All roads lead to... Paris

Story by Jack Foley

A NEW exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts is proving to be quite a draw among critics, as it captures the looks and the styles which have helped to make Paris one of the most stylish capital cities in Europe.

Paris: Capital of the Arts 1900–1968 features work by the great figures of the modern movement, such as Matisse, Léger and Duchamp, who were joined in Paris by artists from all over the world – Picasso, Miró and Dalí from Spain, Chagall and Kandinsky from Russia, Giacometti from Switzerland, Brancusi from Romania, Modigliani from Italy, Foujita from Japan, Beckmann from Germany and Calder from America – thereby creating an extraordinarily fertile environment for artistic innovation.

After the second World War, a new generation of artists including Jean Tinguely, Niki de Saint-Phalle and Ellsworth Kelly were also attracted by the spirit of innovation and experiment of the French capital.

Four geographical areas of Paris, reflecting the city’s evolving social and intellectual centres over the years, provide an evocative structure for the exhibition. These are:

Montmartre (1900–1918) – birthplace of Cubism, where Braque and Picasso participated in the greatest pictorial revolution since the Renaissance;
Montparnasse (1919–1939) – citadel of pleasure, where artists embraced chic café society, and witnessed the rise of Surrealism;
St Germain des Près (1940–1957) – centre of artistic conscience that reflected disturbing developments during the Nazi occupation, and the emergence of existentialism after the War;
And The Latin Quarter (1958–1968) – torn posters, crushed cars and shot paintings express a violent artistic response to Paris in the ‘60s, culminating in the political upheaval of May 1968 (the work of one photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, is pictured above).

This major exhibition, which will be travelling to the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, after its showing at the Royal Academy, charts the astonishing richness and diversity of the visual arts in Paris during these remarkably creative decades, and anticipate many of the concerns that have re-emerged in the art of the 21st century.

It has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, and is curated by Sarah Wilson, of the Courtauld Institute of Art, together with Norman Rosenthal, Exhibitions Secretary, and Ann Dumas, curator, of the Royal Academy of Arts.

It is also accompanied by two landmark publications. The exhibition catalogue will feature nine essays by leading international scholars – including Kathleen Brunner, Eric de Chassey, Gladys C Fabre, Simonetta Fraquelli, Nicholas Hewitt, Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius, Kenneth Silver and exhibition curator Sarah Wilson – as well as a fully illustrated timeline.

And a photographic history, Paris: Capital of the Arts 1900–1968, featuring work by some of the greatest photographers of the period including Brassaï, Cartier-Bresson and Doisneau, will also be published to accompany the exhibition. (Click here to find out more).

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, WIJ OBD. Tel: 020 7300 8000; Recorded information line: 020 7300 5760/1.
Exhibition runs from January 26, 2002 to April 19, 2002: 10.00am-6.00pm (10.00am-10.00pm on Fridays). Last admission to the galleries is 30 minutes before closing. £7 Full charge, £6 60 years-plus registered disabled (companion goes free), £5 NUS or ISIC cardholders.

Nearest Tube: Piccadilly (on the Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines) and Green Park (on the Jubilee, Piccadilly and Victoria lines). Oxford Circus and Bond Street are the nearest Tube stations on the Central Line. Both are approximately 10 minutes walk away.

Getting here by bus
There are five bus routes, lsited below, which stop on Piccadilly. The main stages of each route are listed along with a link to more detailed information on www.transportforlondon.gov.uk