CULTURE

Georges Bracques exhibition

This year’s annual exhibition by the Museum of Modern Art of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation on the island of Andros will consist of works by the great French Cubist artist Georges Bracques (1882-1963). This exhibition is a highly ambitious project since it will present for the first time in Greece some of Bracques’s most important works, which various collections will provide, as a tribute to the 40 years since the artist’s death. The exhibition, which opens on June 29 and will run to September 28, indicates the continuation of the Goulandris Foundation’s tactic so far to approach major personalities of Western art from the point of view both of education and research. After last summer’s exhibition with works by Joan Miro, as well as recent exhibitions on the work of Toulouse-Lautrec and Henry Moore, the Goulandris Museum of Modern Art is about to pay tribute to a major personality who left his mark on the most important art movements of the first half of the 20th century. Cubism Bracques holds a leading role in the history of art, both in terms of his personality and that of his work. One could describe him as a «complete» artist, in the sense that he painted but wrote as well, thus producing his well-known «Books,» and instead of restricting himself to a certain field of art, he was involved with engraving, ceramics, sculpture, collages, plaster and tapestries. He had firm beliefs about how art should function (regarding aesthetics, philosophy, sociology and politics): He saw art through a psychoanalytical lens and stressed its links to the passage of time, not just from a visual point of view but also in thinking terms. Bracques co-founded with Picasso the Cubist movement of 1911 to 1914. Keeping their distance from history, contrary to the way that the Romantics felt about it, and rejecting the impressionist approach to society, they channeled art toward introspection and direct questioning. With a method similar to that of psychoanalysts, they probed into all kinds of things that may have seemed inexplicable on the surface. Hence, Bracques can be seen as a pioneer of the 20th century, which is in fact what he gradually developed into. He represented the type of artist who had a desire to be able to both explain and comprehend the world around him. His world was individual and education weighed heavily in it. He was indifferent toward the linear perception of history and had numerous eccentric obsessions instead, which had a significant influence on the sense of aesthetic of many pioneers of the early 1900s. His obsessions included preclassical art, ancient Eastern civilizations, Oceania and the Pacific Ocean as well as the Etruscan civilization. He opted for motifs that were rich in symbolism, like birds, musical instruments and still lifes. He was greatly interested in the contrast between vision and touch, because he believed that art was meant to be «felt,» so as to stir one up. A big exhibition-tribute to Bracques’s work was recently held in Madrid at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. It was a great event of international standing and was indicative of the sensation that the spirit of Bracques’s art still causes, despite the passage of time. The fact that Andros will be the next location to host Bracques’s work will, once more, bring attention to the small island in the Aegean Sea to the surprise of the international art community. Andros has managed to come across as an island where civilization holds a major standing, combining its love for modern art with its tender and obvious connection to pre-Cycladic antiquity. What is noteworthy is that the Bracques exhibition is to be held the summer just before the Olympic Games in Athens, and at a time when Athens itself still lacks a proper exhibition center for the display of modern art of international standing. Therefore, Andros functions as a bridge between Greece in the summertime and the international art world. One should not disparage the fact that quite frequently in international art agendas, the only Greek presence noted is that of the small island of Andros. The great sensation that Bracques’s work was to cause after the Second World War could already be sensed in the 1920s. This sensation is expected to be recorded in the official catalogue of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation which, in the past few years, has embarked upon the very welcome institution of monographs. The Goulandris Foundation hardback editions, which include original texts and are always elaborately printed, are gradually forming a significant archive of the history of art, whose educational strength, needless to say, goes far beyond the chronological limits of the exhibition itself. Equally significant is their role of filling in the blanks of Greek bibliography, which is sadly rather lacking in the field of art. A selection of Bracques’s works from different periods of his life will be on view at the Andros exhibition, indicative of the approach of an artist who remained as much French (influenced by the atmosphere of northern Havre, where he grew up) as well as European. His European dimension, both in terms of theme as well as movement, is uniquely apparent in his decoration of the Louvre Museum Hall of Etruscan Antiquities, a hall that acquired symbolical meaning for the entire civilized world in 1953.