Exhibition / Museum
Galleries of the 20th century
New tour in the modern collections22 May 2019 - 5 Apr 2020
The event is over
Galleries quickly became indispensable intermediaries between artists and the public: they acted as pioneers.
Once a year, a new sequence of exhibitions-files punctuates the visit of the Centre Pompidou collections, offering a theme-based reinterpretation of the history of 20th century art. From traverses to showcases, from showcases to rooms, these study and research spaces punctuate the visits and shed light on little-known aspects.
11h - 21h, every days except tuesdays
This new tour pays homage to several major dealers in modern and contemporary art who were active in France between 1905 and the late 1960s. Running over two years, this program is a first, setting out to review the historic role of galleries in developing "living art" and to illustrate the special relationships woven between certain galleries and the Musée National d’Art Moderne.
Art galleries first appeared in the late 19th century and quickly became indispensable intermediaries between artists and the public, particularly those that followed in the wake of Paul Durand-Ruel, a pioneer and dealer in Impressionist art. By establishing contracts with artists who thus escaped the relative anonymity of the annual salons, and by ensuring their distribution in France and abroad in the case of the more enterprising galleries, they quickly became essential instruments of artistic legitimization. They played a crucial role in the history of 20th century art in the recognition of the Fauvist and Cubist movements, the first trends in abstract art and Surrealism and, after 1945, geometric abstraction, action painting and later for new realism.
This first year, the focus will be on Ambroise Vollard, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and Jeanne Bucher, followed for the 1950s-1960s by dealers Louis Carré, Denise René and Iris Clert, as well as the À l’étoile scellée gallery, briefly directed by André Breton, and the Galerie de France directed by Myriam Prévot and Gildo Caputo. Gallery owner Daniel Cordier, who made a historic donation to the museum, is also, as his centenary approaches, the subject of a particularly detailed presentation. The Cahiers d’art gallery also features, as well as Alphonse Chave’s gallery in Vence.
Each of these displays presents selected works from the collections of the Centre Pompidou, signed by the primary artists promoted by the dealers presented. Invitation cards, photos from opening nights and catalogues from the Bibliothèque Kandinsky all testify to the intensity of their activities.
"Galleries of the 20th century" invites visitors to review the history of the Centre Pompidou’s collections in the light of its historical relations with the art market, which was going through a veritable golden age at the time.
Christian Briend, head of modern collections, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou
In Code couleur n°34, may-august 2019, p. 26-28
The Antechamber to the Museum
The new hanging of the modern collections reflects the close bonds that have linked art galleries and museums for more than a century, although relations between them have never been easy, with reciprocal distrust, mutual defamation and fierce competition common from the very beginning. We mustn't forget Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler’s declaration that "The State cannot have taste", considering that, on the contrary, the disinterest of museums was rather in indication of quality for "true", avant-garde and independent painting. On the other hand, neither must we forget the various committees for acquiring works which sought to purchase directly from the artists in their studios in order to avoid going through dealers, accused of inflating prices.
However, the market and museums had historically been extremely close: it is impossible to consider one without the other. For art dealers, the success of the artists they promoted continued to be associated, in spite of statements to the contrary, with their works entering the realm of the most important public and private collections. For curators and directors of museums, the quest for recent works deemed worthy to be hung in their museums was facilitated by the work of the galleries who sought out such works and exhibited them. In fact, acquisitions made after a gallery exhibition became more and more common in the course of the 20th century. The identification of the provenance of works of art, of increasing interest for today’s researchers and the general public, also highlighted the permeable nature of the two worlds of dealers and museums.
This new hanging most notably affords us a better understanding of the growing role played by art galleries in the history of the plastic arts in the 20th century. From the point of view of the artists, the role of art dealers became decisive, firstly in order to be recognised as creators and to increase the reputation of their works, but also to be able to aspire to acclamation from national and international artistic institutions. The documents exhibited in showcases are a concrete illustration of the range of means available to dealers to help establish the aesthetic value of works: advertising campaigns, leaflets and catalogues and the organisation of travelling exhibitions.
Galleries were exhibition spaces for works of art, meeting places between artists and amateurs and places for economic transactions and symbolic recognition. As such, they were at the heart of artistic circulation from the artist’s studio to collectors’ salons and the hanging racks of museums. Directors exercised a multi-faceted profession: impresarios for creators, organizers of cultural spaces, mediators with the public... each projecting their own personality and taste in their work in favour of living art.
Julie Verlaine, lecturer in contemporary history, université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
In Code couleur n°34, may-august 2019, p. 28-29