from MAGRITTE to DUCHAMP 1929: Great Works of Surrealism from the Centre Pompidou

The Gioconda is so universally known and admired, it was very tempting to use it for scandal. I tried to make that moustache truly artistic.

Marcel Duchamp

After working together to organize the 2015 exhibition “Modigliani et sesamis”, which received great critical acclaim and brought over 100,000 visitors to Palazzo BLU, the Fondazione Palazzo BLU, the Centre Georges Pompidou of Paris and MondoMostre have come together once again to present another major exhibition at the venue on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Fondazione Palazzo BLU.

From 11 October 2018 the public will be able to enjoy the exhibition “from MAGRITTE to DUCHAMP. 1929: Great Works of Surrealism from the Centre Pompidou”. For the first time in Italy, the Centre Pompidou will lend a series of masterpieces from the permanent collection of what is the most important European museum of twentieth-century art. The exhibition is supported by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, the Regional Council of Tuscany and the City Council of Pisa.

The curator of the exhibition is Didier Ottinger, Directeur adjoint du Centre national d’art et de culture Georges-Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne of Paris, one of the world’s leading experts on Magritte, Picasso and the Surrealist movement. For this event he has selected a remarkable body of masterpieces, allowing visitors to discover the marvels of Surrealism, a movement that brought profound changes to twentieth-century art.

Around 150 works, including paintings, sculptures, surrealist objects, drawings, collages, installations, author photographs and archival documents will trace the extraordinary adventure of the surrealist avantgarde, through the masterpieces produced when the movement was at its highest point, in around 1929, which as we will see was a crucial year for the group of artists who were working at the time in Paris, the hotbed of the avantgardes and the capital of contemporary developments in international art.

A catastrophic year for the world (with the stock market crash and the crisis of the Communist International, etc.), 1929 also marked a decisive turning point in the history of Surrealism.

In this year the Surrealist theoretician André Breton and the poet Louis Aragon sought to modify the theoretical foundations of the movement. This new approach was not supported by all the members and seemed to create an irremediable division within the group. Despite this internal rift, the vitality of the movement remained intact. Surrealist art seemed to go from strength to strength.

In the December issue of the review Révolution Surréaliste, André Breton published the Second Manifesto of Surrealism, which confirmed the break with the Communist Party and gave the movement a new, more “rational” direction.

The main exponents

With a selection of surrealist masterpieces by René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Giorgio De Chirico, Alberto Giacometti, Man Ray, Joan Miró, Yves Tanguy, Pablo Picasso and many others, almost all of them on loan from the Centre Pompidou, this ambitious project aims to present the works, the relationships, and the aesthetic visions of the main surrealist artists, universally considered to be among the great masters of the twentieth century.

Magritte, Dalí, Duchamp and Picasso, the undoubted protagonists of the exhibition at Palazzo BLU, are joined by many other celebrated surrealists in what is an exhaustive overview of this fertile creative period.

Anxious to be closer to the Paris surrealists, in 1927 Magritte had moved with his wife to Perreux-sur-Marne. A unique “surrealist”, also known as “le saboteur tranquille” for his ability to challenge preconceptions about reality through the representation of reality itself, Magritte deliberately avoided the world of the subconscious and eschewed automatic painting, did not believe in dreams and psychoanalysis, denigrated chance and ranked logic and intelligence higher than imagination, so it is no surprise that he supported the rational direction that André Breton wanted to impress on the “second” Surrealism.

It was also in 1929 that Salvador Dalí burst onto the Parisian scene. For many years considered by Breton to be the “spirit of Surrealism”, thanks to his celebrated method of “critical paranoia” he produced the masterpieces present in this exhibition.

The fertile creativity of the movement was also demonstrated by the appearance in the same year of the first surrealist film, Un chien andalou, written and directed by Dalí and his compatriot Luis Buñuel.

The masterpieces

The exhibition brings together a great variety of important works, most of them executed between 1927 and 1935.

Among them is the image chosen to “represent” the exhibition, Magritte’s masterpiece The Double Secret. A work of considerable dimensions (114 x 162cm), it is one of the painter’s most iconic paintings, in which he became aware of the layered nature of images, their infinite potential for decomposition. Two large faces emerge hieratically from a background of sky and sea, with metal spheres, a recurrent theme in the Belgian’s artist’s work, visible within the one on the right.

Also present in the exhibition is Magritte’s The Red Model(1935), the strange pair of feet/shoes that suggest the world of dream, as well as the sphere of the “monstrous”.

The exhibition also features an important group of works by Salvador Dalí, including Invisible Sleeping Woman Horse Lion (1930), and L’âne pourri (1928), formerly in the collection of Paul Eluard, which belongs to the series of collage-paintings that explore the macabre theme of putrefaction on which the artist reflected together with his friend, the poet Federico García Lorca.

These works are joined by the collages of Max Ernst, the sculptures of Alberto Giacometti and Man Ray, the wire masks of Alexander Calder, as well as other great paintings by PicassoMiró, and De Chirico, among others.

1929 also saw the growing importance of surrealist photography, demonstrated by the close relations with great photographers such as Brassaï, Lotar, Boiffard, Man Ray, Jean Painlevé, and Claude Cahun, whose masterpieces will also be present in the rooms of Palazzo BLU.

A fitting conclusion to the exhibition, in “surreal antithesis” to Magritte’s enigmatic vision, is Marcel Duchamp’s work L.H.O.O.Q (1930), a defacement of the most famous painting in the world, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, onto which Duchamp drew a moustache and beard. Together with all the other masterpieces present in the exhibition, this exceptional loan will allow visitors to admire surrealist works from the world’s most important collection and to discover the enigmatic, provocative and rather “vulgar” meaning of the pun L.H.O.O.Q chosen by Duchamp, the brilliant inventor of the ready-made, as the title of his famous, iconic “Mona Lisa with a Moustache.”

The exhibition catalogue is published by Skira.

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