An Hommage to Pierre Matisse
Mayoral presents an exhibition in celebration of Pierre Matisse, one of the most important modern art dealers in the world, illustrating how he enabled certain Spanish post-war avant-garde artists to achieve recognition throughout Europe and in the United States. The exhibition, curated by Elise Lammer, presents 6 artworks by Miró, Millares, Saura, Rivera, Canogar and Tàpies from Pierre Matisse’s collection.
In the 1930s, driven by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, several European artists, gallery owners, curators and intellectuals emigrated to other European countries and to the United States (mainly to New York), thereby paving the way for the international avant-gardes. Amongst them was Pierre Matisse, Henri Matisse’s youngest son. The gallery that bore his name, inaugurated in 1931 on the 17th floor of the Fuller Builder, at 41 East 57th Street in New York, hosted more than 310 exhibitions before his death in 1989.
Pierre Matisse and Joan Miró. An exemplary relationship that lasted 50 years
Pierre Matisse and Joan Miró met in 1930 through an old friend of the latter’s, the Parisian art dealer Pierre Loëb. At a time when the United States were the envy of the world, Miró, then aged 40 and with his career in full swing, saw the young Matisse as an opportunity to conquer a new territory, as well as an ally for channelling and promoting the new Spanish painting to American critics. Pierre Matisse exhibited Miró’s work from 1932 and organised 35 solo exhibitions from 1933 (with a catalogue prefaced by Ernest Hemingway) until Miró’s death in 1983.
“I must say how moved I am by the courage and enthusiasm with which you are organising this exhibition which, and this is no time to be modest, may have great repercussions, driven by a clairvoyant man of action such as yourself.” Letter from Joan Miró to Pierre Matisse (16th November 1936)
The exemplary relationship between Pierre Matisse and Joan Miró lasted 50 years. It enabled them both to write their own chapter in the history of art, but also to establish the international presence of the Spanish representatives of informal art in the United States. Whilst Matisse played an essential role in Miró’s institutional success, especially by means of his first major retrospective at MoMA (1941), Miró, one of the instigators of Spanish informal art in the United States, used his reputation to promote the work of the members of the El Paso group across the pond.
“Four Spanish Painters”, an exhibition by Pierre Matisse which prefigured those at MoMA and the Guggenheim.
In March 1960, on Miró’s advice, Matisse organised a reshowing of the Barcelona exhibition of the El Paso group, exhibiting the works of Millares, Canogar, Rivera and Saura. “Four Spanish Painters” attracted the attention of the New York press and kick-started the careers of several of its members in the United States, before the major collective exhibitions at MoMA (“New Spanish Painting and Sculpture”, 1960) and the Guggenheim (“Before Picasso, after Miró”, 1960), which established the international reputation of the group.
As a politically engaged art dealer – he was arrested by the Spanish police in the middle of the war for having crossed the border with money intended to pay for a painting by Miró –, he played a considerable role in promoting the new Spanish painting, which expressed the post-war trauma and anxiety caused by Franco’s dictatorship, amongst the American public.
Pierre Matisse was also very close to his artists, as demonstrated by his abundant correspondence with those he represented. Extracts of these letters accompany the documentation selected for the exhibition.
“Personally, I think that there is only one way to be an art dealer, and that is to stay friends with your painters.” – Pierre Matisse
Elise Lammer (born in Lausanne, lives and works in Basel) was trained as a fine artist in Barcelona and holds an MFA in Curating from Goldsmiths College, London.
She is the host and curator of #ArtTaaalkssss the Thursday evening lecture series at Institut Kunst in Basel where she is also a Lecturer. As the curator of La Becque, an artists residency located on the shore of Lake Geneva, she has been developing a garden and performance programme in homage to Derek Jarman at La Becque | Artist Residency in La Tour-de-Peilz since 2018. She is the director of Alpina Huus, since 2015, a research platform exploring performance and domesticity, which is currently in residence at Arsenic, Contemporary Performing Arts Centre in Lausanne.
As an artist, curator and writer, Elise Lammer has participated in exhibitions in institutions and galleries internationally, including mumok, Vienna; Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris; Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow; Istituto Svizzero di Roma, Rome; MAMCO, Geneva; The Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin; The Goethe Institut, Beijing, Hong Kong; and MCBA, Lausanne; among others. She is a regular contributor to Mousse Magazine.