To celebrate Rosalba Carriera’s historic 350th birthday in 2023, Senior Editor Anna Sexton and contributing writer Emily Snow sat down with artist Nicolas Party to discuss his current installation at Frick Madison, the temporary home of The Frick Collection, which draws inspiration from the Rococo artist. Our conversation also explored the role of studying and copying in Party’s artistic process, what makes pastel an uncommon yet uniquely compelling medium in contemporary art, and the story behind Party’s ongoing creative dialogue with Carriera’s 18th-century work. Watch the video here:
Who is Nicolas Party?
Nicolas Party (b.1980) is a Swiss-born contemporary artist known especially for his immersive and interdisciplinary installations. While his artistic output has ranged from ceramics to graffiti, Party notably considers pastel his primary artistic medium, an unconventional choice for the 21st century. Pastel has both shaped and showcased Party’s dreamlike visual language, which is characterized by saturated colors, fluid forms, and delicate textures.
At the crossroads of his passion for pastel and fascination with art history, Nicolas Party discovered Rosalba Carriera. The Rococo artist, whose innovative work made her one of the most successful woman artists of all time, single-handedly elevated pastel from a lowbrow preparatory tool to a bonafide fine art medium in the 18th century. Carriera’s enchanting pastel portraits have not only inspired Party’s artistic evolution—one such artwork actually features in his recent installation at Frick Madison.
Nicolas Party and Rosalba Carriera
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Last year, The Frick Collection in New York City commissioned Nicolas Party to create a site-specific mural installation at Frick Madison featuring Rosalba Carriera’s Portrait of a Man in Pilgrim’s Costume (c. 1730-40). This exhibition is part of the popular Frick Diptych series, each installment of which curates a historic piece from the Frick’s permanent collection alongside a contemporary artist’s creative response to it.
Installed on three adjoining walls, Nicolas Party and Rosalba Carriera envelops museum-goers in the colorful and century-spanning charm of pastel. Carriera’s 18th-century Portrait of a Man in Pilgrim’s Costume is flanked by two 21st-century portraits by Party, which he created especially for the installation. Each pastel portrait accompanies a pastel mural by Party depicting a dynamic swath of decorative drapery. These illusionistic—yet, by nature of the medium, ephemeral—murals are site-specific and directly inspired by the Rococo-era work of Jean-Étienne Liotard and Maurice-Quentin de La Tour.
There is only a short time left to see this incredible installation. Nicolas Party and Rosalba Carriera opened to the public in 2023 and remains on view at Frick Madison until March 3, 2024.
Details from Nicolas Party and Rosalba Carriera (2023-24)