ARTS & SOCIETIES
 

LETTER OF SEMINAR 13

Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po

 
 
 

PRIMITIVISMS



Sophie Leclercq
The Surrealist Appropriation of the "Indigenous" Arts


Maureen Murphy
Between Arts Works and Documents : The Arts of Africa in Paris and New York in the 1930s

Nélia Dias
The Western Fascination With Non-Western Objects


Editorial Director: Laurence Bertrand Dorléac
Editorial Assistant: Elodie Antoine
Translator: David Ames Curtis

PREVIOUS LETTER

THE INFLUENCE OF THE SAINT-SIMONIANS AND THE IDEA OF ART IN THE AVANGUARD OF THE SOCIAL REFORM

BODY MORALITY

DANDIES

The Model Child

The beautiful and the useful

New Publics, Between Utopia and Marketing

Photographs by amateurs

the market, at the start

art in the republic

the voyage of the avant-gardes

Major exhibitions

WHAT IS SOCIAL ART ?




 

 

 

EDITORIAL


        


        The Surrealists reinvented the idol of origins. They dreamed of their Primitive as someone standing apart from science and reality by curiously rediscovering the paths of history. As early as the 1920s, they were among the first to revolt against the serfage of non-Western peoples, and they did so not by calling, in the name of fine sentiments, for some moderation in the ways these peoples were being subjugated but by calling for a radical condemnation of the very conditions of colonialism.
        The history of art retains especially André Breton’s passion for Eskimo, Indian, and South Sea masks and for the dolls of the Hopi Indians of Arizona, of which he kept some beautiful specimens. He did so because he admired their expressive and poetic value, the very same value he sought everywhere else as so many signs of life in a modern world whose disenchantment he tirelessly denounced.
        For, the basic problem was less the other than one’s own self, caught in the nets of a Western world whose alienation and decay were being heralded by its poets. Antimodern, yet at the very heart of modernity, the Surrealists opened the way toward the kinds of reflections art history is taking note of today.
        Aby Warburg, Jean Laude, and a few others have spoken of the indispensable contributions of anthropology and ethnology and of how unstable were the status of the artist and of the art work and, necessarily along with them, the criteria of uniqueness, originality, and superiority. At a time when the new Quai Branly Museum is looking like Pandora’s Box while inviting comparison with other countries and other ways of presenting collections, the remarkable studies by Nélia Dias, Sophie Leclercq, and Maureen Murphy reopen the file on a shaky identity.
        More broadly speaking, we can say that it is discontent with civilization itself that was at issue here. Michel Leiris had noted the coexistence of such discontent with a culture in which everything seemed to have been said already because a certain level of technological development had been achieved but in which that development had been rendered possible only by stifling certain aspirations for the infinite.

Laurence Bertrand Dorléac




Letter published with the support of the Foundation of France

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