On 24 June 1961, André Malraux, then Minister of Culture, inaugurated in the Havre the first museum built after the war, the first institution to harbor an innovating project, that of a museum-house of Culture. While resting on the idea of a venue dedicated to art in all its forms of representation, the institution allowed the public to discover collections made up for over a century, that were protected during the war, while offering a rich cultural life (exhibitions, films, concerts, etc.) and services such as an art library and a record library. For its fiftieth anniversary, the Musée d'art moderne André Malraux finds once again the spirit of flexibility and of permanent renewal that defined the original project. Two large retrospectives are on the program to celebrate the event and the public is invited to come back every week to discover a new exhibition-dossier (the program includes 12), to attend a show or a conference.
1961: building an imaginary museum
Valérie Belin, untitled, 2000. Moroccan marriages series. Silver print glued on aluminum, © Valérie Belin. Courtesy Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris
This exhibition evokes, through models, sculptures, prints and photographs, the genesis of two intimately linked works: the museum-house of Culture, a truly innovating architecture built between 1959 and 1961, and the large sculpture by Henri-Georges Adam, Le Signal, a symbolic monument and a technical feat that benefitted from a complete restoration. The contemporary works purchased by Reynold Arnould, the project manager for the museum, will be displayed back where they were when the museum opened: Fernand Léger, the emblematic painter of workers' lives, as well as artists from the new School of Paris such as Estève, Manessier or Lanskoy. But the museum was more than a museum. It was a house open to life, to music, to books and to contemporary events. The small lounges that gave rhythm to the space are back into place, and around the low tables visitors will be able once gain to plunge into a selection of videos on contemporary events and publications from 1961. The museum is neither out of time nor out of the world: the first man into space, the first book on Astérix, the France steamer as it left from Le Havre to New York where Bob Dylan was singing live on stage for the first time, all of that is also 1961!
The territories of desire
In the spirit of the exhibitions «Vagues» and «Nuages» -Waves and Clouds -, which placed face to face emblematic works from its collections (Courbet, Boudin) with contemporary works (photos and videos), the exhibition offers a new grid to read the permanent collections of the Musée d'Art moderne André Malraux through the eyes of contemporary photographs and a completely new way of displaying works.. The exhibition is divided into five sections of around 68 works: «Extases et martyrs» -Ecstasy and martyrs-, «Dans l'intimité du regard (être au monde)» -In the intimacy of the look (being in the world)-, «Paroxysmes» Paroxysms, «Paysages ordinaires» -Ordinary landscapes- and «Silencieuse nature» -Silent nature. It is based on the principle of an association between two works, a painting from between the XVIIth century and the beginning of the XXth century, next to a photograph that is most often contemporary, thus playing on the idea of imitation, of quotation, of digression… Consequently Jusepe Ribeira and Luca Giordano are «confronted» to Pierre Gonnord, Renoir to Elina Brotherus, Dufy to Véronique Ellena, Sébastien Stoskopff to Valérie Belin, Gustave Courbet to Balthasar Burkhard, Hubert Robert to Patrick Tosani, Boudin to Jean-Luc Mylayne or Jean-Luc Tartarin…
Degas' Blanchisseuses (The washer women) are back
Edgar Degas, study of two women's heads or Les Blanchisseuses (TheWasherwomen), also known as Washerwomen suffering from a toothache.
Oil on canvas, 16 x 21 cm, signed at the top right «Degas», Le Havre, MuMa. Inv. DA 61.98, © Didier Plowy, MCC
The return of Degas' masterpiece is an exceptional event. In 1961, it was entrusted to the museum-house of culture of the Havre, which had just opened. This deposit by the French State proved the interest the young ministry in charge of culture had in this new museum. The small painting was exhibited as soon as the museum was inaugurated, but it was stolen on 27 December 1973. After 36 years of silence, the painting reappeared in October 2010 in an auction sale organized by Sotheby's at New York. An art lover recognized the long-gone painting and notified the musée Malraux. An intense period of international cooperation then opened, that ended with the return of the painting to the French State, without any counterpart from the honest keeper, in accord with the American authorities. Les Blanchisseuses came back home to the museum. But while back in 1961 it was the only Degas that could be seen at the museum-house of culture, it now came to be added to an extraordinary fund of 46 drawings by the artist, given to the museum in 2004 when Hélène Senn-Foulds offered the collection of her grandfather Olivier Senn, an art amateur from Le Havre from the end of the XIXth century.
-- Catalogue 1961, Construire le musée imagianire (Building the imaginary art museum), published by the art publishing house Somogy. Format 28 x 25, 248 pages, 200 illustrations. 25 €
-Catalogue Les territoires du désir ou les métamorphoses du musée imaginaire (The territories of desire or the metaphors of the imaginary museum), published by the art publishing house Somogy. Format 28 x 25, 106 pages, 68 colored illustrations. 18 €