Issue #41, 2012

State of Shades: Romanian National Painting Camouflage Green
Société Réaliste

From the 1930s, when a wing of the Royal Palace was built that included spaces purposefully destined to host museum displays (for works of the Crown collection), through the 1950s, when the different galleries of what had become a national museum of art opened to the public and till the 2000s, when these galleries reopened following a 10 years-long process of restoration and refurbishing after the serious damages caused by the 1989 cross-fire, the National Museum of Art of Romania (MNAR) can be seen as a measurement scale for the political history of the modern state of Romania. Société Réaliste have manifested a longstanding interest in the constructions of nation-states and their use of culture as a legitimizing instrument as well as a form of production of symbols (visual, architectural, etc.) in the service of power. In one of their recent projects, State of Shades (2012), they are looking at a number of paintings from the permanent collections of different national art museums (so far the Hungarian National Gallery, the National Art Museum of China, and here the National Museum of Art of Romania), reducing them to monochromes and establishing through a computer programme their average colour, which is singled out as the national colour. In the following pages of Idea Gallery one can see abstracted paintings from the National Gallery (medieval and modern), juxtaposed and identifiable by their title and author. Names of places or political characters, popular rituals or religious celebrations, still-lives, portraits are here no longer defining a history of art (unusable without its stylistic traces) but they are shades in the big composition of national identity. As an irony maybe, the Romanian painting colour established by Société Réaliste is one of the twelve official camouflage colours used by the United States of America’s army. State of Shades is thus not a mere visual representation of the political state. As its very title also suggests, it is a complex set of references to the present state of politics, to the shadows that construct history and to the ways in which even the most formal and physical characteristics of art (such as the tint) are politically tainted. (Raluca Voinea)

Special thanks to: Thibaut Gauthier, Valentina Iancu


Société Réaliste is a Parisian cooperative created by Ferenc Gróf and Jean-Baptiste Naudy in June 2004. It works with political design, experimental economy, territorial ergonomy and social engineering consulting. Polytechnic, it develops its production schemes through exhibitions, publications and conferences.

State of Shadeswas recently presented in Budapest as part of empire, state, building, an exhibition project that has been co-produced by Jeu de Paume (Paris, March–May 2011) and the Ludwig Museum (Budapest, April–August 2012). The exhibition travels to the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest in Autumn 2012.