alex israel's exhibition at MAMO projects the bat-signal over marseille’s sky

alex israel's exhibition at MAMO projects the bat-signal over marseille’s sky

located on top of la cité radieuse — a housing residence in marseille designed by le corbusier in 1952 — MAMO (marseille modulor) is an open-air art centre that opened in 2013. the project, initiated by french designer ora ito, invites an artist to exhibit their work on both the interior and exterior spaces of the breathtaking roof every summer. for its seventh summer exhibition, MAMO arts centre, in partnership with RIMOWA, has invited los angeles-based artist alex israel to bring his iconographic artistic practice to the rooftop of the emblematic building. the show, which takes tim burton’s 1989 film batman as a starting point, is set to transform the french port city into gotham all summer.


designboom attended the opening of the exhibition and spoke with alex israel about the MAMO exhibition, his hollywood fixation and how the experience of art has shifted from in-person, to on-screen encounters.

alex israel's exhibition at MAMO projects the bat-signal over marseille’s sky



for movie and comic enthusiasts, alex israel’s exhibition at MAMO is a dream come true. the artist — who is known for using movie props in his art pieces —  has installed nothing less but gotham city police department’s bat signal. yes, we’re talking about the one that projects a large bat symbol onto the skies, used to summon batman to a scene.


‘the building, which is made out of concrete and has this hyper-urban sensibility, feels like something out of gotham city.  and then when the idea of working with batman as a subject was born out of a conversation I had with ora ito, everything suddenly seemed to fit together perfectly. we could use this symbol, the batman logo, a symbol of hope, heroism, courage, danger, america and hollywood, a symbol that carries so much meaning, and put it above this city —marseille, which has its own mythology—and watch as  meanings and lore aligned perfectly.’

alex israel's exhibition at MAMO projects the bat-signal over marseille’s sky



marseille’s gritty history, together with le corbusier’s monumental concrete architecture, resulted in the perfect backdrop, not only for the bat signal, but also for the torpedo-shaped batmobile to join the show. ‘I think there are so many different ways you can approach working within a space that has so much history, aura and power. and one of them is to employ a subject that has similarly a lot of history and power and meaning. for me, batman was the perfect counterpoint to the architecture.’


once turned on, the bat signal becomes a third chimney, accompanying those originally envisioned by le corbusier. the strong beam exudes a sculptural, immaterial quality that plays with the architecture, adding yet another layer to the show and to the building. on the other hand, the batmobile — which is placed inside the dimly lit gymnasium space, hidden among clouds of smoke — turns the space into a bat cave, adding even more sense to the whole installation.

alex israel's exhibition at MAMO projects the bat-signal over marseille’s sky



‘as an artist today I really have to think about two things when mounting an exhibition. first and foremost, what is the experience of the artwork in a physical space going to be? how do I create an experience that’s meaningful and physical, and that unfolds in real time for a visitor who comes to the space to see the show. and then I also have to think about the image of the exhibition and what that looks like, and how that translates across screens and platforms on social media. a lot of people, most people in fact won’t get to come and visit the show in person, but they still want to participate, and they still want to see the work and I think that’s great. it’s par for the course in our new world.’ 

alex israel's exhibition at MAMO projects the bat-signal over marseille’s sky
image © designboom

alex israel's exhibition at MAMO projects the bat-signal over marseille’s sky
image © designboom



project info:


what: alex israel BATMAN

where: MAMO – marseille modulor

in partnership with: RIMOWA

when: 08.06. — 31.08.2019

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
    all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


    a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

    art news

    keep up with our daily and weekly stories
    503,284 subscribers
    - see sample
    - see sample
    designboom magazine