Zeng Fanzhi's work mingles the history of China with his own personal history. His first French retrospective features forty paintings and sculptures in reverse order, from 2013 to 1990. "The Dream of Forms" features 150 works by the abstract painter Serge Poliakoff, from the period 1946-1969.
18 October 2013 – 16 February 2014
curated by François Michaud with Marine Guyé
The Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is pleased to be presenting the first French retrospective of Chinese painter Zeng Fanzhi from 18 October 2013 to 16 February 2014. Highly respected by private collectors and museums, Zeng Fanzhi has been deploying since the 1990s a distinctive language marked by his kinship with both Asian art and the many Western influences he has been subjected to. Confronted with this all-embracing style, the viewer is reminded of Chinese landscape painting at the same time as he thinks of Warhol, Bacon, Balthus and Pollock.
Nonetheless, Zeng Fanzhi's oeuvre can hardly be reduced to an assimilation of traditional and modernist paragons. In his use of many different styles and themes, the artist combines a rigorous spirit of painterly and intellectual investigation with great technical control. Looking at these canvases, the spectator is left facing something infinite, as if pulled into the artist's inner world.
Zeng Fanzhi's work mingles the history of China with his own personal history. His memories of a youth spent living near the hospital in Wuhan have left their mark on the early series of pictures, with their depictions of surgical operations, waiting rooms, meat and unclothed bodies. Other works from the 2000s call up China's past: in Tian’An Men (2004), for example, we recognise Mao. And while the pictures making up the various Mask Series still betray the influence of Pop Art, the recent portraits and landscapes tend towards a darker abstraction. Hatched with brambles and seething with animals and human bodies, his gigantic polyptychs show a restrained expressionism that references German painting, and that of Dürer in particular.
This exhibition offers visitors the chance to discover the whole of Zeng Fanzhi's career via the presentation of some forty paintings and sculptures in reverse order, from 2013 to 1990. In the wake of a number of solo shows – The National Gallery for Foreign Art, Sofia, 2010; Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, 2010; Francisco Godia Foundation, Barcelona, 2009; Musée d’Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne Métropole, France, 2007 – the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is offering an interpretation of the oeuvre shaped in close collaboration with the artist himself.
Zeng Fanzhi was born in 1964 in Wuhan, China. In the course of his training at the art school there he got to know both Chinese and Western contemporary art. Driven by these influences and keen to find a more stimulating context, in 1993 he left for Beijing, where he now lives and works.
The lavishly illustrated catalogue is published by Paris Musées. Price: 30 euros.
This exhibition enjoys the generous support of the Yuz Foundation.
The Dream of Forms
18 October 2013 – 23 February 2014
curated by Dominique Gagneux
The Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is devoting a large-scale retrospective to the abstract painter Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969): in all, some 150 works from the period 1946-1969. Since 1970 there has been no significant exhibition of the work of this major representative of the School of Paris in what became his home city. Lauded by such leading historians of abstraction as Charles Estienne, Michel Ragon and Dora Vallier, and championed by dealers Denise René and Dina Vierny, Poliakoff drew the interest of many private collectors.
The exhibition is laid out in sequences revolving around key works: from his exploratory years and the postwar period – when he was part of the abstract avant-garde, showed in various salons and caught Kandinsky's eye – until the more pared-down modernity of the late paintings (1968-1969). Like all practitioners of full abstraction, Poliakoff was concerned with the relationships between line and surface, form and content, colour and light. But the apparent formal unity of his works conceals a host of painterly solutions clearly revealed by the exhibition itinerary. Crucial here are concentration of colour, vibrancy of texture and skilful arrangement of forms that balance each other in contained, energetic tension.
This is the interpretation offered by an exhibition that demonstrates the singularity of an especially sensitive approach and the intense spirituality of a body of work rigorously focused on what Pierre Guéguen called the 'dream of forms in themselves which is the great mystery of "the abstract"'. The presentation is rounded off by a cluster of gouaches, while other projects involving fabrics, stained glass and ceramics underscore Poliakoff's fruitful relationship with the ornamental.
The exhibition is backed up by a mass of documentary material – photographs and visual and sound archives –providing an insight into the painter's life. The tumultuous beginnings of a young Russian emigrant fleeing the revolution; the postwar artistic ambience; and ultimately the years of success, during which his work attracted the attention of such figures from the worlds of politics, fashion and the cinema as Yves Saint-Laurent, Greta Garbo, Yul Brynner and Anatol Litvak; but most of all, the young art scene of the 1960s, which saw Poliakoff as one of painting's most radical modernists. The exhibition will be accompanied by a geneously illustrated catalogue, published by Paris Musées. Price : 35 euros.
Image: Zeng Fanzhi, Mask Series No.13, 1994 - 150 x 130 cm. Collection privée © Zeng Fanzhi studio
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Press preview: Thursday 17 October 11 am - 2 pm
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