press release - Grand Palais
From the City to the Stars
Matisse, Miró, Calder...
22 may - 27 september 2015
Centre de la Vieille Charité
An exhibition organised by the Réunion des musées
nationaux-Grand Palais in coproduction with the Musées
In the 20th century, the explosion of science and its influence on industry, technology, architecture and
transportation inspired many artists and broadened their imaginary horizons. In a futuristic or escapist
perspective, art explored a visionary aesthetic, imagining what the future might be like or what the present
might have been.
From the first representations of the new industrial cities to fascination with space conquest, the exhibition
records the interest artists took in innovations in architecture, robotics and space imagery. From a three-point
launch pad symbolised by three great books or films, it shoots from the utopian city of Metropolis, through
the robotic fighting machines of The War of the Worlds to escape into the cosmos in Space Odyssey. These
three themes form the three sections of the exhibition.
The new cities grappling with industrial and technological revolutions are the theatre for futuristic scenes
(Giacomo Balla, Speeding Car). Artists and architects turn them into teeming metropolises, with soaring
skyscrapers or invent functional, open-ended, fictional structures, freed from spatial constraints (Fernand
Léger, Scaffolding; Kazimir Malevich, Gota).
Alongside this growing enthusiasm, relayed by the publication of manifestoes, there was criticism of unchecked
urbanisation of the metropolises, whose future imagined by Fritz Lang predicted the disenchantment of the
interwar period. Labyrinthine cities (Paul Citroën, Metropolis) or anthropomorphic representations of industrial
machinery (Carl Grossberg, The Machine Room) denounce the alienating power of modern cities. A feeling
of disturbing strangeness spreads through the works of American precisionist artists (Charles Demuth, After
All...) and into imaginary cities in which fiction makes sense of reality (Cédric Delsaux, Dark Vador. Dubai).
Industrial mechanisation had repercussions on research in robotics, reducing man to a machine (Victor
Brauner, Prestige of the Air; Konrad Klapheck, Male World); it was also explored by science-fiction writers
and filmmakers. The craze for these fantastic stories, against a background of planetary conflict, developed in
the 1950s and became a metaphor for the Cold War, which has powerfully influenced artists up to the present
day. (Yves Klein, Pneumatic Rocket; Erró, Science-Fiction Scape).
Erró, Programme spatial (detail), 1979, 96 x 101 cm, oil on canvas, Mac, Marseille © Mac, Marseille © Adagp, Paris 2015
Space exploration is as much a matter of astronautics as imagination (Enrico Prampolini, Diver of
the Clouds). These films restored confidence in technological progress in the 1960s and opened up
new perspectives. Pop and narrative figuration artists exulted in the extraordinary media coverage
of the new frontier. (Martial Raysse, Portrait of Gordon Cooper; Bernard Rancillac, The Fiancée of
Although astronomy has always inspired artists in their quest for visual invention, research into light
and the development of spatial imagery became favourite topics in the 20th and 21st centuries. The
cosmic canvases of Orphism and the light installations of the Bauhaus were vectors for scientific
or dreamy visual inventions bordering on abstraction (František Kupka, Blue and Green; László
Moholy-Nagy, Light-Space Modulator). The Surrealist artists found new sources of inspiration (Max
Ernst, The World of the Naïve; Oscar Dominguez, Cosmic Landscape). Their works venture into
imaginary territories where the microcosm merges with the cosmos, and constellations become
poems (Joan Miró, Dance of Figures and Birds in a Blue Sky, Sparks; Alexandre Calder, Mobile).
Experiments with space proper to modern art are the milestones along an artistic path which leads
to minimalism (Josef Albers, Silent Hall), the contemporary deviations of NASA photographs (Alain
Jacquet, Jumping Rope) and fairy-tale installations opening the way to a visual passage (Bruno
Peinado, Silence is Sexy).
Through some hundred works, paintings, sculptures, photographs and installations, the exhibition
traces the great art movements of the 20th century, exploring mutual links and influences between
art and science, literature and film, reality and fiction.
Curators: Christine Poullain, chief curator, director of the Musées de Marseille
Guillaume Theulière, curator, assistant to the director of the Musées de Marseille
scenography : Agence Saluces
access: Centre de la Vieille Charité,
2, rue de la Charité, 13002 Marseille
Subway line 2, stop: Joliette
Tramway Sadi-Carnot – République/Dames
Bus 35, 49, 55
Editions de la Réunion des musées
nationaux-Grand Palais, 2015
- exhibition catalogue, 22 x 28 cm, 208
pages, € 35
press contact :
Réunion des musées nationaux
- Grand Palais
254-256 rue de Bercy
75 577 Paris cedex 12
open : every day from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm,
closed on Mondays
Florence Le Moing
01 40 13 47 62
prices : € 10, concession : € 8
audioguides: french, english, spanish: € 5
01 40 13 47 61
informations and booking:
Cette exposition est reconnue d’intérêt national par
le ministère de la Culture et de la Communication/
Direction générale des patrimoines/Service des
musées de France. Elle bénéficie à ce titre d’un soutien
financier exceptionnel de l’Etat.