The building was designed for the International Art and Technical Exhibition in 1937.
The museum opened in 1961 with, in particular, a core of works from the “modern” collections of the Petit Palais, and was enriched due to the generosity of the collectors Emanuele Sarmiento, Mathilde Amos and Ambroise Vollard.
The 1937 exhibition provided the opportunity for some remarkable acquisitions including: The Dance by Matisse, Nude in the bath and The Garden by Bonnard, The Cardiff Team by Robert Delaunay, The River by Derain, Discs by Léger, The Stopover by Lhote, The Blue Bird by de Metzinger, four Artists’ Portraits by Vuillard, furniture by Pierre Chareau, André Arbus, Jacques Emile Ruhlmann, which still number among the museum’s masterpieces, not forgetting the large murals by Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Albert Gleizes and Jacques Villon, acquired during the exhibition (donated by the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in 1939). The Girardin bequest in 1953 was a decisive contribution and persuaded the authorities to move from the cramped galleries of the Petit Palais and to open a dedicated area within the Palais de Tokyo.
The historical tour, starting in 1901, comprises the collection begun in 1937 when the building was created and then significantly enhanced through the generosity of private collectors, especially Dr Girardin whose bequest led to the belated inauguration of the museum in 1961. Fauvist, Cubist, Post-Cubist and Orphic groupings were formed – dominated by Delaunay and Léger – as well as Surrealist groups with paintings by Picabia and work which had belonged to André Breton. The School of Paris is another unique area characterised here by unusual figures and a more expressive lines. This first sequence devoted to modern art concludes with works from the Fautrier collection juxtaposed with Giacometti’s figure of man in search of the absolute.
The contemporary tour, starting with the 1960s, gives pride of place to recent acquisitions. It is spread across galleries devoted to the movements belonging to New Realism (Arman, César, Deschamps, Hains, Klein, Raysse, Villeglé), Fluxus (Ben, Brecht, Dietman, Filliou, Roth) and kindred artists (Broodthaers, Boltanski, Feldmann, Messager), then by Narrative Figuration (Cueco, Errό, Fromanger, Monory, Rancillac, Schlosser, Stämpfli). This is followed by different types of abstract art from the late 1950s to the 1990s and a number of autonomous creative experiments in painting: Barré, Buren, Hantaï, Mosset, Nemours, Soulages, Toroni, and Support-Surface with Buraglio, Dezeuze and Viallat. A group of works by Anselmo, Paolini, Fabro, Merz, and Penone represent the Arte Povera movement.
Finally, the exhibits seek to explore the very latest trends through works demonstrating artists’ desire to experiment with new materials and techniques and subvert the codes of representation while avoiding being pigeonholed under any precise definition. This covers all choices of medium, be it photography, video or a return to painting and sculpture since the 1980s, in France and in Europe: Alys, Armleder, Brandl, Bublex, Bustamante, Eliasson, Fischli and Weiss, Frize, Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Gursky, Hains, Lavier, Sarah Morris; Moulène, Othoniel, Parreno, Polke, Richter, Ruff, Schiess, Schütte, Serralongue, Struth, Tatiana Trouvé and Vercruysse.
The Boltanski Gallery contains several works by the artist and the Salle Noire offers a programme of recent video work: Absalon, Pilar Albaraccin, Fikret Atay, Rebecca Bournigault, David Claerbout, Seija Kameric, Marine Hugonnier, Ange Leccia, Melik Ohanian, Valérie Mréjean, Nicolas Moulin, Robin Rhode, Tania Mouraud, Anri Sala, Markus Schinwald, Rosemarie Trockel, Gillian Wearing, Clemens von Wedemeyer, etc.
Beyond the tour :
Major murals and works created in situ: Matisse gallery (and the Henry-Thomas collection), the Dufy Gallery, the Cabinet de peinture [Painting Room] (1989) by Niele Toroni, exhibits by artists for the reopening of the museum: Jean-Michel Albérola, Bernard Joisten, Claude Lévêque, Petra Mrzyk and Jean-François Moriceau.
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm.
Late opening on Thursdays until 10pm (exhibitions only).
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