Paris, London, Baghdad
We have focused on time as a way of reading this exhibition, but time is almost always related to space. At any one point we could look at the relation of different geographies, but perhaps in the very early years of the Fondation, in the 1950s and 1960s, we are closest to the international stage. We see painting and sculpture bought as the latest thing in ‘modern Portuguese art’, and next to them hang paintings made in Iraq at much the same time. This reflects the founder’s and the Foundation’s business interests.
The works make it clear that the modern collection is not all Portuguese, but also that modernism can be remarkably similar, however different the cultures. In fact Iran and Iraq at this point were involved in a nascent post- war modernism which was very often related to what was happening in Paris. I find it interesting to look at the way the painters use similar strategies in the ways they depict the human being and the city as they search for a language which lies between the figurative and the abstract, the ‘traditional’ and the ‘figurative’. Obviously if we look at art from the middle east, these terms mean very idfferent things.
The early years of the Foundation were very marked by British advisors. They advised on everything from acoustics to architecture, and the modern collection has a remarkably good collection of modern British sculpture, acquired in Swinging London by a few close advisors with their eye on the ball. There was a series of shows entitled ‘The New Generation’, and the most famous turned out to be the one which featured a strong group of sculptors, from Britain but also from the former British Commonwealth. Often grouped around Anthony Caro, here we link them instead to furniture, designed in the same period, another sign of the Foundation’s modernity in the years immediately after it was created.
Penelope Curtis, curator