Compte rendu de colloque : Surrealism in the United States (Paris, 27-29 nov. 2017)

Exhibition catalogue Fantastic Art, Dada, surrealism, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1936. (rayogramme by Man Ray)

Networks, Museums and Collections
Surrealism in the United States

Centre Allemand d’Histoire de l’Art
Paris, November 27 – 29, 2017

Conference report by Alice Ensabella and Anne Foucault
(un résumé en français de cette conférence sera bientôt mis en ligne sur le site de l’APAHAU)

Last November, 27th – 29th, a three-day conference Networks, Museums and Collections. Surrealism in the United States took place at the Centre Allemand d’Histoire de l’Art in Paris.
The conference was the fourth organized as part of the research project Le surréalisme et l’argent. Galeries, collectionneurs et médiateurs, in cooperation with the Labex Arts H2H, which explores to what extent the global success of Surrealism in the 20th century was due to the roles played by private collectors, museums, exhibitions and art collectors, as well as by the commercial strategies of artists.
This last conference, which can be considered as the culminant point of the researches lead by this project, was organized with the essential support of the Terra Foundation, allowing fourteen American researchers, curators and professors to gather around this subject in Paris, where they had the opportunity to join several European specialists.
As Julia Drost explained in her introduction to the conference, this program aimed to highlight and analyze the complex network of galleries, dealers, collectors, and other types of mediating agents that fostered and sustained Surrealism in North America.
Over the course of the three days, different aspects of the expansion and reception of Surrealism in the United States were examined through different aspects, as defined by five main thematic sessions. The first, “Private / Public”, focused on the activities of high profile collectors, underscoring their role in the circulation of Surrealist artworks, both within and outside of their private collections. The second, “The Making of Surrealism in the US”, aimed at reconstructing some of the major steps that led to the diffusion of Surrealist concepts and aesthetics (publication of Surrealist texts, exhibitions, etc.).
Papers from the third section, “Agents / Artists”, showed how some Surrealist artists contributed to the promotion of their work in American market network, acting as their own agents. The “Galleries / Dealers” section, instead, described phases and strategies of main art dealers in North America who chose to support and promote Surrealist artists, contributing to the rise of a local school, also called “American Surrealism”, on which the fifth and last thematic part of the conference focused.

Monday, November 27

On the first day, speakers presented three examples of how private collections of Surrealist art, created in the US, built important relations with public institutions. In general, the democratization of art (influenced by John Dewey’s theories) and the pedagogic will of American institutions enabled the European avant-garde to quickly gain an important place in public collections. For these reasons, as Anne Helmreich stated in her introduction, in making a comparison with Europe, museums must be considered active agents in the diffusion of Surrealism in the US.

Susan Davidson’s talk highlighted the role of Peggy Guggenheim in the construction of Surrealism as an established school in the US, through the exhibition of her collection. Exploiting unprecedented archives (such as the registers of the Art of this Century Gallery), Susan Davidson allowed us to follow the history of the constitution of Guggenheim’s art collection from 1939 to 1947, primary in Europe, in London (where she made her first acquisition, Paul Delvaux L’Aurore, 1937) and Paris (where she discovered Giorgio de Chirico and met the Surrealists thanks to Marcel Duchamp). Back in her hometown of New York, Guggenheim acquired many pieces at the Pierre Matisse gallery, one of the most important place of diffusion and commercialization of Surrealism in the US in the 1930s and 1940s. However, it was the opening of her gallery, Art of this Century, that enabled her to become a real art dealer. In this place, which was both a museum and an art gallery, Frederick Kiesler’s revolutionary scenography made an impressive frame for the modernist art of Europe and particularly for Surrealism. Art of this Century was also a gathering place and meeting for artists in exile and for young American artists (Jackson Pollock had there his first solo exhibition in 1943), allowing for the exchange and diffusion of ideas, techniques and forms.

Oliver Tostmann’s paper focused on a less famous place for the diffusion of Surrealism in the US, the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. Two men were the major agents of the promotion of Surrealism. If the role of A. Everett “Chick” Austin Jr, who became director of the Wadsworth in 1927, is already well known, Oliver Tostmann presented the action of James Thrall Soby, a private collector of modern art, adjunct curator at Wadsworth until 1941 and Director of the Department of Painting and Sculpture (later Chairman) at Museum of Modern Art, from 1943 until 1957. In Wadsworth, Soby played a key role in the diffusion of Surrealism, most of all through an innovative exhibition program. Soby was also a dynamic collector of Surrealist art (in particular of de Chirico, Balthus, and Dalí, with whom Soby had a special relationship beginning in 1934). His collection was held in his house in Farmington (CT), which also had an art gallery – conceived with the help of Henry-Russell Hitchcock – where artists, dealers, and collectors could meet. One of the most interesting points Tostmann explored concerned the relation between Soby’s private collection and the exhibition politics of institutions like the Wadsworth Athenaeum and MoMA, which bequeathed several works from his collection. Tostmann addressed the role played by Soby’s texts, most of all his important publication on early de Chirico, in 1941, which had an important impact on the reception and the appreciation of Metaphysical Painting in the US.

