The Louis Vuitton Foundation is home to 200 masterpieces from New York’s famous Museum of Modern Art, showing the very best of this institution, which has constantly looked to the avant-garde since its creation in 1929. A magnificent journey through the heart of 20th and 21st-century art history.
MoMa better? This is almost what the Louis Vuitton Foundation proposes in Paris, where some of the greatest masterpieces of the New York museum are concentrated during an exhibition. A feat. Because they are not always presented at the same time for conservation or loan reasons. And it’s fun! Not only because many of these paintings, photos, sculptures, videos, posters, objects or installations offer the quintessence of the work of those who have imagined them. But also because they all unfold with elegance the history of modern and contemporary art, the relationship of the United States to it, and the events that have marked this country.
Exceeding the limits
The first room sets the tone. There is here a dazzling Bather of Cézanne (1885), The bird in Brancusi’s bronze space (1928) as light as a feather, The house near Hopper’s ferrous voice (1925) from which oozes a solitude of the heaviest. Not to mention the steel balls and suspension springs (1934) from the industry, Lime Kiln Club Field Day, a 1914 film by T. Hayes Hunter and Edwin Middleton on racial issues, Walker Evans (1903-1975) prints (1903-1975) acquired in 1938. Indeed, since its opening in 1929, MoMa wanted to “go beyond the narrow limits of painting and sculpture” to open up to pluridisciplinarity and thus to the 7th art, design, graphics and photography. It is the presence of the latter medium that amazes most by its quality and quantity, as the MoMa was the first museum in the world to be interested in it and to buy extremely recent works by photographers known only to their peers, whether Edward Weston (1886-1958), Lisette Model (1901-1983) or more recently Cindy Sherman.
Even more surprising are these constructivist posters saturated with red and workers’ photos. Designed by Latvia’s Gustav Klutsis (1895-1938) in 1930 to praise the Soviet regime, they entered the MoMa collections barely seven years later.
Resolutely turned towards the avant-garde
With the exception of Edward Hopper, only European artists were allowed to be named before the Second World War. And the best, the New York museum is resolutely turned towards the avant-garde of its time at a time when no European institution would have dared spend a penny for German expressionists like Kirshner or Surrealists like Magritte.
After 1945, however, Paris lost its status as art capital to Manhattan. America triumphs as much as its artists, as shown by the second part of the exhibition from which the French are rightly absent. The genius then explodes in the paintings of abstract expressionists, Rothko and Pollock in the lead or with the masters of Pop Art. This does not prevent the country from being caught up with its demons, whether it is the Vietnam war or the racial issue that David Hammons, for example, deals within his black, red and green African-American flag.