Soutine/ Bacon

Soutine/ Bacon

May 2 — June 18, 2011
Helly Nahmad Gallery
975 Madison Avenue

Soutine/ Bacon, organized by former LACMA curator Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow, at Helly Nahmad Gallery adds to the elite list of museum quality exhibitions visible in New York this spring.

Complementing Gagosian’s blockbuster Picasso and Marie-Thérèse L’Amour Fou downtown, Nahmad draws attention away from Chelsea and the realm of contemporary to something quite original within the greater discourse of Modern masters. Soutine and Bacon’s subject matter relates quite clearly from an aesthetic perspective, most notably through the prominence of wildly expressive distortions, but only now has this thoughtful analogy been examined in a gallery context. Beyond the admittedly disturbing heightened tones of bloodied remains, fragments of animals, lovers, and the self, the artists’ own temperaments suggest startling similarities that become increasingly clear as the exhibition wears on.

Chaim Soutine (1893-1943), a Belarusian painter of Jewish descent, developed a style that prioritized the role of color and texture over visually accurate representation. Soutine’s practice, somewhat difficult to situate historically, seems more modern than his Expressionist peers but preserves the tradition of figuration, never delving into pure abstraction. Paintings of animate carcasses heavily layered with thick, oily paint evoke feelings of pain and desperation at moments while others thrust the viewer into the thick of a swirling tempest or the depths of howling forests. The savagery of life reigns supreme in each of the works selected for exhibition.

Soutine’s “Brace of Pheasants” (1926) incorporates two presumably dead fowl, one plucked and bloody, the other dark and largely intact, dangling from a nonexistent strand against a murky yellow backdrop. Juxtaposed with the left panel of a Bacon Triptych from ‘81, this curatorial arrangement exposes equally dismal outlooks on love and death. Bacon’s perspective remains uncomfortably clandestine as the chicken that bears an eerie resemblance to a heart hangs constrained by a glass prism while Soutine’s birds appear despondent, especially against the nauseating backdrop. Not disgust, but rather sorrow blindsides the viewer as if neither the artist nor his subject ever really had a chance.

Bacon (1909-1992), an angsty and temperamental Brit, eschewed lifelike representation in favor of psychological projections, often isolating an individual figure or entity in its most vulnerable state. Like Soutine’s flayed animals, Bacon’s ravaged figures appear mangled or constrained to a point of physical agony and by implication, psychological disturbance. His whipped, rapid strokes conjure up a sense of speed and immediacy within the images that simulate the inside of a neurotic or deranged mind. Intimate portraits such as “Triptych: Three Studies of George Dyer “(1969) present quintessential Bacon.

In this harrowing series, Bacon outlines the profile of his lover with thin stripes of black paint and utilizes elongated dashes of white to create an almost skeletal feel. Bacon captures the shell of a man two years away from suicide, somehow deteriorating before his eyes. Dyer’s sparse, slicked back hair and angular features emphasize the same motion captured with the concurrent brush strokes. The only flaw might be that it’s too slick.

An arrangement of works hung on the second floor relate to earlier examples by Van Gogh. In “Cagnes, Landscape with Trees” (c. 1923-24), Soutine fixates on a singular tree in the middle of a quaint, dark neighborhood. The dashed, circular strokes are reminiscent of Van Gogh’s “Mulberry Tree” painted in Saint-Rémy during October of 1889 while the tonal structure of the painting bears stricter resemblance to some of Munch’s darker genre scenes. Bacon’s “Study for a Portrait by Van Gogh IV” (1957) harkens back to Millet’s original image but relates to Soutine’s disfigured portraits of downtrodden souls. This haunting interpretation contains an almost toxic palette of heightened colors surrounding an aching journeyman, crippled over traversing a suburban landscape. The figure, rendered in black, forsakes the path ahead in favor of the crosshatched, reddened earth. The atmospheres conjured in both pictures feel strained and cold. To both artists, the world remains an unforgiving and hostile place.

Despite the lack of critical attention, Nahmad’s tremendous clout within the art world and seemingly endless inventory have afforded them the opportunity to secure truly remarkable loans from both museums and important private collections. While the fully illustrated catalogue provides a thoughtful argument and demonstration of Soutine’s influence on Bacon specifically, the nature of that relationship remains somewhat indeterminable and open to conjecture. However, the exhibition succeeds in a broader scope by asserting that Soutine’s influence on subsequent generations remains too widely underrecognized. The fact that several of the most prominent artists of the 20th century, from De Kooning to Dubuffet, rose to prowess by, in part, prioritizing elements of Soutine’s practice is evidence enough.

