“Meret Oppenheim: Works in dialogue from Max Ernst to Mona Hatoum” at MASI, Lugano
Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana presents the exhibition “Works in dialogue from Max Ernst to Mona Hatoum”, dedicated to one of the most famous artists of the twentieth century, shown here alongside major exponents of the Dada and Surrealist movements as well figures of importance on the contemporary art scene. Curated by Guido Comis, curator of MASI Lugano, and Maria Giuseppina Di Monte, director of the Andersen, Manzù and Praz Museums in Rome, as well as being an expert on the work of Meret Oppenheim, the exhibition has been also made possible thanks to the collaboration with important private collections, and swiss as well international public institutions.
Meret Oppenheim (1913-1985) is one of the most renowned artists of the twentieth century and the author of works that have become veritable icons of this past century’s art. The great intrigue her work aroused and her personality are also reflected in the life and creations of her friends and fellow artists like Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, René Magritte, and many others, making her a central figure in the artistic scenario of the 1930s. With approximately one hundred works on display, the exhibition dedicated to the artist documents her entire career, from her debut in Paris in the early 1930s to her experience with non-figurative art in the 1970s and 1980s. In this exhibition Oppenheim’s works converse with those of major exponents of the Dada and Surrealist movement, as well as several established contemporary artists like Robert Gober and Mona Hatoum.
The exhibition, which is hosted by the Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana (MASI Lugano) and curated by Guido Comis and Maria Giuseppina Di Monte, takes place a stone’s throw away from Carona, a hamlet that was dear to the artist, as it was there in her family’s vacation home that she found refuge even in the most difficult times of her life.
The works exhibited reveal the close-knit relationships between Meret and the older and often already established artists of that day and age; most importantly, however, they underscore the independence of this artist, who was close to Surrealism not because she wished to emulate it, but because she saw in Breton’s movement the expression of a sensibility that was similar to her own: “It is not I who looked for the Surrealists, it is they who found me”. The exhibition thus releases Meret Oppenheim from the image of muse and model that has often unfairly obscured her work in the past.
The exhibition is organized around several theme-based sections each of which casts light on a different aspect of and moment in the artist’s creative process: from the relationship and intense exchange of ideas that, upon arriving in Paris in the 1930s, she entertained with her fellow Dadaists and Surrealists, to the abstract compositions of the 1970s.
The exhibition begins with some of the creations that were the result of the encounter between the young and irreverent Meret Oppenheim and the works of her fellow artists Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Jean Arp, Max Ernst, among others. The display continues with objects like cups, steins, shoes, and gloves that, as if animated, manifest the signs of having a life of their own, growing fur or a tail, veins and capillaries, or joined in passionate kissing. This is followed by paintings in which the artist depicts herself in the guise of fairy-tale or mythological characters: a serpent woman, bird woman, stone woman. Also emerging from the paintings is the visceral relationship that connected this artist to the earth. Offsetting these compositions are representations of the sky and the stars: premonitory visions or creations that suggest eschatological meanings. A section including portraits and self- portraits of Meret Oppenheim and of her fellow artists gives visitors the chance to see what the artists whose works are exhibited looked like, and to appreciate the tendency of the Surrealists to call into play their own faces and identities by way of disguises or interventions on the portraits themselves. Adjacent to this section is one dedicated to the fantastic faces and masks created by Meret and the other artists in her group. These include sculptures, paintings, but also masks conceived on the occasion of the famous Carnivals of Berne and Basel, objects purpose was to conceal as much as it was to reveal the hidden traits of the person wearing them.
Also on display are the works of several established contemporary artists – Robert Gober, Mona Hatoum, Birgit Jürgenssen – whose works have been inspired by or refer indirectly to the creations of the Swiss artist. Visitors will be able to appreciate the influence that Meret Oppenheim’s inventions had on the generations of artists in the second half of the twentieth century.
at MASI, Lugano
until 28 May 2017