Louis Durot

Louis Durot

Louis Durot was born in Paris on April 22, 1939. He was something of an enfant terrible, and managed to be expelled from various schools for bad conduct. His ambition, as stated to his parents, was to earn money without having to work, and for a time, he was an “escort-boy” for a Parisian Grande Dame. He did, however, manage to get a good education in spite of himself, and received his Baccalaureate degree from Lycee Louis Pasteur in 1956.

In 1960, he enrolled in the Facultie de Sciences, where he studied mathematics. He terminated his math studies in 1963, and turned his attention to engineering, working for Equipel, where he was responsible for calculating and measuring resistance for prototype nuclear generators. Equipel became a research facility, and offered Durot the opportunity to study organic chemistry.

Durot directed numerous research projects for Equipel between 1966 and 1972. During this time, in fact, starting in 1964, he made many friends in the art world, gathering together artists from a variety of disciplines to form an artists commune — the Freelane Studio. Among the members were jazz journalist Gilles Brinnon, and a young painter, Jean Ihallero — a friend of the painter Maxime Defert.

Through them, he met the artist Francois Arnal, who was interested in Durots’ engineering expertise for his sculptures. They got on well, and worked together for two years. Also in this circle were the actress Micheline Presle and the actor Daniel Gelin. In 1968, Arnal and Presle created Le Festival de Theatre de Chateauvallon, and through this, Durot became friends with the noted film director Ulysse Reynaud.

In 1966, Francois Arnal introduced Durot to the artist Cesar, with the idea that Durot’s talents as a chemical engineer would be useful. Durot spent a year helping Cesar to master the techniques of working with polyurethane foam, with Durot searching for ways to make this fragile and ephemeral substance more stable and permanent, and more amenable to control. Cesars’ first works in this medium were flat, due to the difficulty of controlling the foam, but he went on to create his famous “expansions”.

In 1968, Durot conceived a project to create more three-dimensional sculptures following a simple and precise design. It was during this time that Durot made his first polyurethane sculptures — the Champignons and Plantes Carnivores. Also in 1968, he He opened his first technical studio at 35, rue Leon.

In order to support this new endeavor,( he needed more space, equipment, time and money), he created La Societe Durgalith. 1971 saw the Durat’s first works exhibited at the Salon Batimat in Paris. With this exhibition, Durot was hoping to attract the attention of architects with whom he could collaborate.

Between 1971 and 1974, Durot created sixty sculptures inspired by fantastical “alien” life, mushrooms, and carnivorous plants. In 1974, Durot”s Societie Durgalith ran into problems with the Italian firm that owned Batimat. Credit Lyonnaise seized his studio and many of his sculptures, and quite a number of them were destroyed. This same year, Durot worked with the architects Sloan and Lecouter on an inflatable structure for the Pavillion Franaise in Osaka. Unfortunately, the project was never realized.

Durot continued to pursue his research on polyurethanes, and gained world-wide recognition for his developments in this field. In 1977, a “student prank” had un-expectedly bad consequences. Durot was employed as an engineer at L’Usine Francaise de la Monnaie (the French mint) in Pessac. He took three kilos of “blanks”, and used them for playing slot-machines. For this, he spent seven weeks in jail, which was ended by an amnesty granted by Mitterand in 1981. During Durot’s time in prison, he took up weight-lifting, and also designed his next generation of sculptures. The spirals, feet, lips, and a series of erotic chairs were produced in limited numbers, and he continues to create objects that were and are definitively Pop.

In 2004, in collaboration with Alan Counord, he created an homage to the Velvet Underground with his Banane Eclairante.

1987: Durot’s first important exhibition at La Defense, and then at the gallery En Attendant les Barbares.

1988: Durot signs an important contract with American Colloid (he had signed with Zolpan in 1978). These contracts allowed him to freely develop techniques for his works.

His last contract, in 1997, with the firm Soprema, allowed him to patent his innovations. Durot is still the research director for Soprema.

1991: Durot exhibits at the Salon des Nouvelles Technologies in La Villette.

1993-94-95: Exhibits at Art Chicago, Miami, and SOFA in New York.

Since 1998, Durot’s work has been on permanent display in China, where he made a huge impact, the subject of dozens of articles. His work was exhibited at contemporary art fairs in Peking, Shanghai. A one man show of his work was held at the Contemporary Art Museum of China in Canton — the museum purchased numerous pieces, among them a first-generation red “Langue” chauffeuse, and a “Bouch” canapé from the 1980’s. He also gave courses at the Fine Arts Acedemies of Canton and Chun King.

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