Exhibition “Being Modern: MoMA in Paris”

Exhibition Poster

200 works from the Museum of Modern Art collection can be seen in France until March in the Being Modern: MoMA in Paris exhibition

The MoMA has already been a guest in Berlin twice, and now the legendary New York Museum of Modern Art is moving to Paris for the first time. For a few months, it will invite visitors to the Fondation Louis Vuitton to encounter some noteworthy names, but also some masters that have remained hidden away until now.

“No matter how well you develop concepts and models on paper, in reality everything usually happens differently than you planned,” admits Quentin Bajac, one of the curators at MoMa in the light-flooded foyer of Fondation Louis Vuitton. However, that’s not something that can be seen at the opening of the exhibition Being Modern: MoMA in Paris. Bajac and his colleagues appear to be masters of improvisation and have managed a truly mammoth task in the temporary relocation of the Museum of Modern Art to the French capital. The challenge: Of the approximately 150,000 works housed in the collection, selecting 200 to find a place in the Fondation Louis Vuitton and realizing the exhibition’s goal in the best way possible. “The idea is to tell the story of the development of different art forms and techniques, from the previous and present centuries, from the perspective of the MoMA,” explains Bajac. “We are therefore showing those works that are significant for the overall historical context of the art world, but equally significant in the advancement of the Museum of Modern Art.”

From design to film, painting to photography, the curators first selected two dozen works each from the New York institution’s six departments, which they then “puzzled together” to form a coherent overall picture over four floors.

“We tried out a lot in the first few weeks, swapping things and rearranging them. I’m really satisfied now, however, especially with how the exhibition isn’t as densely packed into the rooms of the Fondation Louis Vuitton as in New York,” said Bajac.

The exhibition was installed into the space with the utmost respect. Frank Gehry’s architecture was changed as little as possible, without bringing in additional walls or cubes. Instead, the art was adapted to the museum, which also opened up rooms for works that have not been previously exhibited.

However, experienced MoMA-goers will first encounter a few old “faces” on the Fondation’s lower level. Cézanne and Picasso join Kahlo and Hopper. Signac’s post-impressionism and René Magritte’s False Mirror wait a few steps and one gallery away. Floor after floor, visitors are brought closer to the present and MoMA’s most recent acquisitions – meaning that moving upwards in the exhibition is moving forward in time.

Of course Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein are part of this “Contemporary Art 101” course. Cindy Sherman even got a room all of her own for her Film Stills. And Félix González-Torres invites visitors for a nibble with his candy installation.

What’s especially successful is the mix of different art forms in the individual galleries of the Fondation. “I think we have arranged the rooms very diversely, because the works don’t get in each other’s way. Rather, the art forms and techniques are in dialog with each other,” explains Quentin Bajac. And indeed: Max Beckmann’s gloomy painting from the 1930s isn’t disturbed by the fact that Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse is flickering on a screen a few steps away. It’s technically revolutionary, colorful, political, loud, and classic at the Fondation Louis Vuitton right now – and while that might sound a bit confused and wild, as an overall picture it’s wonderfully coherent and gives visitors exactly what Bajac and his team wanted: a glimpse into the MoMA. But, in Paris.

The exhibition Being Modern: MoMA in Paris is on show at the Fondation Louis Vuitton from the 11th of October, 2017 until the 5th of March, 2018. Additional information can be found on the Fondation Louis Vuitton website here, as well as on Instagram (@fondationlv and @themuseumofmodernart), #FLVMoMA, and on Facebook here and here.

Contributor: Alexandra Bentz
Translation: Melissa Frost