Bertrand Lavier, 1949



Tony Oursler, 1957



Jean-Pierre Raynaud



Serge Poliakoff 1900-1969

NEW YORK–PARIS, 1945-2005

Press release

[28 April 2005] — 25 May 2005, Espace Tajan

The purpose of our new thematic sale entitled "New York-Paris, 1945-2005" which is organized in conjunction with Tajan’s Prestige Abstract and Contemporary art sales, is to draw parallels between post war creations coming from both sides of the Atlantic and in particular the two major artistic centers of the 20th century.  

This sale presents artists’ works from New York and Paris illustrating the marriages between the Ecole de Paris and New York Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Nouveau Réalism and the art from the last two decades.


New York, 1945

Matta, Zadkine, Tanguy, Ernst, Chagall, Léger, Breton, Masson, Ozenfant, Duchamp, Lipchitz, Berman… Numerous European artists fled their countries devastated by the war and for a certain number of them, this was a second exodus.  Having first left Eastern Europe, they decided to settle in Paris where artistic life was at a high point.  However, following France’s defeat and the onslaught of Nazi occupation many artists were forced to leave their adopted country and cross the Atlantic.  French artists, painters or sculptors joined them in New York and the city becomes a symbol of their newfound liberty.  In 1945, the Museum of Modern Art presents a retrospective of Piet Mondrian while at the same time Peggy Guggenheim exposes an unknown artist, Mark Rothko, at her gallery Art of this Century.  In Paris the Salon de mai and the Salon du renouveau are created.  Artists such as Manessier, Fougeron, Singier, Nicolas de Staël, Tal Coat are exhibited. With the opening of his gallery, Denise Renée highlights the works of Ernst, Juan Gris, Modigliani, Picasso… At the same time, Serge Poliakoff benefits from his first solo exhibit at the gallery L’Esquisse and André Masson shows his "œuvres rapportées d’Amérique" at Louise Leiris.


Abstract Expressionism, the 1950s

During preparations for the "American painting Today-1950" exhibit, 18 various artists rebel.  They esteem that the works selected by the jury are not avant-garde enough and decide not participate in the masquerade. Some of their names are: Adolf Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, Hans Hofman, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and they are the leaders of the new American Expressionism painting movement which will transform New York into an artistic capital.  This autonomous and abstract art defies reality and essentially builds itself through color and forms.  During this time, in Paris, the works of Jean Fautrier are exhibited at the Galeria Drouin place Vendôme; the same place where a certain Leo Castelli works.  These figurative paintings are in fact quite similar to abstract compositions with patterns that disappear in the pure painting.  Hans Hartung, a German born artist who fought against the Nazis, presents in his home city of Paris, canvases covered with graphic and almost gestured signs.  Large marks animate the resolutely abstract and powerful canvases of barely 30 year old Pierre Soulages.  The young painter devotes himself to his passion for black creating a rhythm, a space and a light.  However, it is Jean Bazaine who proves himself as one of the masters of this new Parisian school.  Moreover, this is an artist who stated that "l’art, à toutes les époques, a toujours été non figuratif. Ce n’est pas là une nouveauté et il est étrange d’avoir à le rappeler".


Pop art and the Nouveaux Réalistes, the 1960s

From as early as the 1950s, certain young artists begin reintroducing reality into their works.  At 24 years old, Jasper Johns who just arrived in New York from his native Georgia, reproduces the American flag to fit the size of his canvas.   He turns his back on the ready-made while all the while presenting a known object taken out of its traditional context almost to the point of depriving the object of any context whatsoever: brutality, power and extreme subtlety.  The image of America capsizes.  The liberty and disregard for prejudices that he demonstrates will be echoed by other artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Jim Dine, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wesselman ou James Rosenquist…

In 1961, Robert Rauschenberg and Larry Rivers travel to Paris to meet up with Jean Tinguely and Nikki de Saint Phalle. The four artists gather at impasse Ronsin and open fire on a painting prepared by Nikki. The artist hid pockets of different colored paint throughout the plaster and ensemble of odd objects.  In 1962, the art critic Pierre Restany and the dealer Sidney Janis meet in New York at a thematic exhibit dedicated to the esthetic confrontation created by European and American artists.  Arman, Yves Klein, Raymond Hains, Martial Raysse, Mimmo Rottela, Daniel Spoerri find themselves in the midst of young Americans from the Pop Art movement.  The exhibit entitled “The New Realists” illustrates the community spirit and the possibility of an esthetic dialogue between the emerging generations on both sides of the Atlantic.   César is noticed in Paris at the Salon de mai in 1960 where he exhibited 3 compressed automobiles.  At the same time, in New York, John Chamberlain uses borrowed industrial materials such as metal cylinders.  When Alain Jacquet revisits Déjeuner sur l’herbe Roy Lichtenstein reinvents pointillism through his comic book style.


Bad painting and Figuration libre, the 1980s.

At the beginning of the 1980s, New York like Paris, witnesses the surfacing of movements that develop in reaction to minimal and conceptual art.  This marks a return to colorful and figurative painting oftentimes featuring found objects. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Neil Jenny, Kenny Scharf are the principals of this movement in New York which is evocatively entitled, Bad painting. Meanwhile in France in 1981, Ben baptizes the movement Figuration libre which encompasses such artists as Robert Combas, Hervé di Rosa, François Boisrond… In 1982, the art critic Otto Hahn organizes a large exhibit of French artists in New York: "Statements, New York 82. Leading artists from France".  The following year, Combas is shown by Leo Castelli and di Rosa at Barbara Gladstone.  In 1984, "5/5: Figuration libre, France-USA" is exhibited by the Paris Museum of Modern Art.  This ensemble orchestrates the confrontation of works by Basquiat, Blanchard, Boisrond, Combas, Crash, les frères di Rosa , Haring, Jammes, Kwang Chi and Scharf. 


The end of movements, le renouveau de la peinture. 1990-2005

The end of the 20th century is marked by a lack of movements and the development of major but singular figures.  Harald Szeeman’s idea of individual mythologies presented at the Documetna de Cassel in 1972 begins to take hold.  Examples of this principle are the works of Christian Boltanski, Bertrand Lavier, Cindy Sherman, Pierre and Gilles, Mathew Barney, Philippe Perrin, Tony Oursler, Pierre Huyghe. No longer defined by a particular movement, each artist develops a personal universe and a work that come together to create individual personalities.  In comparison, a new generation of painters is born.  This traditional medium is perpetuated through continuous reinvention with the works of Philippe Cognée, Alex Katz, ou Bernard Frize…

New York – Paris, a story in progress. Rendez-vous at l’Espace Tajan, 25 May at 8pm.


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