L’Art en Guerre: Reappraising the Past – FINISHED!!

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Reviewed on 10/12/2012 | No Reviews

Photo: © Fondation Paul Derlvaux, Victor Brauner et al, ADAGP, Paris, MAP

The years have been dark, but there was art: colourful, mighty and enraged. For the first time in history, a French museum dedicates a huge show to the art during World War II and the German occupation. ”L’Art en Guerre”, the arts in war, is the title of the exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

We are talking about the years between 1938 and 1947. France was in war, than under German occupation. Oppression, censorship and, much worse, arrests were à l’ordre du jour. The art scene was changing radically. And much of the work produced in those dark years reflects the discomfort and menace of that time. Picasso? One of the degenerate artists.

Max Ernst: an undesirable foreigner

Joseph Staeib: La Conquérant, 1942, Joseph Steib, photo: Klaus Stoeber

How to do art under the German boot? This is the question to which the exhibition tries to respond. The answer, given in about 400 works by over 100 artists, is highly complex, what else. From the Surrealist exhibition in Paris in 1938, that gave a premonition of the danger,  to the so called “Anartistes”, the exhibition tries to shed light on highly complex situation of artists during this time and declines the question in ten chapters. Everything is complemented by documents, propaganda material and previously unseen film.

From Picasso, who stubbornly ontinued to work in his studio Quai de Saint-Augustin, to Max Ernst who was interned as an “undesirable foreigner” in Camp des Milles, near Aix-en-Provence, who got released and arrested again, by the Gestapo this time, and then managed to escape and to flee to the United Sates: there is no classical destiny.

The pleasure of winning or losing

As Picasso, Giacometti was another one, who felt literally at war: “I certainly paint and sculpt, and it has always been so, since the first time I drew or painted to take a bite at reality to defend myself, to feed myself to get bigger; get bigger to defend myself better, to attack better, to hang on, to move forward as much as possible on all fronts in all directions, to defend myself against hunger, against the cold, against death, to be as free as possible; be as free as possible to try (…) to fight my war, for the pleasure? For the joy? Of war, for the pleasure of winning and losing.”

On the one hand you have the works exposed by Jeanne Bucher, the only art dealer in Paris who continued to show so called “degenerated artist” like Paul Klee and Max Ernst,  Juan Míro and Giorgio de Chirico – on the other you have a photo showing Adolf Hitler surrounded by Nazi officials walking down the Trocadéro, exactly there where you’ll be, once you leave the exhibition: it’s the simultaneity of the events, that becomes obvious thanks to the more historical approach of the exhibition.

A dark chapter of history

After all, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is reappraising its past with this exhibition: When the Museum opened in August 1942, some of the most important artists of the time, Kandinsky, Duchamp, Brancusi, all the works au fauvism, cubism and dadaism, of surrealism and expressionism didn’t seem to exist.  They showed purged art. “L’Art en Guerre” is not an act of compensation; it’s the honourable attempt to reappraise a dark chapter of history.

L’Art en Guerre
Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris – Until 17 February 2013 – FNINISHED!!
11, Avenue du Président Wilson
75016 Paris
01 53 67 40 00
Métro: Alma-Marceau or Iena
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10a.m. until 6p.m., on Thursday nights until 22p.m.
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L'Art en Guerre: Reappraising the Past - FINISHED!!, 3.7 out of 5 based on 3 ratings

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