Exhibition to Debut MoMA’s Newly Conserved Monumental Cut-Out The Swimming Pool
The Museum of Modern Art has announced Henri Matisse: The Cut- Outs, the largest and most extensive presentation of Matisse’s cut-outs ever mounted, on view from October 25, 2014, through February 8, 2015. This groundbreaking reassessment of the final chapter of the artist’s career includes approximately 100 cut-outs—drawn from public and private collections around the globe—along with a selection of related drawings, illustrated books, stained glass, and textiles, as well as the post-conservation debut of MoMA’s own The Swimming Pool (1952). Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is organized by The Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with Tate Modern, London. It is organized at MoMA by Karl Buchberg, Senior Conservator, Department of Conservation, and Jodi Hauptman, Senior Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, with Samantha Friedman, Assistant Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints. Prior to its presentation at MoMA the exhibition is on view at Tate Modern from April 17 through September 7, 2014.
In the late 1940s, Henri Matisse (1869–1954) turned increasingly to cut paper as his primary medium and scissors as his chief implement, introducing a radically new kind of work that came to be called a cut-out. Matisse cut painted sheets into forms of varying shapes and sizes— from the vegetal to the abstract—which he then arranged into lively compositions, striking for their play with color and contrast, their exploitation of decorative strategies, and their economy of means. Initially, these compositions were of modest size but, over time, their scale grew along with Matisse’s ambitions for them, expanding into mural- or room-sizeworks. A brilliant final chapter in Matisse’s long career, the cut-outs reflect both a renewed commitment to form and color and an inventiveness freshly directed to the status of the work of art, whether as a unique object, environment, ornament, or a hybrid of all of these.
The exhibition was sparked by a multiyear initiative to conserve the Museum’s monumental cut-out The Swimming Pool, acquired in 1975. The room-size work has been off view at MoMA for more than 20 years, and will return to view in MoMA’s exhibition following extensive conservation. Matisse’s only cut-out composed for a specific room—the artist’s dining room in his apartment in Nice, France—The Swimming Pool depicts swimmers splashing in water and leaping through air in a reduced palette of blue and white, fulfilling Matisse’s grand ambition to work at the scale of a mural.
Although The Swimming Pool is at the conceptual heart of MoMA’s presentation of Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, the exhibition goes well beyond it, encompassing works with a fuller palette, of differing degrees of abstraction and decoration, and in a range of sizes. It is part of the Museum’s long and deep commitment to Matisse’s oeuvre, which comprises an outstanding collection that reflects his activities across mediums, exhibitions that have considered both his entire career and more focused aspects, and new scholarship.
The result of in-depth research on two fronts—conservation and curatorial—Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs offers a reconsideration of the cut-outs by exploring a host of technical and conceptual issues: the artist’s methods and materials and the role and function of the works in his practice; their environmental aspects; their sculptural and temporal presence as their painted surfaces exhibited texture and materiality, curled off the walls, and shifted in position over time; and their double lives, first as contingent and mutable in the studio and, ultimately, as “permanent,” a transformation accomplished via mounting and framing. The exhibition also mines the tensions that lurk in all the cut-outs, between completion and process, fine art and decoration, drawing and color.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue edited by Karl Buchberg, Nicholas Cullinan, Jodi Hauptman, and Nicholas Serota, with additional contributions by Samantha Friedman, Flavia Frigeri, Markus Gross, and Stephan Lohrengel.
Bank of America is the Global Sponsor of Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. Major support for the MoMA presentation is provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Dian Woodner and by the MoMA Annual Exhibition Fund. Park Hyatt® is the hotel sponsor of Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs.