Views from above considers how an elevated perspective, from the first aerial photographs of the mid-nineteenth century to the satellite images, has transformed artists' perception of the world.
Covering more than two thousand square metres, the exhibition gives us the power of Icarus and in some five hundred works (paintings, photographs, drawings, films, architecture models, installations, books and journals) offers a singular and spectacular view of modern and contemporary art.
There has been a considerable regain in interest in the aerial view over recent years. From the success of Yann Arthus-Bertrand's Earth From Above to the popularity of Google Earth, we are fascinated by this bird'seye view as much for the beauty of the landscapes it reveals as for the feeling of omnipotence it inspires.
The exhibition draws on this popularity to return to the origins of aerial photography and explore its impact on the work of artists and, consequently, the history of art.
When Nadar took his first aerial photographs from a hot-air balloon in the 1860s, he freed the gaze. To contemplate the world not at eye-level but from a flying machine was to destroy the perspective thinking of the Renaissance, based on the human scale. The moving, floating body is no longer the fixed point that conditions our vision of space. This new, panoramic view blurs landmarks and relief, slowly transforming the land into a flat surface whose visual reference points are no longer distinguishable one from the other.
Right up to today, artists, photographers, architects and film-makers have continued to explore the aesthetic and semantic implications of this displaced perspective. Now this fascinating journey is the subject of an unprecedented multidisciplinary exhibition.
The exhibition unfolds in eight themed sections – displacement, planimetrics, extension, detachment, domination, topography, urbanisation, supervision – that travel through the modern era, marked by two world wars. Innovative scenography takes visitors through time as well as space: little by little, the "view from above" rises from balcony level to a satellite.
Angela Lampe, Curator, National Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou
Alexandra Müller, Research and Exhibition Manager, Centre Pompidou-Metz
Associate Curator for contemporary art
Alexandre Quoi, Research and Exhibition Manager, Centre Pompidou-Metz
Associate Curator for Film
Teresa Castro, Senior Lecturer, Université Paris III
Associate Curator for Photography
Thierry Gervais, assistant professor, Ryerson University, Toronto
Associate Curator for Architecture
Aurélien Lemonier, Curator, National Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou
The exhibition, in two parts, begins in the Grande Nef of Centre Pompidou-Metz with works spanning the period 1850 to 1945. It then rises to Galerie 1 with works produced since 1945. In the "historic" sections, contemporary works are included to create a counterpoint with older works.
The first photographs taken from a hot-air balloon - by Nadar in 1858-1868 in Paris, and by James Wallace Black in 1860 in Boston - broke with the central perspective inherited from the Renaissance. No longer confined to eye-level, the panoramic view discovered a seemingly flattened world. "The earth unfolds into an enormous, unbounded carpet with neither beginning nor end," wrote Nadar. Spectacular plunging views, made popular by the burgeoning illustrated press and the early cinema, were echoed by the increasingly elevated vantage point which impressionist painters chose for their depictions of urban scenes. Fascinated by the fast-developing world of aviation, cubist artists such as Picasso, Braque, Léger and Delaunay looked for ways to match this technological revolution by fragmenting conventional three-dimensional space.
With its tens of thousands of trench photographs, taken from a vertical perspective, as well as films and military maps, the First World War provided a fascinating iconography for avant-garde artists seeking to go beyond mimetic illusion. These aerial shots, whose linear structure had neither horizon nor scale, emerged at the same time as abstract painting both in England, in the work of vorticist painter Edward Wadsworth in particular, and in Russia where Kazimir Malevich invented suprematism in 1915. Under the impetus of the Hungarian László Moholy-Nagy, among others, the celebrated Bauhaus school in Germany progressively opened up to modern technology after relocating in 1925 to the town of Dessau, home to the aircraft manufacturer Junkers.
The monumental work by Daniel Buren Écho d'échos: From Above, work in situ, 2011 is shown until the end of the exhibition Views from above.
Daniel Buren has created Écho d'échos: From Above, work in situ, 2011 for the terrace of Galery 1 as an extension of his exhibition Echos, work in situ, 2011, which was presented from May to September, 2011 in Galerie 3.
In Écho d'échos: From Above, work in situ, 2011, the mirror highlights and magnifies the architecture imagined by Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines.
On the occasion of the exhibition, an exceptional order was commissioned to Yann Arthus-Bertrand, who has shot aerial views of the city of Metz and the metropolitan area of Metz Métropole. This project is funded by the Communauté d'Agglomération de Metz Métropole.
With the participation of Air France
Supported by Gares & Connexions
In media partnership with
The exhibition Views from above is aided by the Metz support area (Zone de Soutien de Metz).
It is also supported by the National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information (Institut national de l’information géographique et forestière - IGN).
The exhibition Views from above has been realised in partnership with Établissement de communication et de production audiovisuelle de la défense (ECPAD).