April 16, 2008

Surrealism Lives in Paris

No, I am not making a disparaging comment about the winter-like conditions in the middle of April. Or the fact that once again this week we had a hailstorm that blanketed the trees and rooftops with little balls of ice. I am referring to Surrealist Art that is the subject of three current exhibitions here in the Movement's birthplace.

Now on view at Galerie Daniel Malingue, a very fine gallery on the posh Avenue Matignon, is "Grands Surréalistes". This is a museum quality show of large format oil paintings by the some of the most famous artists of the Surrealist genre and is a great opportunity to see master works by Paul Delvaux, Joan Miro, Yves Tanguy and Roberto Matta without paying an admission fee. What is truly remarkable about this show is that despite being in a private commercial gallery, none of the works are for sale. Mr Malingue has assembled these important works and presented them to the public as a labor of love and a true passion for the Surrealist Movement. This show runs until May 31.

On a lighter note, but also of historic and artistic importance to Surrealism, is an exhibition at the Jeu de Paume's outpost at the Hotel de Sully entitled "La Photographie timbrée". "The Stamp of Fantasy: The Visual Inventiveness of Photographic Postcards at the Start of the 20th Century" is a small but charming presentation of 500 photographic fantasy postcards dating from about 1900-1920. It is not simply a history of the postcard, rather it is a look at how the art of photography developed as both a means of disseminating information and as an art form. What does this have to do with Surrealism? These inexpensive and fanciful curiosities were adored by the Surrealists who collected them and used their imagery as inspiration. The writer Paul Eluard was fascinated with postcards and amassed thousands of examples in albums. He called them "Lilliputian hallucination of the world" and surmised that though postcards were perhaps not "art" merely the "small change of art" but they did sometimes convey the "idea of gold"! This show is both amusing and enlightening and well worth a visit.

Man Ray is the subject of a small but quite good show on view at the Pinacothèque de Paris, near the Madeleine. "Unconcerned but not Indifferent" presents part of the collection of the Man Ray Trust based in Long Island, New York, and traces Man Ray's artistic life from his birth in Brooklyn, to the artists' colony in Ridgewood, New Jersey where he met Marcel Duchamp, his move to Paris, his exile in Hollywood during World War 2, and finally his return to Paris where he died in 1976. This exhibition is not strong on original artwork - may of the pieces are reproductions or later editions - but the collection of work presented gives an concise and informative history of the man and his oeuvre.

Finally, a serendipitous Surrealist experience that I think you will enjoy! Last week while meeting with a director of Sotheby's Paris, I had the opportunity to preview a very special lot that will be offered for sale in May. Sotheby's has secured for their Books and Manuscripts auction the one and only original example of Andre Breton's "Manifeste du Surréalisme". The publication of the "Surrealist Manifesto" in 1924 effectively ended the Dada Movement and officially began what might be considered the most important art movement of the 20th Century. Contained on these 19 legal sized pages of hand-written manuscript are Breton's theories and tenets for Surrealism. It was a remarkable document to actually see and the historical significance of the work made for a very moving experience. The original manuscript has never been offered for sale and it will be interesting to see what price it fetches and if the French Government steps in to acquire it as a national cultural treasure.

Enough Surrealism - now it's time to face Realism and a new wonderful day in Paris! I'll be back soon with the next update!

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