Prehistory | Centre Pompidou, Paris


Exhibition at Centre Pompidou, Paris

Until 16 September 2019

The archaic influences in the art history are one of the basic themes of my research. I was so happy that I could see the exhibition “Prehistory, a Modern Enigma” at the Center Pompidou in Paris on 30 May 2019. I took some photos at exhibition. Come with me and see my photos and read the text of curators of this interesting exhibition.

Detail of Exhibition

Detail of Exhibition with sculpture of Pablo Picasso 1931

Detail of Exhibition

With this exhibition the Centre Pompidou puts the spotlight on the link uniting prehistory to modern and contemporary art. In the course of a chronological tour, discover how artists and society have experienced the attraction of our origins during the modern period, yielding to a fantasy vision of what existed before history. A rich collection of more than three hundred works and documents, some specially created for the occasion, shows how prehistoric art established itself not only as an object of fascination but also as a concrete model for varying kinds of experiences. Discover, alongside iconic prehistoric works like the Venus of Lespugue and the Mammoth of the Madeleine, the works of essential modern artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Paul Cézanne and Marguerite Duras, and contemporary artists like Dove Allouche, Pierre Huyghe and Giuseppe Penone. This vast body of works is also complemented by films and books such as Jurassic Park and La Guerre du feu, evoking the dissemination of prehistory in popular culture.

Detail of Exhibition

Detail of Exhibition

Detail of Exhibition

Prehistory is a modern concept: the word itself was not definitively established until the 1860s. The corresponding reality was built up progressively in the course of the 19th century as an indistinguishable mass of discoveries, opinions and fantasies. We can distinguish three major stages: the growing awareness of the long duration of earthly life through the analysis of fossils at the turn of the 19th century; the new understanding in the early 1860s of human prehistory, both from the point of view of the species and the emergence of techniques and arts; and lastly, the specific recognition of parietal art at the dawn of the 20th century, establishing the decorated caves of the Upper Palaeolithic era as essential references in our imaginary world. In the 20th century this great mass of images, hypotheses and speculations had an immense effect on collective culture and individual creation. Not only prehistoric art (or that described as such) but also, more generally, the concept of prehistory as such, profoundly modified our representations. The revelation of an earth without humankind, followed by a slow process of hominization led people to consider, symmetrically, the possible extinction of humanity. The transition from nomadic hunter-gatherer societies (Palaeolithic era) to more sedentary farmer-breeder societies (Neolithic era) gave rise to considerations concerning humanity’s assumption of power over the environment, leading to the industrial era.

Detail of Exhibition with painting Gilles Aillaud | L’Eléphant 1971

Detail of Exhibition

Detail of Exhibition

Nourished by archaeological discoveries, but far from simply reflecting on them, this common idea of prehistory exceeded its strict scientific definition based on the emergence of humanity up until the invention of writing. Functioning as a powerful machine for stirring up time, it modelled the mental horizons of modernity. It encompassed different events, like geological upheavals, the beginning of life, extinct species, the first hominids and the lost cultures of the Palaeolithic era and the Neolithic revolution. And through it, forces were brought to bear that drew their fecundity from their very contradictions: the need for deconstruction and for reform; the desire to leave history and for total immersion in it; calls for revolution and apocalyptic panic.

Pablo Picasso | Minotaure blessé 1933-1934

Since Cézanne, innumerable artists have been haunted by this question, with a concrete, continuing and constantly renewed attraction for fantasised origins: Jean Arp, Giorgio De Chirico, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Paul Klee, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso; Joseph Beuys, Louise Bourgeois, Jean Dubuffet, Marguerite Duras, Barbara Hepworth, Yves Klein and Robert Smithson; and, among our contemporaries, Dove Allouche, Miquel Barceló, Tacita Dean, Marguerite Humeau, Pierre Huyghe, Giuseppe Penone, etc.

Detail of Exhibition

Wall of Exhibition with painting of Joan Miró

The contemporary echoes of major prehistoric sites –beginning with the painted caves at Lascaux, Mas-d’Azil and Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc – and the formation of a prehistoric iconography from the19th to the 21st century, has already given rise to exhibitions in the wake of the two seminal events, in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in 1937 and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1948.

