European Heritage Days    17 September 2018

The Second School of Paris visits Madrid

For almost ten years, the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art has lent the works in its collections to international museums, thereby respecting the wishes of its founder to make his collections accessible to the largest possible public. This voluntary approach, along with the constant increase in the number of institutional exhibitions, have created the conditions that have given rise to a nomadic collection, in other words, a collection ‘without borders’. This distinctive feature is at the heart of the 25th edition of the European Heritage Days, in which the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art is participating for the first time. The initiative is also the opportunity to combine the ‘without borders’ theme of the 2018 edition of the European Heritage Days with the theme of the next exhibition at the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid. The latter deals with the vast issue of territory from the original angle of the contribution of foreign artists to the rise of the Parisian art scene from 1944 to 1968.

Proving that art has no borders, Paris has attracted artists from all around the world. If this phenomenon is unanimously recognized for the pioneering generation of Modern artists (Modigliani, Soutine, Chagall and Picasso), the magnetic attraction power of Paris continues to be underestimated in terms of the two decades following the end of the Second World War. After the conflict, many foreign artists who had reluctantly left the French capital under German Occupation returned to their Parisian studios, while others arrived in turn, attracted by the ‘City of Light’, which had preserved its reputation as a liberal city, open to artists from all horizons.

Zao Wou-Ki, « 30.11.61 », 1961, oil on canvas, 130.5 x 195.8 cm, FGA-BA-ZAO-0002
Chu Teh-Chun, « Composition n° 22 », 1959, oil on canvas, 115.8 x 72.8 cm, FGA-BA-CHU-0001

The Fondation Gandur pour l’Art contains a wealth of works that were born from the suffering of exile and the discovery of another culture. The result of this binary experience, represented by the Second School of Paris, is unsurprisingly varied and filled with contrasts. This may be seen in the diversity of the loans made by the foundation to the highly anticipated exhibition Paris pese a todo. Artistas extranjeros, 1944 – 19681. Curator, Professor Serge Guilbaud, specializing in the artistic exchanges between France and the United States, selected eight iconic works from the collection for the exhibition in Madrid.

Amongst them, Vénus blanche by Roger Bissière (1886-1964), Soirée d’octobre by Alfred Manessier (1911-1993) and Couple dans les bois by Jean Bazaine (1904-2001), all of which underline the key influence of the French presence at the heart of the Second School of Paris2. This school, open to artists from more far-flung horizons, welcomed artists from China like Zao Wou-Ki (1920-2013) and Chu Teh-Chun (1920-2014), who arrived in France in 1948 and 1955, respectively. The exhibition features one work by both artists: 30.10.61, for the former, and Composition no. 22, for the latter. They both show, each in their own way, the influence of Eastern culture on Western abstract art, which, at the time, was the dominant trend in Paris.

Geer van Velde, « Composition 1949 », 1949, oil on canvas, 100 x 81 cm, FGA-BA-VELDG-0006

Artists from the four corners of Europe rubbed shoulders on both banks of the river Seine, including atypical figures like Portuguese artist Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-1929). Her Paris, la nuit, dating from 1951, a veritable star-studded nocturnal hymn to the French capital, subtly echoes the solar composition of Dutch artist Geer van Velde (1898-1977), simply titled Composition.

Vieira da Silva, « Paris, la nuit », 1951, oil on canvas, 54 x 73 cm, FGA-BA-VIEIR-0002
Hans Hartung, « T-1947-14 », 1947, oil on canvas, 96.9 x 130 cm, FGA-BA-HARTU-0011

The last loan by the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art to the Reina Sofía, is T 1947-14, an early work by Hans Hartung (1904-1989), a painter of German origin who fought with the Allied forces against the Nazis. He was decorated with the Croix de Guerre (French military medal) and became a naturalized French citizen in 1946. More than any other painter from the Second School of Paris, Hans Hartung embodied the bond, as deep as it was fruitful, that all these foreign artists enjoyed with their country of adoption.

What can be said of this bond today? Undoubtedly, it has been weakened or rather fragmented to the benefit of an international and transversal art market. Moreover, today’s artists, unable to escape the rapid globalization of society, are more mobile than ever and even create work over the course of their numerous travels. A model of this current reality: the creation and diffusion of art via the Internet. This vector, borderless by its very essence (with the exception of certain countries controlled by totalitarian regimes), opens up new perspectives which can be explored by a new generation of artists, who identify less with a school than with a universal avant-garde.



Bertrand Dumas

Curator of the Fine Arts Collection
Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, September 2018

« Paris without Regret. Foreign Artists, 1944-1968 », 21 november 2018 - 22 april 2019
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (Sabatini wing, 1st floor)

1 Paris without Regret. Foreign Artists, 1944-1968, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, from 21 November 2018 to 22 April 2019,

2 Roger Bissière, Vénus Blanche, 1946, oil on canvas, 110.3 x 75.5 cm, FGA-BA-BISSI-0008 ;  Alfred Manessier, Soirée d’octobre, 1946, oil on canvas, 99.8 x 81.3 x 2 cm ; FGA-BA-MANES-0007, Jean Bazaine, Couple dans les bois, 1947, oil on canvas, 130.3 x 88.8 cm, FGA-BA-BAZAI-0001.

Related news