Face-à-Face (Face to Face) proposes a new dialogue between two museum collections. It establishes connections between works by major figures of the modern avant-garde in Germany and France and those of contemporary artists from around the world. Questions of metamorphosis, the transformation of matter, optical phenomena and the perception of space are present throughout this exhibition in the East Gallery. The works shown highlight a diversity of formal experimentation, as well as the willingness of artists to challenge social and political structures.
The cultural effervescence of 1920s Europe was characterised by collective endeavours. Some artists, like Lyonel Feininger and László Moholy-Nagy, were part of the Bauhaus, a movement founded in 1919 in Weimar, Germany that aimed to combine fine arts, architecture and craft. Focused on simplifying figurative and abstract geometric patterns, their research resonates with the photographic experimentations of Albert Renger-Patzsch, who was associated with the New Objectivity and active in Germany from 1918 to 1933. Their work on the perception and fragmentation of space is also reminiscent of more recent work by Lee Bul and Alicja Kwade.
Emily Bates’ depiction of forests as spiritual spaces and Germaine Hoffmann’s dreamlike landscapes can be seen as the distant echoes of emblematic surrealist figures like Hans Bellmer and Max Ernst. While surrealism did expand beyond Europe, it began in France with the publication of André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto in 1924. Unfettered by reason, the realm of the unconscious, of dreams and of strangeness played a crucial part in this movement. The world of surrealism was often populated by hybrid organic shapes and continues to find a home in contemporary creations like those of Michel Paysant, Tobias Putrih and François Roche.
The post-war period is also particularly fruitful in Germany. In the 1950s, subjective photography, pioneered by Otto...