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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Beauford on View at the Centre Pompidou

In 2011, I reported that the Centre Pompidou holds one of Beauford's abstract expressionist paintings on reserve. It was donated to the museum by M. and Mme du Closel, who were devoted patrons of Beauford.

I am thrilled to report that the painting is now on display! It is part of the Multiple Modernities 1905-1970 exposition (also called Plural Modalities) that will hang until January 2015.

Monique and Beauford's Untitled (1957) Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

This work hangs in a short corridor (Traverse G) between Rooms 31 and 34 on the 5th floor of the museum. Because it is not displayed in a room, it can be difficult to find. I had to ask at the visitor's information area (4th floor) where the painting is hung and was dismayed to learn that neither Beauford's name, nor a listing of the painting, appear in the official catalog for the exposition or the museum's Intranet. One of the attendants was kind enough to walk me to the exact location of the painting.

Location of Beauford's Painting
© Discover Paris!
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

The label text copy presents the following information in English (translated from French):

African-American artist Pierre [sic] Beauford-Delaney studied in Boston then at the Art Student League in New York, with John Sloan. He joined the Harlem Renaissance movement, which was struggling for African-American emancipation, and started painting live portraits of jazz musicians playing in Harlem jazz clubs. He had settled in Paris by 1953, when he had gravitated toward abstract expressionism. In this work, the distinguishable blue figure in the thick swirl of predominantly red and yellow paint could be an animal.

For reasons unknown, the Pompidou Center has Beauford's name listed as Pierre Beauford-Delaney in its online data base. While they corrected this in the text for the painting and the biographical information presented about Beauford in French, I was disappointed to note that they neglected to correct it in the English translation.

The information presented about Beauford himself is scant and not quite accurate (he began his New York career by painting dancers and society women at Billy Pierce's Dancing School, not by painting jazz musicians). I had hoped for a more detailed description of the painting as well.

All that aside, the work is magnificent - it is well worth a trip to the museum to see it! The exposition is on display through January 26, 2015.

Centre Georges Pompidou
19 Rue Beaubourg
75004 Paris
Telephone: 01 44 78 12 33
Metro: Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville, and Châtelet
Open every day except Tuesdays and May 1.
Hours: 11am-10pm. No tickets sold after 8pm.


Anonymous said...

After reading many books on museology and curatorship I am convinced that errors, omissions and marginalisation similar to the ones you have highlighted in relation to the Pompidou’s interpretation and positioning of Beauford Delaney’s work in the exhibition speak volumes about whether the institution is as fully committed as its marketing literature suggests to the process and practice of affirming diversity. I am reminded of a comment by Gerardo Mosquera (in his essay for Global Visions on ‘transcultural curating’) that so many of the Western museums valorised as centres of excellence actually adopt a ‘Lampedusian strategy of changing so that everything stays the same’. So, even as the title of this exhibition purports to celebrate plurality and internationalism within the modernist canon, the spatial dynamics in the galleries reveal a stubborn adherence towards marginalising the art of anyone perceived as ‘Other’. Your post reflects the mixed feelings I often have about viewing exhibitions like ‘Modernités plurielles de 1905 à 1970’ – especially in spaces like the Pompidou – because the elation at seeing artists you know and love brought to wider public prominence is almost always tinged with a note of disappointment that more careful consideration couldn’t have been given to ensuring a fitting and accurate representation – in print, and in place. As Mosquera suggests, whilst binary notions of cores and peripheries – and insiders and outsiders – within art world discourse have become more flexible, structurally they remain untouched because ‘we are still far from a globalised art scene’.

Unknown said...

what is the other painting? the little one next to beauford's?