Bacon postulated that as a student of circumstance, he learned from all sensory experience and that this awareness informed his painted works. Soutine never seemed to make such profound nor general claims, allowing his paintings to speak for themselves. While Bacon typically draws tremendous attention, and rightfully so, for once he is out done by an equally unusual and inventive artist. Even when put in conversation with some of Bacon’s premier works, Soutine rises to the occasion and the strength of his hand becomes increasingly clear. 

Kunsthaus Zurich... the Nahmad Collection and more

Note: this post was started earlier in the evening… and finished after dinner later in the evening…night.


I’m in Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich. It’s only 6:30 pm, but it seems I did a lot of stuff today, everything for my own pleasure… I’m glad I managed to wake up very early, compared to my standards, at 9 am! this taking into consideration that I fell asleep somewhere around 4 am.

For now I’ll skip the first part of the day, but later I’ll write about it a few words, cause it was also good :)

So, the second part of the day, around 3 hours and a half I spent in the Zurich Kunsthaus (Zurich Art Museum).

Starting October 15 until January 15 it is hosting the Nahmad collection!
“The more than 100 pictures that feature in this exhibition belong not to an individual but to the Nahmad family, who are second-generation, international art dealers based mainly in Monaco.”

"The Nahmad Collection is on show for a short time only, and only in the Kunsthaus Zürich. And the works by Monet, Matisse, Picasso and Miró just have to be seen." Besides the mentioned guys, there are some others, like Leger, Gris, Kandinsky, Chirico, Ernst, Magritte…

For a bit more information - the exhibition page. 

Cool article: Zurich’s Kunsthaus was bound to rock the art establishment when it invited the notorious Nahmad dealers to exhibit. The museum’s director stands by his decision.

You are not allowed to take pictures of the exhibition (as usual)… thus I took just a few, until I was told that I’m not allowed… then I took some pictures of the permanent collection (again, with the plates).


Some time ahead I planned to visit the exhibition mid December, because October and November were pretty busy for me, free time activities - wise… and then end December until mid January I won’t be in Zurich. Yesterday evening I decided that today should be perfect.

Since it is Saturday, the museum was pretty crowded… for 15,50 francs (that is around 13 eur) a student can get in (exhibition and the rest of the museum)…

Again, more old people than young… anyway the number of young people… most of them couples, was considerably bigger than the last time I was at a modern art museum (Louisiana Museum of Modern Art).

With the entrance fee came the audio guide, a nice thing, surely it takes longer to get through the museum with an audio guide… but no doubt it is much more informative, sometimes the information was useful and interesting… other times, too “poetic”, like critics’ interpretation of the painting, school like analysis.

I listened to everything with regard to the Nahmad Collection, but skipped a lot of stuff from the permanent collection… I decided I should go there some other time, when there will be another temporary exhibition… then I’ll go again through the permanent one, because it is a fairly rich one.

In fact, the permanent collection has pretty many impressionism paintings… a movement which I really like.

(this Monet is from the Nahmad Collection)

Some post-impressionism… :)

There are also middle ages paintings… which I cannot stand :) but I liked this one

Some surrealism, cubism, abstractionism, Dadaism… I love 20th century art (most of the names from Nahmad Collection are also present in the permanent collection, but fewer pieces).

Today I understood that I love Miró!

and some Kandinsky

Between going through the Nahmad Collection and the permanent one… I had a cappuccino in the museum cafe/hall and read a bit more about the Nahmad “guys”… really impressive… so many economic terms in a leaflet you get in an art museum… market, investor, strategies, dealers, commercial and so on.

Drinking my cappuccino I was thinking how fascinating …art has its own kind of mafia, corruption etc. :) I would not mind working in this business :))

And while absorbing the exhibition… I understood that I have feelings (not opinions) for some pieces of art. Well, I have visited quite a few art museum before, but maybe I was not realizing that I have the feelings… or the feelings come with the age or after consuming (visually) a sufficient quantity of art :) I don’t know, but I would definitely love to have a house with some of those paintings… I am sure that looking at them every day would make me happier :))

And among these and other thoughts…there were the ones concerning the art scene in Moldova :) which is pretty much inexistent (especially compared to what I’ve seen today or in Denmark or other countries).

One thing is sure, at home I would not be able to wake up and say – I wanna go and look at some Monet or Miró – and then go and look at them in a few hours.

p.s.: I recommend people that live in Zurich and haven’t seen the exhibition to go and do so… and a tip - one can get a Zurich Card at the tourist center (train station) for 20 francs / 24 hours or 40 francs / 72 hours - go to as many museums as you can… and there are some :)

p.p.s.: I do write a lot.

Picasso à Monaco


Jusqu’au 15 Septembre, l’exposition “Picasso dans la collection Nahmad”, avec 116 tableaux et dessins de Pablo Picasso sera organisée au Grimaldi Forum de Monaco. Mise à part la collection Nahmad, le Grimaldi Forum présentera la “Picasso Côte d’Azur”, consacrée, comme son intitulé l’indique, aux années que Picasso passa sur la Côte d’Azur à partir de 1920.

