Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Christmas Visit to the Pompidou Center

I hope that you had a very Merry Christmas and are looking forward to ringing in the New Year!


Yesterday, Tom and I went to the Centre Pompidou to see the Multiple Modernities 1905-1970 exposition. We thought that early on Christmas Day would be a good time to go to avoid crowds and we were right! There was only a short wait to enter the museum and check coats, and we were the only people who thought to use the automatic dispenser to purchase our tickets. We were happily strolling through the exhibit within 15 minutes of entering the building.

I was especially interested in seeing this exposition because it includes a painting by Beauford Delaney. It is the only Delaney painting that the museum holds. Because it is usually kept in reserve, I wanted to be sure to see it hanging in a major exposition. I got my wish!

Beauford Delaney
(1957) Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

This work hangs in Traverse G, the corridor between Rooms 31 and 34.

I was also pleased to discover that there are many other works displayed in this exposition that are by black artists or inspired by the black experience.

Room 36 is devoted to "Modern Africa" and contains works by African artists that have been borrowed from the Musée du quai Branly and the Centre National des Arts Plastiques. Here are images of a few of them:

View of works in "Modern Africa" room from entrance
© Discover Paris!

Untitled painting by Iba N'Diaye and quotation by Leandro M'Bomio
© Discover Paris!

Village Market Scene, Nigeria
Cotton batik
© Discover Paris!

Several covers from the African literary magazine Black Orpheus are displayed in a corridor, along with three journals containing compilations of African prose and poetry.

Black Orpheus covers
© Discover Paris!

Anthology of New Black and Malagasy Poetry, New African Works, and Modern African Poetry
© Discover Paris!

Room 29 is devoted to photographs of North African and black African subjects. There is also a corridor that displays numerous photos by the celebrated African photographer Malick Sidibé.

Room 32 is devoted entirely to the work of Afro-Cuban artist Wifredo Lam.

Wifredo Lam
1950 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Then there are black images in European art, such as A L'Afrique by Paul Joostens. This painting is exhibited in the "Art Deco" section (Rooms 20 and 21).

A L'Afrique
Paul Joostens
1920 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

From an old French film, an excerpt called "Plantation" that features Josephine Baker is being shown in the same room alongside one of Alexander Calder's famous wire sculptures of Baker.

Alexander Calder sculpture Josephine Baker IV and video screen
© Discover Paris!

Opening credit for film excerpt "Plantation"
© Discover Paris!

Josephine Baker in film excerpt "Plantation"
© Discover Paris!

Most interesting for me, next to the Delaney abstract, was the "modern odalisaque" work by American artist Larry Rivers. It is clearly inspired by Manet's Olympia.

I Like Olympia in Black Face
Larry Rivers
1970 Oil on wood, plasticized canvas, plastic, and plexiglass
© Discover Paris!

There are undoubtedly other such works that I did not see during this visit - the exposition is huge and we only saw a fraction of it. It will be shown through January 2015, so there is ample time to return.


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Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting the information about the 'Plural Modernities' exhibition. It is very refreshing to see this type of dialogue about globalisation and the arts taking place in Paris. I have been researching similar themes in the context of the UK museum and gallery sector and recently came across details about a conference held at Tate Britain in 1994 that discussed these issues under the heading of 'a new internationalism' for the visual arts. The 1994 conference 'Global Visions' – organised by members of the Institute for International Visual Arts (InIVA) – actively debated the West’s wilful forgetting of the longevity, diversity and distribution of contemporary visual art throughout Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania during the 20th century. Its contributing speakers called for a more inclusive definition and periodization of contemporary visual arts to emerge than had previously been articulated via post-modernism, and also encouraged practitioners in the arts and culture sector to consider ‘new geographies of culture’ which were not confined to the institutions and art markets of Western Europe. When African (and diaspora) artists such as Nigeria's Aina Onabolu, Jamaica's Ronald Moody, South Africa's Ernest Mancoba, and African-American Beauford Delaney, etc. are popularised and celebrated by the art world to the same extent as European modernists (in print, as well as via exhibitions), then we will know that things are definitely moving in the right direction.

About Beauford Delaney said...

Thanks so much for this comment, Carol. I agree with you 100%!

While I'm thrilled that Beauford's painting is on display, I think that it could easily have been better profiled. I invite you to read the article that I just published about the painting at You'll see what I mean.

Feel free to comment on the Les Amis post as well!