Opened in early 2015, the Fondation Louis Vuitton continues to stake its claim in Paris’s cultural landscape with a beautiful collection of iconic works from the first half of the 20th century. Most pieces are on loan from major institutions like the MOMA, the Tate Modern, the State Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and even Oslo’s Munch Museum. Although the show doesn’t pretend to be anything like an exhaustive account of early 20th century art (it draws on the work of some 20 artists) it does provide a neat little summary.
The exhibition is organised around a set of thematics: ‘subjective expressionism’, ‘contemplative’, ‘pop art’, ‘music’. The opening series is a set of emblematic portraits on human fragility: Giacometti’s ‘Walking Man’, Munch’s ‘Scream’, Bacon’s sombre canvases, and Hélène Schjerbeck’s self-portraits. There’s real pleasure in discovering these works up close: the corporeality of the figures they depict, the soft folds, the mouths gaping with anguish. And despite the historical nature of the show, the museum has thankfully decided against a chronological organisation. We sail through the landscapes of Monet and Nolde, the abstract canvases of Mondrian, before plunging into the vivid hues of Bonnard and Picasso, Then we take off towards the pop art of Léger, Delaunay and Picabia and, finally, enter the deconstructivist vortex of colour and sound – the kaleidoscopic works of Severini and Kandinsky, Matisse’s ‘The Dance’ and ‘The Sorrows of the King’.