What is a masterpiece? Is this notion still relevant today? Who decides what is a masterpiece? Once a masterpiece, always a masterpiece? The “Masterpieces?” exhibition examines the notion of the masterpiece, past, present and future.
The exhibition covers all the periods and areas of the Centre Pompidou’s collection: painting, sculpture, installation, graphic arts, photography, video, sound works, cinema, architecture, design, and more, since 1905. Thanks to the extraordinary richness and diversity of the Centre Pompidou’s collection, some of the greatest figures of 20th century art are on display in Metz, artists such as Braque, Léger, Matisse and Picasso.
The exhibition presents a variety of famous works, but also reveals other works, less well-known. “Masterpieces” thus creates a surprising series of images, a kind of “collage”, that no traditional permanent collection could hope to offer with the same effect. Visitors are thus invited to discover (or rediscover) major works from the Centre Pompidou’s collection , with the surprise of coming across unexpected “dialogues between works”.
Prestigious international institutions have accepted to contribute to the exhibition by loaning major works, thus enlarging the chronological scope of the Centre Pompidou’s collection. These works presented for the first time together thus allow visitors to reflect on the notions of taste, collections, museums and aesthetic judgement.
Criticitised at the start of the 20th century by the avant-garde movement who had decided to break with tradition, and then simply ignored, the masterpiece is now restored to its rightful place and given contemporary value through the eyes of artists commissioned to create specific works. These works guide visitors through the exhibition by means of quotations, diversions, reflections on the notion of acceptance, influences and filiations.
“Masterpieces?” invites you to partake in a journey in four parts:
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The first part of the exhibition, Masterpieces throughout history, proposes a chronological journey through 17 rooms relating the changing notion of the masterpiece throughout the centuries. This section examines acceptance of the notion of a masterpiece ever since it first emerged in the Middle Ages, a sort of history of “good taste” from then until the present day. It is also an opportunity to highlight certain key moments in the history of the Musée national d’art moderne and the compilation of its collection. A gigantic mirror is hung from the very high ceiling in this space, providing a reversed image of the exhibition inviting visitors to reflect on the notion of the masterpiece.
01. Masterpieces in the Middle Ages 02. Rediscovering masterpieces 03. From academic excellence to revolutionary genius 04. “About the Unknown masterpiece” 05. Modern? 07. Wild cat in a cage 08. Virtuosities 10. Apollinaire: “Watch out for painting” 11. A collector’s passion, seen through an art dealer’s eyes 12. Delaunay and the Paris International Exhibition of 1937 13 A. Inauguration of the Musée national d’art moderne 13 B. Yesterday’s masterpieces 13 C. The Primitivists of the 20th Century 14. Cross-disciplinarity in the Centre Pompidou 15. Geometrical abstractions
The second part of the exhibition, Stories behind masterpieces, is presented in Gallery 1. What is a masterpiece, if not the product of converging stories? Stories of an artist, a process of creation, a work and its fate at the hands of critics. After the work by Giuseppe Penone Respirare l’ombra, visitors have two possibilities: either a series of rooms dedicated to the avant-garde movement with its “isms” (fauvism, cubism, etc.), or another story, highlighting lesser known figures and movements of the 20th century. This space consists of a network of rooms of varying sizes, offering vast perspectives and visual play-offs.
01. Respirare l’ombra by Giuseppe Penone 02. Le Magasin by Ben 03. Precious Liquids by Louise Bourgeois 04. Dream Passage with Four Corridors by Bruce Nauman Screening rooms
The exhibition continues in Gallery 2 with Masterpiece dreams, a proposal of a “dream musuem” placing side by side containers – the museums –, and contents – the works. First we discover a parade of emblematic 20th century works of art in chronological order. On the other side of the wall, we then find for the first time a history of modern and contemporary art exhibition buildings built in France since 1937. Some thirty architectural achievements are shown off to their true value through a unique presentation of models, original drawings and filmed interviews.
01. The grand gallery of labels 02. Masterpiece parade 03. Museum architectures, 1937 – 2014
The “Masterpieces ?” exhibition has resulted in three publications : two catalogues and an album.