In this special anniversary year for the museum building, the exhibition Painting in Space casts a new light on one of the most diverse and influential artists of modernism. Fernand Léger (1881–1955), a contemporary of Pablo Picasso and Georges braque, sought to synthesize the arts in his work.
He made films, created murals for private homes as well as public buildings such as the United Nations Headquarters in New york, and designed costumes, theater sets, and church windows. Painting in Space is the first retrospective that focuses on Fernand Léger’s murals. For Léger, an architectural draftsman by training, engaging with built spaces via painting was a major concern. He developed close ties to key figures of modern architecture around the world.
Painting in Space explores the fruits of this dialog and traces his development from the early 1920s to his death in 1955. It features fascinating and often unexpectedly experimental projects that reflect different types of collaboration.
The presentation examines Léger’s temporary and permanent painterly interventions in public and private spaces (houses, 26 apartments, churches, ships, world’s fairs, etc.) as well as unrealized projects with a selection of murals, related works, designs, sketches, and contemporary documents that con- textualize the works.
The point of departure for the exhibition is the mural Les Plongeurs (The Divers, 1942) for the home of the New York architect Wallace K. Harrison, which Peter and Irene Ludwig acquired especially for the museum building thirty years ago. The focus on murals, including works that have never before left their original location, is supplemented with paintings, sculptures, project sketches, and archival materials. Works in experimental film, graphic design, textile design (tapestries and carpets), as well as costume and theater set designs illuminate the murals in the context of the artist’s entire oeuvre.
For the first time, the exhibition brings together some 170 works as well as extensive source materials, with important loans from major European and American collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Menil Collection in Houston, the Kunstmuseum Basel, the Centre Pompidou and the Centre national des arts plastiques in Paris, the Musée National Fernand Léger in Biot, the Dansmuseet Stockholm, the Centre Canadien d’Architecture in Montreal, the Charlotte Perriand Archives, and the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris.
Curator: Katia Baudin