Detail of Exhibition

Detail of Exhibition

The chronological tour opens with a preamble that takes us back to the turn of the 20th century (Paul Cézanne, Odilon Redon). In landscape, Cézanne detected traces of ante-historic movements that radically transformed his perception. The earth came to life and human figures blended into it. During those same years, feeling “the weight of the end of time”, Odilon Redon drew the hallucinatory forms of his collection Les Origines, half-way between Darwin and Pascal.


Miquel Barceló | Le Grand Verre de Terre 2016

Louise Bourgeois | Cumul I 1968

Detail of Miquel Barceló | Le Grand Verre de Terre 2016

The tour continues with a central core extending from the 1930s (Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, and others) to the 1980s (notably with Joseph Beuys, Louise Bourgeois, Lucio Fontana, Robert Morris, A. R. Penck, Robert Smithson) and concluding with a contemporary part (Dove Allouche, Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, Carl Andre, Andrea Branzi, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tacita Dean, Jean-Pascal Flavien, Dov Ganchrow, Michael Heizer, Marguerite Humeau, Pierre Huyghe, Christian Jaccard, Christian Kerez, Bertrand Lavier, Richard Long, Wim Wenders and others).

Detail of Exhibition with Robert Delaunay | White Relief 1935 and sculpture of Jacques Lipchitz 1926

Detail of Exhibition with Robert Delaunay | White Relief 1935

In the course of this progression, our thoughts and eyes are directed toward different subjects: the depth of time; earth without humans, imagined before and after history; the relationship between humanity and animality (“Humans and Animals”); the question of the body and techniques (“Gestures and Tools”); the fantasy of the cave and its archaeological reality; different visions of the Neolithic revolution (“Neolithic Eras”); and lastly, contemporary inspiration, between apocalyptic games and ecological issues (“Prehistoric Presents”). Some themes are recurrent in today’s art, sometimes continuing on from previous generations – the depth of time, short-circuiting temporal distances, the silence of interpretation – and others are sometimes specific to the anthropological crisis we are going through, in a dramatic redefinition of our relationship with the earth, with techniques and with plant, animal and human life. The focus on discovering unknown realms of thought and life is built up from and with the idea of this unknown earth that is, structurally, prehistory.

Detail of Exhibition

Detail of Exhibition with Tacita Dean | Quatemary 2014

Detail of Exhibition

All this is punctuated by the presentation of major prehistoric evidence: fossils, sculptures and Palaeolithic engravings (e.g. The Venus of Lespugue and the Mammoth of la Madeleine), hewn or polished stone tools, and anthropomorphic Neolithic figures.
Lastly, a cultural thread is spun out at the same time, illustrating the progressive formation of interpretations of prehistory and their popular dissemination with the results of excavations and investigations, as well as “prehistoric” novels and cult films representing this mythology of origins The Lost World (1925), King Kong (1933) etc.


Detail of Exhibition

Detail of Exhibition with sculpture Bertrand Lavier | Le Vénus d’Amiens 2015


Exhibition curators
Cécile Debray, Director of the Musée de l’Orangerie
Rémi Labrusse, professor of Art History, Université Paris Nanterre
Maria Stavrinaki, lecturer in Art history, Université Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne

(Text from webside of Centre Pompidou)

Related posts

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York – 3

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York 2

The Met Breuer – New York | Unfinished

Paul Klee at The Met Breuer

MoMA | The Museum of Modern Art – New York

MoMA | Sculpture Garden

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – New York

London 2015 – The National Gallery

The Nature of ARP

London 2015 – Tate Modern

London Calling – 1 Day Art Tour in London

Musée d’Orsay – Paris

Calder & Picasso – Musée Picasso, Paris


    1. Nagyon örülök, hogy sikerült közelebb hoznom ezt a tényleg nagyon izgalmas és fantasztikus tárlatot. Köszönöm szépen a visszajelzést, így tudom legalább, hogy van erre igény. További kellemes időtöltést az oldalon, ajánlom a többi új posztot is (pl. a Picasso – Calder kiállításról).


Mit szólsz hozzá?

Adatok megadása vagy bejelentkezés valamelyik ikonnal: Logo

Hozzászólhat a felhasználói fiók használatával. Kilépés /  Módosítás )

Twitter kép

Hozzászólhat a Twitter felhasználói fiók használatával. Kilépés /  Módosítás )

Facebook kép

Hozzászólhat a Facebook felhasználói fiók használatával. Kilépés /  Módosítás )

Kapcsolódás: %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.