Prière de Toucher

23 Jun — 1 Sep 2017 at Omer Tiroche Contemporary Art in London, United Kingdom

13 JUNE 2017
Prière de Toucher. Courtesy of Omer Tiroche Gallery
Prière de Toucher. Courtesy of Omer Tiroche Gallery

Omer Tiroche Gallery is pleased to announce the forthcoming exhibition Prière de Toucher - Homage to Maeght. The exhibition focuses on the renowned Surrealist show Surrealisme en 1947, which took place in Paris at the Galerie Maeght in 1947. Along with Aimé Maeght, André Breton and Marcel Duchamp formed and curated this first Post-War Surrealist exhibition.

Galerie Maeght first opened its doors in Paris in 1945 and saw instant success. Pioneering patrons of Modern Art, Aimé and Marguerite Maeght ran galleries in Europe as well as the revered Foundation Maeght in the South of France. The charismatic pair created a welcoming environment that cultivated and nurtured the artists, poets and writers who would gather around them. At the beginning of 1947 whilst visiting New York, Aimé suggested to André Breton - who had emigrated to the United States during the War - that he should ‘take stock of Surrealism’ and, together with Duchamp, they conceived the idea for the next official Surrealist exhibition; the first since the end of the War. The Surrealist movement held their first notable exhibition in 1938 at Galerie des Beaux Arts and later First Papers of Surrealism in 1942, New York.

The focus of the exhibition was to reunite Surrealism and reorient it to a Post-War reality. Breton wrote a letter to several artists inviting them to exhibit new works. In his letter he thoroughly outlined the details of the show, leaving little room for alterations. Central to his thesis of the exhibition was his notion of the ‘New Myth’. With the help of artist and architect Frederick Kiesler and 100 artists from 25 different counties who produced over 200 artworks, the gallery was turned into a complex labyrinth of orchestrated rooms designed to create a series of initiations that intended to spiritually awaken the French society after the attrocities of World War II and enable them to be overcome with a creative rebirth. The initiations came in many stages, starting with ascending the gallery’s 21 steps which had been transformed into the spines of books from classical Romantic and esoteric literature. Another, was Duchamp’s Salle de Pluie (Rain Room), where visitors would enter the room through a curtain of artificial rain; the epitome of symbolic purification and rebirth. Our exhibition is directly inspired by such atmospheres and its title, Prière de Toucher, stems from the 1947 exhibition catalogue produced on the occasion of the exhibition at Galerie Maeght. Designed by Marcel Duchamp and Enrico Donati, the cover of the catalogue displayed a 3D rubber breast, hand painted by Duchamp and placed onto black felt. On the back cover and on the carton slip casing was written the text Prière de Toucher, which translates from French to “Please Touch”; sexual in connotation but counter intuitive to most when associated with an art object. The daring cover, which invited the viewer to fondle the breast, evoked both passion and provocation.

Prière de Toucher – Homage to Maeght draws some attention to those artists who, at that time, were considered part of the Surrealist movement but today are no longer associated with one another. Examples in the exhibition include works by Jean Paul Riopelle, Alberto Giacometti, and Alexander Calder. However, Calder’s 1942 work Paysage Fantastique exhibited here, shows notable hallmarks of the movement and illustrates a typical Surrealist dreamlike state; the title evokes the styles of prominent Surrealists such as Dali and de Chirico, the composition of sprouting pyramids alludes to a sprawling mountain range with floating stars and spirals.

The stars could also be a representational commentary of the war, something the Surrealists would often incorporate in their works and can also be seen in Miro’s unstretched canvas Femmes et Oiseau dans la Nuit, 1946. Calder and Miro met in Paris in 1928 and instantly became great friends. They shared a passion for astronomy and illustrated stars in their work as a form of escapism into the cosmos, away from the horrors and tensions of the War. Despite being separated by the Atlantic and being unable to communicate throughout the duration of the War, the different depiction of the same symbols in their works highlight the pair’s close kinship.

It was at Surréalisme en 1947 that the Maeghts were introduced to Alexander Calder, Joan Miro and Alberto Giacometti. Prière de Toucher - Homage to Maeght, celebrates not only the importance and significance of that exhibition for the Surrealist movement but also for Aimé and Marguerite Maeght, who forged relationships which would last a lifetime.