"Monaco fête Picasso": des joyaux de la collection Nahmad sous le soleil

Pablo le Méditerranéen, l’homme à femmes, le père de famille, l’hédoniste, Picasso le classique, le surréaliste: toutes ces facettes de l’artiste disparu il y a 40 ans sont à découvrir au Grimaldi Forum de Monaco, dans deux expositions thématiques…

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Overtime: Dec 1 – Dec 14

More stories from the previous two weeks that ended on Dec 14 (click on bolded words for more information):
  • Time Out reviews Sean Landers (whose painting pictured above) show at Petzel.
  • RIP: Wynn Chamberlain, who died at the age of 87 due to heart failure.
  • Protesters turn Eric Garner’s "I can’t breathe" last words into performance art.
  • Two drunk students attempt to steal Emil Nolde painting from Germanischen Nationalmuseum.
  • Ed Cox accidentally knocks over and destroys antique vase at an event to discuss restoration of art and artifacts.
  • Megumi Igarashi arrested after trying to raise funds for construction of a kayak, using a 3D printer, inspired by her genitals.

  • John Re pleads guilty to one count of wire fraud after selling forged artwork purportedly by Pollock and de Kooning.
  • Andrew Shannon sentenced to five years in prison for punching a hole through a Monet painting.
  • Helly Nahmad released from prison to a halfway house after serving five months of one year sentence.
  • Leigh Morse may be headed back to prison for paying only a small fraction of her restitution so far.
  • Three men steal 70 paintings from Puerta de Alcalá gallery in Madrid.
  • James Warhola challenges The Andy Warhol Foundation’s lawsuit against Agusto Bugarin over allegedly stolen painting.
  • Carol Vogel resigns from New York Times.
  • Fulton Ryder to close after Christmas this year.
  • Larry Gagosian wins dismissal of lawsuit accusing him of tricking his friend and client Ronald Perelman.

  • Helge Achenbach goes on trial for falsifying accounts of artworks and classic cars he purchased on behalf of Albrecht family.
  • Mykki Blanco does not think that Klaus Biesenbach likes black people.
  • Angela Strassheim’s photograph of nude pregnant woman deemed “pornographic”.
  • Students from Haute École d’Art de Perpignan sell themselves on eBay as a protest the impending closure of their school.
  • Badlands Unlimited produces mock book covers in response to decision not to indict Darren Wilson.
  • Parisians reportedly rushing to buy butt plugs in the wake of Paul McCarthy tree controversy.
  • Reports state Russia gave UEFA president Michel Platini a Picasso painting in exchange for support of World Cup bid.

  • Steven Murphy, the head of Christie’s, announces his resignation from the auction house. He may have been pushed out due to lot guarantees. Christie’s president of the Americas, Doug Woodham is also leaving.

  • Mark Hudson and Adrian Searle criticize the Turner Prize and its winner, Duncan Campbell.
  • Angelo Paratico thinks that Leonardo di Vinci’s mother was a Chinese slave who was the subject in Mona Lisa.
  • Doubts cast on the authenticity of the purported Leonardo da Vinci Virgin of the Rocks painting in London.
  • High profile Japanese architects call for Zaha Hadid’s design for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic stadium to be scraped.
  • Rome authorities declare Italian man can keep £28mil. Gauguin painting previously stolen more than 40 years ago.
  • The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the growth of the art scene in Los Angeles.
  • Maurizio Cattelan frolicks around LA with Ali Subotnik, visiting artists and galleries and cemeteries.
  • Los Angeles Unified School District school board approves $2.5mil. in spending on arts education.
  • Los Angeles Philharmonic receiving a $20mil. gift from David Bohnett.
  • Canada’s National Arts Centre gets $110mil. in funds for renovation.
  • Ancient Rome had graffiti on its walls too.
  • Jerry Saltz’s choices for the best shows of 2014 include Darja Bajacic, Kara Walker, and Katherine Bernhardt.
  • Roberta Smith’s top art shows of 2014 include Robert Gobert, Jeff Koons, and Darren Bader.
  • Jonathan Jones’s top 10 art shows of 2014.
  • Holland Cotter’s list of notable art events of 2014.
  • 7-year legal battle sees return of seized Botticelli painting taken during Salander-O’Reilly bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Edwin Moses has a portrait of him by Basquiat that no one has ever seen.
  • One of the Elgin Marbles leaves London for the first time and are on loan to State Hermitage Museum. Greece is outraged to hear of the loan.
  • Yoko Ono to receive major solo exhibition at MoMA in 2015.
  • The Missouri History Museum and the Regional Art Commission are working to preserve art from Ferguson protests.
  • Saint Louis Art Museum receives $5 million gift from Barbara and Andy Taylor to fund new sculpture garden.

