SIDEWAYS. Henri Laurens – Pablo Picasso
Museum Berggruen
Schloßstraße 1, 14059 Berlin, Germany

Picasso, Klee, and Matisse are the undoubted stars at the Museum Berggruen. The new exhibition series ‘Sideways’ directs our gaze to the lateral regions of the collection by tilting the spotlight onto those artists represented by just a single work: Raoul Dufy (with a miniature architectural ceramic work designed to hold small plants), Alexander Calder (with a delicate mobile), and Henri Laurens (with a bronze figure of a pregnant woman).

In the first half of the 20th century, all the artists in the collection added their voice to an intense and lively discussion on key artistic questions such as: What is the principal function of art, if its declared aim is no longer to imitate nature? Can a work of art instead give rise to its own reality? And if so, how should this come about?

The remarkable density of high-calibre works in the Museum Berggruen’s collection allows viewers to clearly see how the artists of the Modernist period experimented with precisely these questions. ‘Sideways’ explores modern art through the prism of a handful of individual objects. Each of the three instalments in the series features an extraordinary artwork by Dufy, Calder, and Laurens. Their works spark paired dialogues with other artists in the collection: Raoul Dufy and Henri Matisse (24 October 2014 to 22 February 2015), Alexander Calder and Paul Klee (28 February 2015 to 6 June 2015), and Henri Laurens and Pablo Picasso (13 June to 20 September 2015).

Painting and the graphic arts take centre stage at the Museum Berggruen. ‘Sideways’ now shifts the emphasis to other art forms: ceramics, kinetic sculpture, and statuettes. An accompanying programme of events explores the unique qualities of these media as seen through the striking exhibits by Dufy, Calder, and Laurens.

Part III: Henri Laurens – Pablo Picasso (13 June to 20 September 2015)

Pregnancy is a relatively rare subject in the history of sculpture. The French sculptor Henri Laurens (1885-1954) addressed it in 1932. The curve of the rounded belly rises gently from the luxuriantly compact reclining body of the small bronze figure. It is only when we take a closer look that we notice the angular, edgy passages, for example, the pointy, cone-shaped breasts projecting from the torso. Shapes such as these remind us that in the 1910s Laurens was inspired by Cubism and adopted the layered sharp-edged forms that characterise the paintings and collages by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. ‘The one problem that preoccupied us was the investigation of perception, the perception of volume and the investigation of this volume’, Laurens remembered later.

Throughout their careers Laurens and Picasso worked with a wide range of materials and techniques. A compelling selection of sculptures and reliefs, paintings, collages, woodcuts and drawings sheds light on the boundless energy of their artistic investigations and experimentation.

Image:  Henri Laurens, La petite maternité, 1932 © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015 / bpk / Nationalgalerie, SMB, Museum Berggruen / Jens Ziehe


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