Fine Arts

The collection gathers around 1230 artworks from the 20th century, with the abstraction of the second school of Paris, the CoBrA movement, the Narrative Figuration, the New Realism and Supports/Surfaces as favourite trends.

The collection offers a coherent ensemble, consisting essentially of post-war European paintings, making its collection of artworks from this period the largest after those of the Musée national d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Centre Pompidou.

Jean FAUTRIER, "Sarah", 1943

At the heart of the collection: abstraction

The highlight of the collection, Abstraction established itself as one of the more dynamic trends after the Second World War. It is particularly well-represented here through the artworks of artists from the Second School of Paris, such as Hans Hartung, Georges Mathieu, Gérard Schneider or Pierre Soulages, as well as artworks by Italian, German and English artists who bear witness to the vitality of the Parisian arts scene after the war. Denouncing Nazi crimes, Jean Fautrier's Sarah (1898-1964) is one of the artist's most important series (Les Otages) and can be considered one of the most emblematic artworks in the collection.

The collection also comprises a significant corpus of paintings produced by the main founders of CoBrA—Asger Jorn, Karel Appel, Constant and Corneille—as well as works by Belgian, Danish, French, Dutch and Swedish artists who subsequently joined the movement. A piece like Den forhadte by (The Hated City, 1951) by Jorn demonstrates the force of the movement and its roots in Primitivism.

Narrative figuration, painting with a political undertone

While breaking away from Abstraction, the return to the subject and the figure continued to establish painting’s value as a critical instrument that challenged representation. The works of Gilles Aillaud, Valerio Adami, Eduardo Arroyo, Erró, Alain Jacquet, Peter Klasen, Jacques Monory, Bernard Rancillac, Hervé Télémaque and Jan Voss, imminent representatives of the Narrative Figuration movement, therefore occupy a central place in the collection. Just like Pop Art, which offers a more analytical and oftentimes more controversial vision, Narrative Figuration subverts images taken from the spheres of advertising, newspapers and cartoons. Considered to be a dissenting voice, like Rancillac’s Au mur de Watts (1966), the movement’s style would last well beyond the social protest and revolt experienced by France in May 1968.

Bernard RANCILLAC, "Au mur de Watts", 1966

From New Realism to Supports/Surfaces

Advocating for a return to reality without moving towards figuration, artists from the New Realism movement such as Raymond Hains, Martial Raysse, Daniel Spoerri, and Jean Tinguely, joined by César and Niki de Saint-Phalle are also represented in the collection. They favour the use of everyday objects that mark the reality of their time, as some of Tinguely's sculptures or Spoerri's trap paintings (Ich darf nicht tanzen, 1961) highlight.

The artists from Supports/Surfaces - Vincent Bioulès, Marc Devade, Noël Dolla, Jean-Pierre Pincemin and Claude Viallat in particular - question, as for them, as much the traditional pictorial means as well as the support of the artwork. They are interested in materials and creative gestures, privileging objects of recovery, dissociating the canvas from the frame like Pierre Buraglio (Châssis, 1974) or revisiting folding like Patrick Saytour (Pliage, 1968).

Daniel SPOERRI, "Ich darf nicht tanzen", June 1961
WOLS, "Composition", circa 1948

With an emphasis on the period from 1940 to 1970, the collection has continued to grow and develop over the years. Constantly evolving, it offers a veritable panorama of artistic creation from this period, and is particularly representative of the Parisian arts scene. However, it is not limited solely to this era or location: the collection also offers the public a fascinating dialogue with work from American artists like Alexander Calder, Sam Francis and Joan Mitchell. It also demonstrates the scope of all of the different trends that developed at the heart of Abstraction and Figuration, from Wols (Composition, circa 1948) to Hartung (T1973-E12, 1973), and from Erró (Box Office, 1957) to Aillaud (Serpent, porte et mosaïque, 1972).

Yan Schubert & Bertrand Dumas
Curators Fine Arts Collection