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Belgian avant-gard. Masterpieces from the collection of family Polo


Отдел личных коллекций

Marina Loshak, Director, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, is honoured to present Belgian Avant-Garde Masterpieces from the Polo Collection, an exhibition staged by the renowned architect Sergei Tchoban, comprising 86 paintings, sculptures, volume pieces, assemblages, works on paper and applied arts dating from 1914 to 1939, by 17 artists who were at the epicentre of the International Avant-Garde and now rise from an unjust oblivion: Marcel- Louis Baugniet, Prosper De Troyer, Marc Eemans, Marthe Donas, Pierre-Louis Flouquet, Huib Hoste, Paul Joostens, Joseph Leonard, Karel Maes, Jozef Peeters, Émile-François Poetou, Jules Schmalzigaug, Victor Servranckx, Edmond Van Dooren, Roger van Gindertael, Georges Vantongerloo and Maurice Xhrouet. The exhibition spans 707.7 m2 over 12 galleries of the museum’s Private Collections building and is accompanied by a 224-page hardback illustrated catalogue with texts by Marina Loshak, as well as by eminent art historians Barbara Rose and Serge Goyens de Heusch. Although Belgian Avant-Garde masterpieces have been featured in important thematic exhibitions at major museums throughout the world, this is the first museum exhibition consecrated exclusively to the Belgian Avant-Garde outside of Belgium since that presented by the Musée de Grenoble in 1927.

The Avant-Garde was the first international movement in visual arts of the twentieth century. Period documentation amply reveals that its artists shared the same aesthetic and social concerns, often communicating these from one to the other despite the far geographic distances separating them. Like The Netherlands, despite its small territory and population, Belgium played a precursory and pivotal role in the International Avant-Garde of the 1910s and 1920s, fostering original talent that not only coincide, but often anticipate the best-known American, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian and Spanish artists of the movement. Belgian Avant-Garde Masterpieces from the Polo Collection reveals the affinities between the Russian and Belgian Avant-Gardes, but also its differences. Unlike many of its peers, the Belgian Avant-Garde is rich in stylistic and formal expressions, spanning from Futurism, Post-Cubism, Expressionism, Non-Objectivism, Neo-Plasticism, Geometric and Organic Abstraction, Dada to Surrealism; from painting, sculpture, assemblage, graphic arts, applied and performance arts, photography to cinéma. 

Henry van de Velde, the Belgian artist, architect, designer, pedagogue and art advisor created his first abstraction in 1892 – a serial abstraction. In 1902, he founded the Kunstgewerbeschule of the Grand Duchy of Sax-Weimar-Eisenach, re-baptised Staatliches Bauhaus by his successor Walter Gropius in 1919. As early as 1904, Henry van de Velde was the first advisor of Herwarth Walden (Georg Lewin), who in 1910 founded the avant-garde journal Der Sturm in Berlin and in 1912 the eponymous gallery, where Belgian artists were major protagonists. Belgians were at the epicentre of the International Avant-Garde: for example, Paul Joostens created his first Dada collage in 1917 and his first architectural volume piece in 1920; in 1917, the painter and sculptor Georges Vantongerloo was one of the founders of De Stijl; the Belgian architects Victor Bourgeois and Huib Hoste founded the first Congrès international d'architecture moderne in 1928 at Baronne Hélène de Mandrot’s Château de La Sarraz, where many artists of the International Avant-Garde sojourned and created; the painter Marthe Donas was a member of the Section d’Or and the intimate companion of Ukranian sculptor Alexander Archipenko.

The Polo Collection is a private collection formed on the basis of art historical discovery based on knowledge rather than on the desire to acquire what is already known. The collection is curated and reflects “the eye” of Roberto Polo, Cuban-American art historian educated at Columbia University in New York, collector and cultural philanthropist, Patron and Benefactor of many museums throughout the world, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Musée des Arts décoratifs and the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Royal Museum of Art and History of Belgium in Brussels, as well as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In 1987, Roberto Polo was decorated Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the highest official cultural distinction awarded by the French Republic. In 2016, he received the Premio Capital Arte al Mecenazgo Internacional, the most important cultural philanthropy award in the Kingdom of Spain. Roberto Polo resides in Brussels, where he is the Director of Roberto Polo Gallery.

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