Abstraction for kids – Tell The Children in Lyon

Even though it’s too late to visit this exhibition from 2012, I can’t help sharing this project from French art space La Salle de bains in Lyon. “Tell The Children” was a group show which gathered paintings by 19 artists from Switzerland, the US and Great Britain. It took as its starting point Andy Warhol’s “Paintings for Children”, a pop art exhibition held at Bruno Bischofberger in Zurich in 1983 (read about the exhibition in the TATE blog).

At La Salle de bains in 2012 the paintings were no longer pop but abstract. However the concept of the display remained: small or medium format paintings presented at a child height on a wallpaper. “Tell The Children” was an artwork, an installation as well as a carte blanche to artist and curator Francis Baudevin. It proposed a large panel of contemporary abstract painting highlighting various influences like graphic or industrial design, and comics.   Artists in the show were Ian Anüll, John Armleder, Lisa Beck, Claudia Comte, Stéphane Dafflon, Philippe Decrauzat, Christian Floquet, Jacob Kassay, Richard Kirwan, Emil-Michael Klein, Flora Klein, David Malek, Jean-Luc Manz, Olivier Mosset, Mai-Thu Perret, John Tremblay and Dan Walsh. “Ulmer Hocker” – Max Bill’s stool standing in the middle of the large room – proposed a scale transition by allowing adults to enjoy the privileged position that is left to children, here.

In a playful and creative interaction to the public as well as to his pictorial practise, Baudevin invited the audience to go back to a more direct perception of Abstraction. Whether it finds its origins in the reconstitution of an experienced, fantasized or idealised moment, the exhibition proposed a rare and original experience to children when regressive or “Disney effect” experiences are often proposed to adults, via objects enlargement (as often in pop sculpture, such as Claes Oldenburg’s for example).

Leaving adults at a distance, this exhibition intentionally focuses on a young audience. It presents abstract paintings at a child height so that they be comfortably viewed and enjoyed by a young audience; their guileless appreciation allowing them to see what we no longer see or often miss as adults… It is an invitation to find our first glance again and through that, perhaps, to rediscover Abstraction.


Based on the press information, all images by La salle de bains, 2012