Exhibition / Museum
Paul Rosenberg, marchand de tableaux spolié pendant l’Occupation
Galleries of the 20th Century22 May - 2 Sep 2019
The event is over
In the Focus room, Raphaël Denis unveils his installation Coffre n°7, acquired by the Centre Pompidou in 2019. This work, in addition to the sources of history and art which drive his work, question the very notion of ‘collection’ and look back at the hideous years of French collaboration during the war. As part of the new exhibits in the file-rooms, it is also a tribute to the art dealer Paul Rosenberg (1881-1959) and his fundamental role in the landscape of Parisian galleries in the first half of the 20th century.
11h - 21h, every days except tuesdays
Presentation of the exhibition
Raphaël Denis deploys his installation Coffre n°7 in the Focus room. It was acquired by the Centre Pompidou in 2019. This work, and the history of art sources that enabled its creation, questions the very notion of "collection" and reviews the hideous years of collaboration. Part of the new hanging in the files rooms, it is also a tribute to art dealer Paul Rosenberg (1881-1959) and his essential role in the landscape of Parisian galleries during the first half of the 20th century.
By order of the Devisenschutzkommando, the German department in charge of monitoring banks, and with the cooperation of the General Commissariat for Jewish Questions, the contents of a bank safe in Libourne was meticulously inventoried between 21 April and 6 May 1941. François-Maurice Roganeau, director of the École des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, inventoried the one hundred and sixty-two artworks from the collection of art dealer Paul Rosenberg that were contained in the safe. In September, the seals were broken by the ERR (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter [Alfred] Rosenberg, the Nazi organisation in charge of plundering cultural goods belonging to Jews or Freemasons) and the one hundred and sixty-two works of art were returned to the Jeu de Paume in Paris, the centre for sorting and dispersing confiscated artworks.
It is these events and these places, this material and these players, and therefore their documentary sources, that make up the body of the installation by Raphaël Denis, Coffre n°7, a new sequence in the series La Loi normale des erreurs. By focussing on chance collections generated by history, Denis holds a mirror up to every collection: why and how did it come to be constituted? What "makes a collection": is it the intention, the initial project to bring objects together or the sum of their intrinsic singularities? The work that Denis accomplished in his installations, through and thanks to the research he conducted in the archives, questions what "makes a collection" in order to reveal its weaknesses and shortcomings.
This practice of conducting research as a foundation and preliminary to setting up an installation led Denis to establish the "Roganeau inventory" as the basis that revealed a commercial collection: the stock of works belonging to art dealer Paul Rosenberg. The contents of the safe then became the most significant feature of the dealer’s stock. In it we find works whose "collection" crystalizes the whole artistic history of the rue La Boétie gallery, which Roganeau structured as if in a manual. The works are listed by the artists’ names, from the oldest (Ingres, then Delacroix, Corot, etc. their names followed by their dates of birth and death) to the most "contemporary": Matisse, Léger, Braque and Picasso. Each work was measured, its technique indicated and its subject described briefly. Its value was estimated by Roganeau and a date was suggested.
The most impressive part of Coffre n°7 consists in the alignment of one hundred and sixty-two packages next to them, containing descriptions of each piece in the safe. Each card has been systematically complemented by a photographic reproduction of the plundered work.
In complement to Coffre n°7, the practice of making a photographic reproductions of art is the other structural element in the Focus room, reminding us of Paul Rosenberg. The Bibliothèque Kandinsky preserves a "survivor" of the confiscations of which the dealer was a victim: part of the body of four thousand five hundred glass photographic plates of all the works of art figuring in the gallery’s stock. They are gathered together here for the first time in a thick "volume” in which the history of the gallery is unfurled. Like most art dealers of his generation, Paul Rosenberg had all his works photographed.
The little-known history of these plates sheds light not only on events affecting the gallery at 21, rue La Boétie during the Occupation, but also on Paul Rosenberg’s commercial strategy for forty years of the 20th century as an art buyer (the Fayet collection), his very different relationships with "his" artists, particularly Picasso, and the different procedures used by the German and French authorities to deprive him of his possessions.
Didier Schulmann curator, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Centre Pompidou, Exhibition curator
In Code couleur n°34, may-august 2019, p. 30-31