Les larmes de joie de « La Crocodile »

Joyful tears for this new croc on the block at Plateforme 10

Olivier Mosset, Xavier Veilhan 
La Crocodile, 2019
Monumental sculpture in metal, painted
Photo © 2019, oneARTlover

On an auspiciously sunny day in front of Lausanne’s newly-opened Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts, the latest exhibit to join the collection pulled into the city’s Plateforme 10 arts quarter.

La Crocodile is the winning design by Swiss artist Olivier Mosset and Paris-based Xavier Veilhan following an open competition in 2017 to create an artistic intervention on the site. Having originally submitted separate proposals, both artists were short-listed by a ten-strong jury including Cantonal Architect and jury President Emmanuel Ventura, Vice-President and Head of Cultural Affairs for the canton of Vaud Nicole Minder, and directors of the MCBA, the Elysée Museum and the Museum of Design and Contemporary Applied Arts (the latter two institutions join the site in Autumn 2021).  

For Mosset and Veilhan, collaborating on the final design was a no-brainer.  “I’m a fan” says Veilhan of his Swiss confrère. “The project came about extremely quickly. We immediately agreed upon the image and the concept. Afterwards, the object was refined and reworked to become more “visually effective”, a little like a design object or a car” state the pair. 

Occupying a space on the main esplanade in front of the building designed by Spanish architects Fabrizio Barozzi and Alberto Veiga, the Crocodile’s prehistoric proportions compare with the original vehicle. Its 17-metre by 2.5-metre by 3.3-metre steel body weighs in at a hefty 6.8 tonnes. Hidden inside its belly, a wooden structure houses a mechanism for moving the sculpture to different locations around the site. 

Winning almost unanimous votes from the judges, the work forges a solid link with the iconic predecessor for which it is named.  Referring to the original Swiss Federal Railways Ce 6/8II locomotive, nicknamed La Crocodile which is still held with affection in the imagination of the Swiss nation, Mosset and Veilhan’s sculpture stands in abstract guise on its new platform, uniting the site’s railway heritage with its future artistic legacy.

The two artists bring high calibre talent to this unique collaboration (both have represented their respective countries at the Venice biennale). Their latest project embodies a shared passion for mechanics.  Veilhan habitually addresses the themes of transport and movement in the shape of boats, horses, an airship or his Model T Ford concept presented at MAMCO in Geneva in 1999.  Mosset is an inveterate biker, Harley Davidson aficionado and driver of classic American cars. Known in the late Sixties as a founding member of the BMPT movement together with Daniel Buren, Michel Parmentier and Niele Toroni, Mosset has, for the past forty years explored geometric abstraction, monochrome and post-abstraction art in his reflection of the future of painting at a time of globalized capitalism.  

La Crocodile is yet another iconic Swiss invention reimagined by Mosset. His Toblerone sculptures constructed between 2003 and 2014 in cardboard or ice reference the anti-tank roadblocks given the same colloquial moniker, built to protect Switzerland during the Second World War. 

Olivier Mosset, Xavier Veilhan 
La Crocodile, 2019
Monumental sculpture in metal, painted
Photo © 2019, oneARTlover

With its own angular, digital aesthetic, La Crocodile articulates precisely with the rectilinear ‘fins’ cladding the northern façade of the building.  At certain points, the monochrome bodywork in pine green assumes the camouflage of its surroundings; chamfered edges around the roof take on a tint of blue from the day’s clear sky; curved and angular wheel and body panels cast greyish shadows in harmony with the neutral building skin, itself the colour of the molasse rock of Lausanne. This crocodile is at home in its new habitat.

The object conceived by Veilhan and Mosset lies at the junction between art and architecture.  As the new MCBA embarks on its journey to becoming a world-status cultural destination, visitors can be assured of its strength and longevity and this crocodile will be grinning from end to end. 

La Crocodile sculpture by Olivier Mosset and Xavier Veilhan at Plateforme 10, Lausanne.  For more information go to www.mcba.ch or www.plateforme10.ch

Olivier Mosset, Xavier Veilhan 
La Crocodile, 2019 inauguration view
Monumental sculpture in metal, painted
Photo © 2019, oneARTlover
Olivier Mosset, Xavier Veilhan 
La Crocodile, 2019 inauguration view
Monumental sculpture in metal, painted
Photo © 2019, oneARTlover

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