret, Karoll Petit, Terence Pique, Émilie Pitoiset, Tabita Rezaire, Pascal Rivet, Damien Rouxel, Noémie Sauve, Daniel Spoerri, Jade Tang, Nicolas Tubéry, Agnès Varda, Simone Villemeur-Deloume, Lois Weinberger

Curated by:
Julie Crenn, independent curator
Lauriane Gricourt, Director, les Abattoirs Musée - Frac Occitanie Toulouse
Annabelle Ténèze, Director, Louvre Lens
Assisted by Audrey Palacin, Research Associate, les Abattoirs Musée - Frac Occitanie Toulouse

This project received exceptional support and loans from the Musée d'Orsay and the Mucem - Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée.

Les Abattoirs would like to thank the Direction des Jardins et Espaces Verts of the City of Toulouse for their contribution to the layout of the works presented in the courtyards.

In media partnership with

With the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

With the support of  l'État - Préfecture de la Région Occitanie