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Cy Twombly kindles the Centre Pompidou

18 janvier 2017

At the time of opening the celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Centre Pompidou exhibits a novel retrospective devoted to the American artist Cy Twombly, whose lush work continues to make one dream and vibrate.

A rare and exceptional retrospective

In 2011, died at the age of 83, the one that Eric Mezil, director of the Lambert collection in Avignon, considered as "one of the last giants of American art". Since November 30 and until April 24, 2017, there have been no fewer than 140 artworks, mostly paintings but also sculptures, photographs and drawings by Cy Twombly, which set on fire the Centre Pompidou in Paris. First complete retrospective in Europe, devoted to the work of Twombly, this unprecedented exhibition brings together exceptional loans. From public and private collections around the world, the artworks are orchestrated exceptionally by the Danish-Norwegian conservator of the Centre Pompidou Jonas Storsve, with the help of the artist's collaborator for forty-eight years, Nicola Del Roscio. 

Divided into three main cycles, Nine Discourses on Commodus (1963), Fifty Days at Iliam (1978) and Coronation of Sesostris (2000), the artworks benefit from a clear and powerful chronological hanging. The journey in the Pompidou opens the visitor's eyes on the progress of Cy Twombly's work, from his first monochrome trials, almost sad, to the grandiose artworks of the end of his life which are an explosion of energy and color. There are a series of chalk drawings, canvases torn with incisive carmin marks or paints with soothing white, dominating and confusing. Several critics agree that, to go through this retrospective, it is better to be alone and to have some time. One does not emerge unscathed from this mysterious journey, because the pictorial work of Twombly consists of writings, illegible or not, figurative elements or not, but also and especially layers and overcoats that induce erasures. "He thinks for a long time about the artwork. He matures his project and ends up realizing it in a fulgurance on the canvas", explains Nicola Del Roscio.

The lover of the Mediterranean

Cy Twombly's fulgurances are worth gold. One evening in November 2015, at Sotheby's in New York, a painting from the native of Lexington was auctioned for $70.5 million. Same thing in May 2016 for one of his paintings which flew away for 36.7 million dollars. However, the importance of Twombly took some time to assert itself. At first, neither the public nor the critics appreciated his "graffiti" or "scribbles that even a child can do", forgetting very quickly that Picasso said that he had "spent all his life knowing how to draw as a child". Unspecified, his art is described as too European, too full of references to Greece and Rome, while American Art of the Sixties was in love with Pop art and minimalism. But the whole story of Cy Twombly is the one of a small American, with the accent that drags far too much to hide that it comes from the south of the United States, fallen under the charm of the Mediterranean. A discreet, shy and solitary man who owes much to the rigor of his work.

Born in 1928 in Lexington, a quiet little town in the state of Virginia, Edwin Parker Twombly is quickly nicknamed Cy by his father, fan of Cy Cyclone Young, a great baseball player. After a childhood and adolescence spent under the watchful eye of an Afro-American nanny and in an environment that seems to have stimulated her intellectual curiosity, Cy Twombly finds his way into painting. He studied on the benches of the prestigious Black Mountain College before flying to Europe and North Africa thanks to a scholarship. He will discover Lascaux, Rome and the most beautiful museums of the Old Continent. Fervent reader and admirer of Greek mythology, he settled in the Italian capital and made his works benefit from the influence of the Mediterranean sun. Although heir to the masters of lyrical abstraction, Twombly is neither the successor of Pollock nor Rothko, but a true singular bridge between the Old and the New World. Considered for always as an important artist, but by a restricted circle of amateurs, it was not until the early 2000s that collectors and speculators became interested. "I was recognized for my paintings at 50, for my sculptures at 70 and for my photos at 80".

Estelle Barbet, explosion of colors

Between abstract and gestural expressionism, the painting of Estelle Barbet approaches the lyrical abstraction. Her paintings are real explosions of colors. "I hope to arouse emotions, feelings, memories, desires or ideas in the spectator. Each of my paintings is a call to dreams, imagination and contemplation. Art is subjective, each one has his way of seeing it, feeling it. I like this openness that he offers to the mind, these infinite possibilities." Using all kinds of utensils, the artist constantly experiments and explores the pictorial matter in its graphic as well as chromatic diversity.