|Tamara de Lempicka: Jeune fille en vert (1927 - 1930). Huile sur contreplaqué. 61,5 x 45,5 cm © Service de la documentation photographique du MNAM - Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI (diffusion RMN) © Tamara Art Heritage / Adagp, Paris|
The exhibition catalogue: Modernités plurielles 1905-1970. Sous la direction de Catherine Grenier. Paris: Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, 2013. 256 large format pages
Among the riches of Centre Pompidou it is easy to lose from sight the magnificent new (opened on 23 October 2013) basic exhibition from the permanent collection.
This exhibition alone is worth a visit to Paris.
Catherine Grenier: ""Modernités plurielles" is a manifesto-exhibition, offering a fresh, expanded vision of modern art. Drawing on its rich collection, the Centre Pompidou is now presenting a global history of art from 1905 to 1970 for the first time. Through a circuit of over 1,000 works representing 400 artists and 47 countries, this enriched interpretation of the history of art is a deep immersion in the remarkable diversity of artistic forms." (See the entire text in the previous post.)
There is an overwhelming sense of the unfamiliar in the familiar. Contexts are new, and crucial approaches, styles, and artistic signatures are largely represented by less familiar selections of artworks, including some 200 works which have never been displayed publicly before. Plus there is the widening of the perspective to a much more truly global perspective, including Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This is curatorship of the highest order: making us see in a new light many things we thought we knew already.
This is the "Film Age", as Arnold Hauser called it. All the artistic trends covered are also deeply film-relevant. And early on - including cubism - they were also film-inspired as the superimposition, the dissolve, and the montage principles - linear parallel montage but also disparate worlds being juxtaposed in montage - were becoming keys to the modern experience.
I like the film selections of Eugène Deslaw (La Marche des machines), Paul Strand (Manhatta), Joris Ivens (De Brug and Philips Radio), Josephine Baker (The Plantation), Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (Grosstadt-Zigeuner), and the Themersons (Calling Mr. Smith). There is also the beautiful animation revelation of Henry Valensi's unreleased ciné-painture Symphonie printanière. Bruce Nauman's movie brings us closer to our time.
A film-maker is also represented as a photographer: Abbas Kiarostami. It's a delight to notice that Modigliani is represented by a portrait of Gaston Modot, whose incredible film career started in 1909 in the lunatic Les Pouittes farce team filming for Gaumont, continuing until the 1960s, Modot having starred in films by Buñuel and Renoir in between.
There are many unusual and unique features in this exhibition. Entire rooms are dedicated to collections (Leiris collection, L'Atelier Kandinsky). Rooms dedicated to schools such as Der Blaue Reiter also display a lot of "secondary" material which in a montage like this is rich and meaningful.
Of course there are the global views such as the Brazilian anthropophagic manifesto, Afrique moderne, and Constructing an Indian city.
Most I like in this exhibition the general concept, much bigger than the sum of its parts. Of the parts I I liked especially: - the masterpieces collected on the long corridor which extends from the introduction to the kinetic display on the other end of the space (stimulatingly essential, but the selections are not the most usual ones) - the Matisse room - Der Blaue Reiter room - the Rufino Tamayo selections.
On display is also the reconstruction (1979) of Vladimir Tatlin's Maquette du Monument à la Troisième Internationale (originally created in 1919-1920), inspired by the 1960s Pontus Hultén reconstruction for Moderna Muséet in Stockholm. This reconstruction was created for Centre Pompidou's Paris-Moscou exhibition (1979-1980), the first exhibition I saw in Centre Pompidou during my first trip to Paris in October 1979. Centre Pompidou itself was not old then, and it was quite controversial, as it perhaps still is for some.
Bouleversant. An exhibition like this is a great synthesis and also a great occasion of questioning everything.
The history of modern art has been justifiedly Paris-centric, and with equally strong justification Paris is also a center of renewed global questioning.
As a Finn, aware of the great legacy of Finnish modern art, I saw none of it displayed here, but it would be provincial to complain. Certainly there are dozens of other cultures missing, as the curators of this splendid exhibition know better than anyone.
A unique feature of the exhibition is the prominence given to art journals and magazines - there may be hundreds of them on display. This exhibition is thus also a tribute and celebration of art journalism. (Finnish art journals, again missing here, have also been au courant, as I realize examining this magnificent and fascinating selection.)
|Amedeo Modigliani: Gaston Modot (1918). Huile sur toile marouflé sur bois. 92,7 x 53,6 cm. Dation Alex Maguy-Glass, 2002. © Georges Meguerditchian - Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI (diffusion RMN) © domaine public|