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from February 8 2014 until May 11 2014
Next spring Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is showing the work of three of the most influential artists of the twentieth century: Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), Medardo Rosso (1858-1928) and Man Ray (1890-1976). Masterpieces will be flown in from top collections all over the world, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. They include iconic sculptures never shown in the Netherlands, such as Brancusi’s ‘Princesse X’ (1915-16) and ‘Colonne sans fin’ (1918). Brancusi, Rosso and Man Ray all used photography in an innovative way in their work. A group of forty sculptures and more than sixty photographs that the artists took of their sculptures afford a unique insight into their artistic practice.
Rosso, Brancusi and Man Ray were decisive for the development of modern sculpture. Together with Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Medardo Rosso is seen as the artist who introduced the Impressionist style to sculpture. Brancusi is known as the founder of modern sculpture with his highly abstracted forms in polished bronze and marble. Man Ray, who is best known as a photographer and painter, played an important role in Dada and Surrealism. He combined everyday items to create new objects, comparable to the ‘readymades’ of Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). He also developed his own photographic technique, which he called ‘rayography’.
After 1900 technical developments made photography easier and more affordable and therefore accessible to more people. At the beginning of the twentieth century, artists increasingly sought a new language of forms in photography. Brancusi, Rosso and Man Ray employed photography not so much as a means of recording their work as a way of making clear how observers should view and interpret their works. They used experimental techniques such as overexposure, innovative camera angles and blurring the foreground or background. Brancusi, for example, photographed his works in direct sunlight so that the polished bronze flashes dramatically in the photographs. He would not allow anyone else to photograph his sculptures so that the representation of his work remained entirely in his own hands. Rosso manipulated his photographic prints by re-photographing them, cutting and writing on them. While Man Ray embraced a more versatile approach, he explored a cameraless photography technique by placing objects directly onto the phographic paper. The exhibition shows how even at the beginning of the twentieth century these three artists were preoccupied, each in his own way, with themes of representation and manipulation: themes that are considered very contemporary.
The rare confrontation of these three artists in a single exhibition reveals unexpected similarities in their experimental and groundbreaking approach. Although none of them was French, they each lived and worked in Paris for an important part of their careers. Man Ray helped Brancusi to create a darkroom in his studio, where he could develop his photographs, but did not rate Brancusi’s photographs highly, although he greatly admired his sculptures. There is a clear similarity between the pose of famous model Kiki de Montparnasse in Man Ray’s photo ‘Noire et blanche’ (1926) and Brancusi’s sculpture ‘Muse Endormie’ (1910), which was in turn influenced by a Rosso’s ‘Enfant malade’ (1893-95).
Visitors to the exhibition can experiment themselves with photography and representation. In three multimedia spaces they can use the techniques employed by Brancusi, Rosso and Man Ray.
The exhibition is accompanied by a specially developed multimedia tour, which will enrich the visitor’s experience through texts, images, audio and video. With the Boijmans Tour the museum invites visitors to upload a photo or video or leave a reaction. A richly illustrated catalogue in Dutch and English editions with contributions by international experts will be available from the museum shop and via webshop.boijmans.nl and there will be an introductory video on ARTtube.nl.
The museum is organising two thematic afternoon events, an introductory course and workshops for adults and children. A church service will offer an opportunity to reflect upon the exhibition and the museum is organising a historical lunch with recipes by the artists themselves.
The exhibition 'Brancusi, Rosso, Man Ray – Framing Sculpture' has been made possible by the Turing Foundation (Turing Toekenning 2013), the Boijmans Business Club, VSBfonds, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds (made possible by Breeman Talle Fonds), AON, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science for the indemnity grant and the Kring Van Eyck.