Airport, please! the LRFA blog revisits the Fondation Maeght in Saint Paul de Vence, France
One of the great joys of being an art dealer and advisor is the opportunity to revisit a familiar place that had an important impact on your perception of 20th Century art. About fifteen years ago, the LRFA blog visited the Fondation Maeght for the first time and discovered this superb collection of 20th century icons of European art. It set the bar for all the artworks that subsequently have appeared at auction, in galleries and on the secondary market, so it was particularly moving to revisit the collection and reevaluate its holdings with eyes that are fifteen years older and more jaded.
Some of the biggest names in 20th-century European sculpture, including Georges Braque, Joan Miró and Alberto Giacometti, came together to help create La Fondation Maeght, which has become France’s most important art foundation and is among the world’s leading cultural institutions. La Fondation was established by Aimé and Marguerite Maeght, a visionary couple who were publishers and art dealers, and who represented and were friends with some of the most important artists of the era, including Braque, Miró and Giacometti, as well as Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger, Marc Chagall, and many others.
La Fondation Maeght was opened on July 26, 1964, by Charles de Gaulle’s legendary Culture Minister André Malraux, a close friend of the Maeghts. It was France’s very first private art institution and was modelled on American institutions such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the Barnes Collection and the Phillips Collection, which Aime and Marguerite Maeght had visited during their frequent trips to the US in the 1950s.
La Fondation Maeght is home to one of the largest collections of modern art in Europe, featuring paintings, sculptures, drawings and graphic works by renowned 20th-century figures including Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Diego Giacometti, Wassily Kandinsky, Barbara Hepworth, Fernand Léger, Joan Miró, Pierre Tal Coat, Germaine Richier, and Raul Ubac. The collection also contains work by post-war and contemporary artists including Anna-Eva Bergman, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Eduardo Chillida, Christo, Marco Del Re, Gérard Garouste, Jörg Immendorff, Ellsworth Kelly, Wifredo Lam, Joan Mitchell, Takis and Antoni Tàpies.
On its opening in 1964, La Fondation Maeght prefigured the modern concept of a cultural centre by organising exhibitions, dance events, concerts and works of theatre. This continued range of programming runs alongside an annual roster of temporary exhibitions, providing a panorama of modern and contemporary art.
Aimé Maeght acquired a rich collection of books and reviews throughout his life. As a former lithographer, he also produced remarkable artist’s books in collaboration with artists Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder and Jacques Prévert, to name a few. All of these are stored in the library at La Fondation Maeght. Open to researchers and members of la Société des Amis, the library is a testiment to the collective of artists who helped create it.
The library was founded in 1972 as a reference centre for students, researchers, art historians and curators containing books and journals specialising in modern and contemporary art. With more than 35,000 items, it includes not only Marguerite and Aimé’s personal collection, but also poet Pierre Reverdy’s original literary works, several acquisitions by la Société des Amis, and many exchanges with galleries and museums from all around the world.
ARCHITECTURE BY JOSEP LLUIS SERT
Architect Josep Lluís Sert designed a vast and impressive studio for his friend and fellow Catalan, the surrealist artist Joan Miró, in Palma de Mallorca in the 1950s. It was this sculpture-like architecture that led Aimé Maeght, Miró’s gallerist and editor since 1947, to entrust his major project to Sert: the creation of the first private foundation dedicated to the visual arts in Europe.
La Fondation Maeght is not a museum. It was born from the desire for a place in which Aimé and Marguerite Maeght could present modern and contemporary art in all its forms; and where their artist friends could visit to create and exchange ideas as much as to exhibit work. Sert created La Fondation hand in hand with the Maeghts, Miró and a number of artists, who gave life to some of its main features: the sculpture garden entrance; the Giacometti Court; buildings wrapped around patios; a bell tower for the chapel and a home studio.
CURRENT EXHIBITION: Fondation Gandur July 2 – November 2022
Home to a collection of more than 13,000 works, Fondation Maeght is always keen and honoured to showcase other collections, some of which are rarely accessible to the public, as it has consistently done in the past. This summer, from 2 July to 20 November, it is unveiling some 120 works from the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art (Geneva) and offering a riveting immersion into abstraction from the 1950s to the 1980s.
In the wake of Second World War, as many European artists exiled in the United States headed back to France, Paris regained its status as a hotbed of creativity and a global cultural capital. Driven by a thirst for freedom and a craving to rethink painting in the post-war years, artists from all over the world returned to their studios, abandoned during the German occupation, and engaged in an era of creative effervescence, be it in the arts, literature or filmmaking. While the breakthroughs by the vanguards of the first half of the 20th century were an invaluable post-war stimulus, abstract art renewed itself from the most gestural expression to the interrogation of materials, mediums and techniques.
The Fondation Gandur pour l’Art’s outstanding collection displayed at Fondation Maeght reveals the variety of forms embraced by abstraction during these creative years. Works by Hans Hartung, Martin Barré, Simon Hantaï or Pierre Soulages trace the evolution of non-figurative art over four decades. In a thematic and chronological layout, the exhibition invites the viewer to discover lyrical and gestural abstraction by Georges Mathieu, abstract expressionism by Sam Francis and Joan Mitchell, geometric abstraction by Victor Vasarely, kinetic works by Alexander Calder and Jean Tinguely, through to the rethinking of painting by the Supports/Surfaces group. The 1980s ushered in an era of revitalized abstract art, building on the hectic experimentation of earlier years.