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From Henri Matisse to Louise Bourgeois

The Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris as Guest of Kunsthalle Würth
A world capital of art at the turn of the last century, Paris exerted a great attraction on the international scene. Our exhibition devoted to the city's outstanding collection, which extends from early modernism to the present day, accordingly begins around 1900, with the artists who settled in the renowned quarter of Montmartre. These included then still unknown bohemians such as Pablo Picasso, Kees van Dongen, Georges Rouault and Marie Laurencin. In parallel, Henri Matisse, André Derain, and Maurice de Vlaminck had begun to produce paintings in such brash colors that they were denounced as Fauves, or wild beasts. Soon the visual habits of the Parisian audience were shaken again, by the Cubist compositions of Georges Braque and Picasso, who divided their subject matter into geometric parts seen from different viewpoints simultaneously. This visual revolution was continued by artists like Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, František Kupka, Jean Metzinger and Robert Delaunay, and expanded in terms of color and light. They investigated the role of art in society and celebrated the Esprit moderne, taking the Eiffel Tower as their iconic landmark.

After the First World War, the School of Paris came to the fore. It included the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani and the Russians Marc Chagall, Ossip Zadkine and Chaim Soutine. Concurrently the Surrealists around André Breton propagated the unconscious mind as a source of artistic inspiration, while Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia conducted radical institutional criticism by challenging conventions of every kind.

In 1937 the city celebrated great figures such as Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Raoul Dufy and former Fauvists and Cubists. After the dark years of the Occupation, marked by fascist persecution of modern artists, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter became the symbol of the liberated city. With Jean Fautrier and others, a new generation began to establish Un Art Autre, a radically different, existential art. The atmosphere of the period was distilled for a broad public by Bernard Buffet. Gathering around Galerie Denise René, artists like Aurélie Nemours and François Morellet remained true to geometric abstraction. Yet when the art critic Pierre Restany demanded in 1960 that the gap between art and life be closed at last, there emerged the Nouveaux Réalistes, or New Realists. These included Yves Klein, Arman, César, Daniel Spoerri, Niki de Saint Phalle, Martial Raysse, Jean Tinguely, and Jacques Villeglé. They gleaned their materials from everyday life, and their source of inspiration was advertising and mass consumption. Their influence could still be felt in the work of Daniel Buren.

Finally, in the shape of Louise Bourgeois's Spider, one of the most significant monumental sculptures of the present day travels from the Seine to our own Kocher River.

Comprising 200 loans, this most comprehensive presentation to date of the Parisian collection outside its own four walls offers a compelling journey through modern art history as seen through Parisian eyes.

The exhibition mounted in collaboration with the Museum d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue from Swiridoff Verlag.
Robert Delaunay, Tour Eiffel, 1926
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