  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has reopened after a three-year renovation.
  • Paul Simonon exhibits new series of paintings in Wot No Bike show at London’s ICA.
  • Institute of Contemporary Art names Eva Respini its new chief curator.
  • Smithsonian exhibits 3-D portraits of President Obama created by Smithsonian and USC’s Institute for Creative Technology.
  • Arts Council England details 27 gifts offered by private owners to British public collections.
  • New York’s richest artists list topped by Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, and Chuck Close.
  • Drawing by EH Shepard of Pooh with Piglet and Christopher Robin sells for £314,500 at Sotheby’s.
  • Sotheby’s sells Turner’s Rome, from Mount Aventine painting for $47.4mil. at auction.
  • New investment analysis of collectibles shows that classic cars are vastly outperforming the art market.
  • Peter Lik photograph reportedly sells at private for $6.5mil. Jonathan Jones provides commentary on the sale.
  • Buyers in China are increasingly looking to buy work by artists from overseas.
  • Texte Zur Kunst writes about art flipping, Art Rank, Stefan Simchowitz, and Bert Kreuk.
  • Amazon to offer flexible pricing model for its art and collectibles section.
  • Brennan & Griffin gallery expands presence to Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn.

  • Art Miami announces Art Miami New York art fair, to be held during Frieze week.
  • Marion Maneker discusses the growth and shift in the world of art collecting and compares it to the popularity of Chipotle.
  • Andrew Goldstein talks to Heather Flow about her advisory and the art market.
  • Maria Brito’s advice for new collectors looking to acquire art.
  • The New Yorker has a extensive profile of Hans Ulrich Obrist.
  • GQ profiles and interviews Van Hanos, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Sam Moyer, and more.
  • In-depth profile of the Helnwein family (Gottfried, Mercedes, Ali..).
  • Drunken Shepard wins Turnip Prize with her work Ewe Kip.
  • Mark Flood interview with Leo Fitzpatrick.
  • Camille Norment will represent Norway at the 2014 Venice Biennale.
  • Jeff Koons designs cover for Brian Grazer’s book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life.

  • Marilyn Minter discusses Plush, her book featuring female pubic hair.
  • Nate Freeman visits Dan Colen’s show at Walter de Maria’s former studio.
  • Tracey Emin’s design of Brittania statuette unveiled.
  • Profile of Ben Eine, who is collaborating with Louis Vuitton and making limited edition sculptures.
  • NYTimes writes about Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, a film about J. M. W. Turner.
  • Marina Abramovic plans to start filming Seven Deaths project next summer, playing the role of Maria Callas.
  • Texte Zur Kunst releases a limited edition print by Alex Israel.
  • Release of Visionaire 64 ART John Baldessari, Platinum Edition containing 30 works, a Platinum print, and Galaxy Note 4.
  • Grey Area’s limited edition pool toys, including ones by Jen Stark, FriendsWithYou, and more.
  • Candice Tripp releases Monkey Bone silk scarf on sale at her site.
  • Prescription Art releases new Carl Cashman limited edition screen print.
  • Swizz Beatz to start a members club, free of fees, for artists in New York.

from Arrested Motion
2014 Highlights - Part One

As the year draws to a close Pelham staff select their favourite exhibitions and art events of the past year…(in no particular order)….

Jamal Penjweny at Ikon Gallery


Jamal Penjweny’s first solo exhibition Saddam is Here comprised of photography and video, the highlight being twelve striking images of Iraqi people holding a life-size picture of Saddam Hussein’s face in front of their own. Penjweny’s work explored the persistently pervasive influence of the dictator whose “shadow is still following Iraqi society everywhere”.

Henri Matisse at Tate Modern


The historic exhibition of Matisse’s paper cut-outs from the latter end of his artistic career (when ill health prevented him from painting), featured works from around the world rarely seen together. The four Blue Nudes made in 1952 have scarcely been displayed together. An incredible array of over 120 colourful works made between 1936 and 1954 were on show.

Jean Paul Gaultier at The Barbican


The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk was the first major retrospective exhibition of the French couturier’s work. The show brought together more than 165 pieces of cutting-edge couture and ready-to-wear garments spanning Jean Paul Gaultier’s 35 year career.

Helly Nahmad Gallery booth at Frieze Masters


The immersive installation The Collector was a richly dense recreation of a lived in Parisian apartment from 1968. Works by Lucio Fontana and Alberto Burri adorned the walls, and small Giacometti sculptures were positioned between typewriters and brimming ashtrays.

George Condo at Skarstedt London


George Condo’s third solo exhibition featured his ink drawings which explored the “extreme possibilities of ink on paper”.  The New York artist – who is renowned for his paint on canvas works – revealed a new side to his oeuvre in this exhibition.