I went with an old friend who knew César well. And when we walked into the very large exhibition space at Centre Pompidou we both had the same reaction : the sculptures looked very old fashion ! The first space with the welded irons of the 1950’s looked sad and forgotten. César who died twenty years ago, is well remembered for his compressions of cars and his expansions. But I discovered for the first time his envelopments. And wall compressions of crates!
As soon as we moved towards the large windows featuring Montmartre and the whole of Paris, the compressd copper strips, compressed cars, compressd cardboard and crates, and « la danseuse », a sculpture in welded iron, cheered me up. There, was the whimsical and humorous César. It was nice to see his thumbs in plaster and his large tits but the “enveloppages” struck me more than anything else. An old telephone, an Underwood typewriter, stuck in plexiglass. What a pretty combination of materials.
Born in Marseille in 1921, César Baldaccini became a major figure in the post war art scene as soon as 1946. The human body was a strong theme for him and he exhibited at Claude Bernard gallery “the Hand” in 1965. This is where he experimented resin for the first time for an enlarged cast of this thumb.
Next to them lies a Dauphine car 1959, compressed in 1970 and a red Renault from 1989. There is a small version of the Centaur, a tribute to Picasso, a sculpture he made for rue de Sèvres in Paris. There are also expansions he realized in public at the Tate in 1968. And many films showing him in action.
The genius of the show is to let you apprehend the whole surface in one glimpse at the entrance. The natural light from the large windows, the diversity of themes and mediums are very playful.
It is not the greatest exhibition we have seen at Pompidou in the last years but it is a “fun for old sakes” moment (until March 26).
And the great news of the week is that after Louvre Abu Dhabi in the Emirates, Centre Pompidou is going to open in Shanghai on the Bund in 2019. At last, France is exporting its culture!
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