Archives: Los Modernos

Dialogues France / Mexique

2 December 2017 – 5 March 2018            Press Kit

Los Modernos. Dialogues France/Mexico follows the exhibition Los Modernos, shown in Mexico in 2015 at the Museo Nacional de Arte (MUNAL) and in 2016 at the Museo de las Artes Universidad de Guadalajara (MUSA). The exhibition has met its audience with great acclaim, with more than 200,000 Mexican visitors. After the exhibitions Le corps-image in Shanghai in 2010, 20th Century Masters in Johannesburg in 2012 and Auto-portraits, from Rembrandt to the selfie, in Karlsruhe and Edinburgh in 2015 and 2016, Los Modernos is another collaborative project developed around the world, and another expression of the museum’s international aura.

In Lyon, as in Mexico, the exhibition displays the two collections of the Museum of Fine Arts and of the MUNAL, to highlight the dialogues and divisions between two modern art scenes, from 1900 to 1960. The exhibition is enriched by numerous exceptional loans from other European and Mexican museums and private collections. Los Modernos, in Lyon, presents three added sections: the first examines cubism, in particular the iconic Diego Rivera and his links with the Parisian scene, the second puts in light Mexico's attraction for the French surrealist movement, and the third focuses on photography – a first at the museum of Fine Arts -, exploring the shared cultural perspectives between Mexican, American and French photographers. A selection of Mexican heritage gathered from collections in Lyon (films, ethnographic objects, birds and insects) introduces the exhibition. Los Modernos includes more than three hundred artworks, among which a hundred photographs.

The exhibition focuses primarily on the connections fostered by the modern artists present in the museum’s collection in Lyon with their Mexican contemporaries. It evokes the movements in which the latter had a particular interest, thus shining a light on the neo-impressionist, fauvist, cubist, and surrealist schools, as well as research into abstract art, in the wake of the Second World War. The purpose of the exhibition is not only to highlight the intermingling of the two scenes, but also to bring out the contrast between them, and to show how Mexican artists managed to progressively free themselves from a cultural tradition they had borrowed from the French, in order to follow their own path. Amongst the artists on display from the French scene are: Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, André Derain, Fernand Léger, Albert Gleizes, María Blanchard, Georges Braque, Robert Delaunay, Francis Bacon and Pierre Soulages, and, from the Mexican scene: José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo, Carlos Mérida, Germán Cueto, María Izquierdo, Gerardo Murillo (Dr. Atl), and Mathias Goeritz.


The first section is built around Diego Rivera and the ties he forged with the Paris art scene, in particular within cubist circles. After settling in Paris in 1911, initially drawn to neo-impressionism, Rivera followed the example of El Greco and Cézanne and then turned to cubism. He managed to blend the cubist styles of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, as well as that of Albert Gleizes. Rivera used colour in unusual ways – something which, according to critics at the time, betrayed his "Mexican temperament". Another Mexican artist, Angel Zárraga, who joined Rivera in Paris in 1911, was equally seduced by the geometry and decomposition of cubist forms, whilst at the same time placing colour at the centre of his work.


The second section focuses on the fascination Mexico held for French artists, critics, writers, and poets from the surrealist circles. Unlike Guillaume Apollinaire, who never travelled to Mexico, Antonin Artaud and André Breton did visit the country, first in 1936, then again in 1938. Artaud went to Mexico to escape "Europe's rationalist culture". One of the persons he met there was María Izquierdo, an important figure in the art world. Breton, meanwhile, was in search of a new perspective for surrealism. He made two vital acquaintances: photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo and painter Frida Kahlo. He was also fascinated by Pre-Columbian art and folk art objects.


The third and final section of the exhibition is dedicated to the Mexican approach of photography in the 20th century, and the social and artistic perspectives shared by Mexican, North-American and French photographers. Manuel Álvarez Bravo, who began his photographic work in the 1930s, acted as a link between North-American, European and Mexican photography. From 1923 onwards, Mexico was home to Edward Weston and his companion Tina Modotti. Paul Strand spent time there in 1932, and Henri-Cartier Bresson in 1934. Other photographers followed, such as Bernard Plossu, who first went to Mexico in 1965 and then returned to the country on a regular basis. The exhibition shows how these photographers managed to forge ties with the avant-garde movements born after the First World War, that served as a catalyst for all forms of artistic expression in the 20th century.

Throughout the exhibition, guided tours in French / English / Spanish, late openings, workshops for children /for all and a series of conferences will be held for the public.