The only French public collection to house a sculpture by the American artist Duane Hanson, in its major exhibition 2023, the Musée d’arts de Nantes explores the profoundly human and sensitive characteristics of hyperrealistic sculpture which first appeared in the United States during the 1960s.

The birth of hyperrealistic sculpture followed several decades of an artistic scene dominated by abstraction; like painting and photography, it is part of the history of the art of the portrait. With meticulous attention to detail, its artists use various techniques involving bronze, sandstone, resin and silicon to represent, men, women and everyday objects, and create particularly striking illusions.

Almost forty works are displayed in the exhibition, some of them for the first time; they come from public and private collections, or are on loan from artists or their galleries in France and abroad. Divided into three sections, they are displayed in the Museum’s Patio:

  1. Something Real from Something Fake: extreme precision and attention to detail are central to the hyperrealistic artist’s approach. The sculptor does not create an idealistic representation of the body; the reality of its depiction is uncompromising. Non-verbal body language plays a central role. Visitors are invited to observe postures, gestures, expressions, bodies or body parts, wrinkles and skin texture.
  2. Bodies, fictions, mirrors: hyperrealistic sculpture provides visitors with a double, a mirror effect; visitors are naturally led to reflect on these works, these figures, their histories and their thoughts … everyone can self-project and invent their own stories.
  3. The paradox of the invisible: by sculpting human beings in the most realistic way possible, the artists manage to reveal the most intangible part of these individuals: their feelings, thoughts and emotions …this section considers the art form’s astonishing capacity to render the invisible visible.

A sensory experience  

Through its meticulously faithful representation of bodies, hyperrealistic sculpture offers a medium for projection, a double, a mirror, inducing unique encounters between visitors and works, between emotion and fascination, between identification and rejection, etc.

The exhibition uses a sensory approach to question the way we see works that look like us. Why, beyond our interest in their technical prowess, are we so deeply disturbed? What is the origin of these works’ power? Where do such artworks really stand? Why do such realistic depictions affect us so much?

The Hypersensitive exhibition highlights the work of artists who in some cases have rarely exhibited in France. It brings together both artists whose works are exclusively hyperrealistic and others who occasionally or partially use such techniques. But all their approaches have strong links to the human figure, and each of them brings their own perspective on what makes up our existence, our relationships and our presence in the world.
By recreating sculpture’s formal challenges and implementing extremely elaborate techniques, the artists reveal what exists, rendering visible the invisible that appeals to our emotions: sensitivity.

It’s your turn to experience it ...


General curatorship:
Sophie Lévy, Director-Curator of the Musée d’arts de Nantes.

Scientific curatorship:
Katell Jaffrès, Contemporary Art Manager at the Musée d’arts de Nantes, assisted by Salomé Van Eynde, Exhibition Assistant at the Musée d’arts de Nantes


The Museum would like to thank its patrons for their generous support, and especially RSM, the main patron of the exhibition: Hypersensitive. A perspective on hyperrealistic sculpture.

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The Museum would like to thank the French State – Ministry of Culture – Pays-de-la-Loire DRAC (Regional Directorate for Cultural Affairs) for subsidising the exhibition.

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The Museum extends its warmest thanks to its media partners whose support plays an active role in informing the public about – and encouraging it to attend – the exhibition.

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- Duane Hanson, Flea Market Lady, 1990, résine peinte à l’huile, fibre de verre, technique mixte, accessoires. Musée d’arts de Nantes , achat avec l’aide du FRAM, 2011 - Inv. 11.7.1.S © Musée d’arts de Nantes, photo : Cécile Clos © ADAGP, Paris, 2023.

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