Home > Art, Museums > Seattle Art Museum: Elles Pompidou

Seattle Art Museum: Elles Pompidou

October 13, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Venice Painting 82, Marthe Wéry, 1982. Oil on canvas, 58-piece installation.

A new exhibition opened at the Seattle Art Museum this week: Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris. On Tuesday evening, Gail and I attended the opening celebration.

Here is the description of the show offered by Marisa Sánchez, the museum’s associate curator for modern and contemporary art:

Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris is a landmark exhibition of more than 130 works of art made by 75 women artists from 1907 to 2007. Organized by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, home to the Musée National d’Art Moderne—the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe—this exhibition is an unforgettable visual experience that will challenge visitors’ assumptions about art of the past century. This survey of daring painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, video and installation by pioneering women artists offers a fresh perspective on a history of modern and contemporary art. With humor, disdain, sensuality and ambiguity, these women represent the major movements in modern art—from abstraction to contemporary concerns.

Artists include Sonia Delaunay, Frida Kahlo, Dora Maar, Diane Arbus, Marina Abramovic, Louise Bourgeois, Atsuko Tanaka, Cindy Sherman, Sophie Calle, Hannah Wilke, Nan Goldin and Tania Bruguera, among others.

An exhilarating exhibition that has already become a milestone in the history of exhibitions, Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris will excite the casual viewer as much as the hardboiled expert.

And here’s a link to the Centre Pompidou English-language website.

The museum has also reinstalled the permanent galleries to create a parallel show, Elles:SAM.

To expand on the Elles: Pompidou exhibition, SAM is also mounting Elles: SAM—Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists. This special exhibition of works by some 30 women artists is the first complete reconsideration of the Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries since the opening of the downtown museum in 2007. Elles: SAM at SAM Downtown will bring together exceptional loans and stunning treasures from SAM’s collection (including works never seen in the Northwest) and highlight some of the inspired, and hard-fought, achievements of 20th and 21st century women artists.

SAM is taking our celebration of women artists even further by featuring works by women at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park, and SAM Gallery as well.

The celebration followed the typical format, though with a later start time than usual, as a result of which we didn’t spend as much time seeing the art as we would have liked.

We arrived at 7:15, in time for the cocktail hour outside the museum’s auditorium. We took our seats at 7:45, the nominal program start time, but things didn’t get underway until just before 8:00. The program concluded at 8:45, by which time I was sufficiently tired that going home was an attractive option. We had to see some of the art, though, so up we went, three floors, to the temporary exhibition space and Elles: Pompidou, passing Elles: SAM along the way.

We hardly did the exhibition justice, so I won’t even try to offer any impressions just yet. We’ll go back, perhaps once for a curator-led tour and another time on our own. In the meantime, have a look at one piece, by Belgian painter Marthe Wéry, above and below.

After our brief time with the exhibition, we came down and sampled the food before heading out. Carrots and green beans, a polenta cake, and a bite of salmon on a skewer. I have to say, that polenta cake was amazing. Worth the drive downtown all by itself. I resisted taking more.

As for the program, usually there’s an introduction by the museum board chair or president, remarks by a dignitary or two, then the main feature: an overview of the exhibition by one of the curators. The format of this one was a little different, and longer.

Leading off was board chair Charlie Wright, who acknowledged donors and sponsors. He has a light touch, does it well, making it even a little entertaining. Next up was the museum’s new director, Kimerly Rorschach, making a special appearance before her official start on November 5. More thank yous. Then, François Delattre, the French ambassador to the US, in from Washington to tell us about the special relationship between our museum and the Pompidou Center, and implicitly the US and France. He made reference to the recent SAM Picasso and Gauguin exhibitions, which led into a little joke about his choosing to pronounce their names the French way — repeating his pronunciation of Gauguin and contrasting it with his imagined English pronunciation of the name. Charlie Wright returned and did him one better, offering more plausible English (mis)-pronunciations of Gauguin. They were having a good time.

Next up, Alain Seban, the president of Centre Pompidou. More thank yous. Then Alfred Pacquemant, the director of the Musée National d’Art Moderne within the center, and still more expressions of appreciation.

Finally, on came the curators: Cécile Debray, the curator of modern collections at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, and the aforementioned Marisa Sánchez of SAM. This is what we were waiting for. After introductions and expressions of gratitude, Marisa explained that she would interview Cécile, which she proceeded to do, asking about the history of the original exhibition at Centre Pompidou, the reaction of other curators to the idea, and so on.

The celebration attracted quite a crowd. Those who chose to skip the program got first crack at the exhibitions and the polenta cakes. Perhaps that should have been our strategy. But then we would have missed the Gauguin joke.

We’ll return.

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