The exhibition "Man Ray, Picabia et la revue Littérature (1922 to 1924)", presented at the Centre Pompidou
from 8 July to 8 September 2014, invites visitors to discover the contribution of two major 20th century artists to a review whose last issues reflected a crucial period in the history of modern art, between the end of the Dada movement and the advent of Surrealism.
Littérature, whose first issue came out in 1919, was originally a Surrealist review of "poems and prose" edited by Louis Aragon, André Breton and Philippe Soupault.
Breton was the sole editor of the review from 1922 to 1924, and to mark this change of direction, decided to replace the cover picture originally created by Man Ray with drawings (different each time) by Picabia, to whom he gave a free hand. Picabia, who also published numerous texts in the review, adopted a new graphic style for the drawings he produced here, focusing chiefly on line and imagination.
While the nine covers of Littérature published by André Breton were well-known to art historians, nobody knew until 2008 that the original drawings still existed, or that Picabia had contributed 17 other compositions that had never been published. This exceptional collection, declared a work of major heritage interest by the Commission des Trésors Nationaux under Aurélie Filipetti, the Minister of Culture and Communication, has now joined the Centre Pompidou collections thanks to sponsorship from Sanofi. The exhibition is presenting the works to the public for the first time since their acquisition.
Meanwhile, Man Ray unveiled in Littérature images that have since become icons of photographic modernity, including Le Violon d'Ingres (The Hobby), and Elevage de Poussière (Dust Raising) in collaboration with Marcel Duchamp, together with the far less well-known Monsieur
etc., shown for the first time in Europe in this exhibition. For while photography only played a minor role with the Dadaists, it became a fully-fledged character with Surrealism.
To create a dialogue in this exhibition between not only Man Ray and Picabia but also Max Ernst and Robert Desnos, likewise contributors to the review, curators Christian Briend and Clément Cheroux have drawn on two of the Centre Pompidou's major collections, including that of Man Ray: a collection of more than 10,000 negatives, which entered the collections in 1994 through acceptance in lieu and donation.
A catalogue edited by Clément Cheroux and Christian Briend, co-curators of the exhibition, is being published for the occasion by the Editions du Centre Pompidou.