Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Being Modern: MoMA In Paris


So it was back to Fondation Louis Vuitton to see Etre moderne le MoMA à Paris, an important show which charts the development of New York's Museum of Modern Art, bringing over 200 of its artworks to Paris. The museum was founded in 1929, and has been linked with the advent and progress of not only 20th and 21st century art, but other interdisciplinary forms of artistic expression such as photography, film, design, architecture, performance and media art. The exhibition takes up all four levels of Gehry's Fondation Louis Vuitton building, and begins on the lower Pool level with some great examples of artworks by pioneers of European modernity. This level was perhaps the strongest in the whole exhibition. Below are some of the pieces that I particularly enjoyed seeing.


Constantin Brancusi - Bird In Space, (1923)

Pablo Picasso - Atelier, (1927-1928)

Paul Cezanne -The Bather, (1895)

Paul Cezanne - Still Life With Apples, (1895-98) 

Edward Hopper - House By The Railroad, (1925)

The effects of light, and atmosphere captured in this painting by Edward Hopper were superb. Pleasant memories were evoked of a retrospective of his that I caught earlier this year in Rome (here).

Paul Signac - Portrait of M. Felix Fineon, (1890)

The colour and pattern in this piece of pointillism (above), was really dazzling.

Pablo Picasso - Boy Leading A Horse, (1905-06)

Salvador Dali - The Persistence Of Memory, (1931)

Classic Dali.

Diane Arbus - Identical Twins, (1967)

Eugene Atget - Boulevard de Strasbourg, (1912)

Eugene Atget - Boulevard de Strasbourg, (1912)

Walker Evans - Farmhouse, (1931)

Man Ray - Anatomies, (1929)

Lisette Model - Coney Island, (1941)

Walker Evans - Posed Portraits, (1931)

Edward Weston - Shell, (1927)


The exhibition shows how important a pioneer MoMA was in recognising and collecting artforms other than painting, such as sculpture, and a fantastic collection of photography, some of which can be seen above. They are all wonderful exercises in both composition and tone. The exhibition also screens the early Disney animation Steamboat Willie, (featuring an initial appearance by Mickey Mouse), which was acquired for the museum's collection. Below are just a couple of important vintage posters - good examples of the art of graphic design, which have also been amassed for the museum's collection. 


Gustav Klutsis - Storming The Third Year, (1930)

Kazimir Malevich - Supreme Composition, White On White, (1918)

Max Beckmann - Abfahrt, The Departure, (1932) 

It was such a treat to be able to see firsthand this large expressionist triptych by Max Beckmann, inspired by his treatment at the hands of the Nazis.


I've seen so many Klimt paintings this year, and still cannot get enough of his beautiful work. He combines all of the elements - vision, draughtsmanship, colour, composition and brushwork, to create a contemplative, harmonious whole. Sublime.

Gustav Klimt - Die Hoffnung II, (1907-08) 

Giorgio De Chirico - Departure Of Melancholy, (1914)

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Street Scene, Berlin, (1913)

Henri Matisse - Goldfish and Palette, (1914)

Kurt Schwitters - Merz Drawing 83, (1920)

René Magritte - The False Mirror, (1928)

The lower level of the exhibition then moves on to look at works in MoMA's collection produced in America, and the emergence of abstraction after World War II. I found this section of the exhibition particularly powerful, engaging, and inspiring.

Frida Kahlo - Self-Portrait With Cropped Hair, (1940)

Georgia O'Keefe - Farmhouse Window and Door, (1929)

Barnett Newman - Onement III, (1949)

Jackson Pollock - Echo No.25, (1951)

So much energy and movement evoked by Pollock.

Willem De Kooning - Woman I, (1950-2)

I liked De Kooning's later rhythmic works, seen in London in October (here), but they were no match for the power of the feminine wiles captured in this powerful early work.

Ellsworth Kelly - Brushstrokes Cut Into 49 Squares and Arranged By Chance, (1951)

Jackson Pollock - The She-Wolf, (1943)

We then moved up to the Ground Floor of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, where the focus of the exhibition looks at the emergence of Minimalism, and Pop Art of the 1950s and 1960s. The works become more sparse and contemplative than visually engaging in the Minimalist phase. Pop as always was bright, brash, and immediately accessible in comparison.


Joseph Beuys - Felt Suit, (1970)


Bruce Nauman - Human/Need/Desire, (1983)

Roy Lichtenstein - Drowning Girl, (1963)

Andy Warhol - Double Elvis, (1963)

Andy Warhol - Campbell's Soup Cans, (1962)


Jasper Johns - Map (1951)

Romare Bearden - Patchwork Quilt, (1970)

General Idea - AIDS Wallpaper, (1989)

David Hammons - Alternative American Flag, (1990)


I loved this installation. Irresistable to both adults and children alike. It is a mountain of sweets from which the viewer is invited to help themselves, entitled - Untitled, by Felix Gonzalez Torres. I remember first seeing this at the Guggenheim in New York in 1995. The child in me came out and I helped myself to some of the sweets then, and I helped myself to some of the sweets again on this occasion years later, and they tasted exactly the same as they did all those years ago. Yum!



The room full of Cindy Sherman's photographic alter-egos was really engaging.


Rirkrit Tiravaniji - Untitled, The Days Of This Society Is Numbered/December 7, (2012)


Kerry James Marshall - Untitled (Club Scene), (2013)

This was a room on the second floor of the building filled with the work of black artists. I wondered why their work had to be given a room of its own and segregated from those of the other artists. It was a visually strong room however, Kerry James Marshall, and Mark Bradford more than held their own, and showed just why they are such strong presences in contemporary art. The piece below by Posey McArthur, was also intriguing, exploring clothing as a metaphor for the limitations and restrictions society places on certain races and genders. The glass ceiling envisioned as a basque/straightjacket.

Posey McArthur - Posey Restraint, (2014)

Mark Bradford - Let's Walk To The Middle Of The Ocean, (2015)


There are then some rooms with artworks which explore modern, digital technology used in a fine art context, before the exhibition ends on a magnificent high. You round a corner and hear the most divine music. After entering a room, you discover the source of these angelic sounds, and see 40 speakers set on stands playing Spem in Alium - the music of medieval composer Thomas Tallis. It is an artwork - The Forty Part Motet, by artist Janet Cardiff. Each speaker records, and plays, the individual constituent voice of a member of a 40 strong choir lifting up their voices to the 40 part Motet. I have experienced some wonderful art this year, but this installation was an absolutely sublime, transcendent experience, and a surprisingly fitting end to a very strong exhibition. To experience a version of another choir singing Tallis's heavenly music for yourself, click here.







Etre Moderne: Le MoMA à Paris
(Being Modern: The MoMA in Paris)
until 5th March 2018
Fondation Louis Vuitton
8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, 
75116 Paris
France