In the subsequent talk, Clare Elliott studied the relationship between the gallerist Alexandre Iolas and the collectors John and Dominique de Menil, basing her research on the archives of the Menil Collection. Since Iolas met Dominique de Menil at the Hugo Gallery in 1946 (where he was the director), Iolas made tremendous efforts to integrate Surrealist art in the Menil’s collection, promoting and introducing the couple to several Surrealist artists and giving them several works by Tanguy, Cornell, Ernst, Magritte, and Matta in exchange for their investments in the gallery. While the two collectors discovered Magritte and acquired Ernst’s sculptural works thanks to Iolas, a real friendship emerged between them and Victor Brauner, and they acquired some works directly from the artist.
Furthermore, the Menil couple played a leading role in the diffusion of Surrealism in the US (already before the opening of the Menil Collection in Houston in 1987), especially as regards museums and institutions (John de Menil was a trustee at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and at MoMA). Iolas was also involved in this aspect, as he initiated donations from the Menils to the New York museum, such as René Magritte’s The Empire of Lights (2nd version). The Menils were also involved in the conception of Ernst’s and Magritte’s catalogues raisonnés and they played a role in the organization of important exhibitions such as the Max Ernst show at the Orangerie in 1971 in Paris or Magritte’s retrospective at Houston University and at MoMA in 1985.

To conclude this afternoon dedicated to the role of private collectors and their relation with public institutions in the diffusion of Surrealism in the US, Anne Umland presented an in-depth analysis of the iconic Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism exhibition, organized by Alfred H. Barr at MoMA in the winter 1936-37. Barr and his wife travelled to Paris in 1936 and visited the Exposition surréaliste d’objets at Charles Ratton’s gallery. They had already met André Breton and Paul Éluard during the 1920s, but thanks to the diplomacy of Marcel Duchamp and Barr’s wife, Margaret Scolari Barr, Barr was able to secure loans from the personal collections of the two leaders of the movement.
Barr considered this exhibition as a pair with Cubism and Abstract Art, which he curated a few months earlier. For him, these two artistic tendencies, summed up in the opposition of terms “rationality” versus “irrationality”, were both engaged against fascism.
Exploiting the museum’s archives, and especially photographs made during the show, Anne Umland chose to focus on a less known aspect of this very much commented exhibition: the installation itself. She argued that layout reflected Barr’s interpretation of Surrealism, and was characterized by two main trends: an automatic one, embodied for example by Arp, and another represented by “dreams photographs” (for which Dalí’s works could be considered the main examples).
Works were presented through a clean and modern displaying (with walls and few works per wall). They did not follow a chronological order, but were divided into sections movements: Dada (organized around the main cities where it had developed), French Surrealism, American School and, to conclude, Fantastic Art, with works by Bosch, primitive Italians, Piranesi or Redon. This section, which focused on the sources and origins of Surrealist art, revealed Barr’s interpretation of this artistic phenomenon as well as his desire to present Surrealism as an historically established movement, with a pedagogical perspective. Some of the works of art exhibited were already in the museum’s collection, but MoMA also acquired many new ones after the exhibition (such as the now very famous Dalí The persistence of memory, or Ernst’s Two children are threatened by a nightingale).
The second point Umland explored was the impact that this exhibition had on subsequent installations and exhibitions at MoMA, when the works acquired during the show were integrated in museum’s permanent collections. To gain a more precise view of this phenomenon, Umland studied three hangs of the permanent collection curated by Barr in 1946, 1954-55 and 1964, focusing on the way Surrealism was presented, proving that the promotion of Surrealism at MoMA was not only linked to a temporary event – as important as that was – but also to a long lasting politics of display. Barr’s installation was replaced when William Rubin took over as MoMA’s director in 1967. Recently the museum’s curators have undertaken a re-installation of these galleries, choosing to present a display closer to Barr’s original idea.
Tuesday, November 28

The second day of the conference was dedicated to the study of the conceptual and mercantile diffusion of Surrealism in the US. Barr’s exhibition at MoMA was evoked a second time by Sandra Zalman, this time focusing not on its institutional legacy, but rather on its mercantile and popular one.
Surrealism was perceived by Barr not only as an art movement, but also as a “way of life”. MoMA’s exhibition included advertisements, Disney cartoons, and folk art, presented as comparative material to Dada and Surrealist art, and Barr collected advertisements that quoted Surrealist works.
Furthermore, even if at the time the American press used to caricature and denigrate Surrealist aesthetics, some themes of Surrealist paintings and objects filtered into American visual and popular culture (for example, design objects were on sale in the museum during the MoMA exhibition). Between several examples of ads inspired by Surrealism, Zalman focused on the case of Dalí’s shop windows designed for the department store store Bonwit Teller. Dalí realized a first window, during the 1936 MoMA exhibition, and a second one three years later. This same year, he had his solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery and realized The Dream of Venus for the World’s Fair in New York. Zalman argued that Dalí exploited these three contemporary events (in three different fields: an exhibition, a shop window – which he later destroyed – and a pavilion site) to pioneer a subversive commercial strategy.
Dalí’s experience showed how in the US, Surrealism was exploited as a bridge between the avant-garde and mass consumption. MoMA’s exhibition « Modern art in your life » in 1949, which displayed shop windows by several artists, was an example of that legacy.
This phenomenon, in line with Barr’s ideas, was strongly criticized by Clement Greenberg in his 1939 article, Avant-garde and kitsch, Barr’s vision of Surrealism as a way of life being the opposite of Greenberg’s strictly formal vision of the avant-garde.

Still considering Dalí’s role as a mediator directly involved in the diffusion of his interpretation of Surrealism in the US (since 1939 no more supported by Breton and the group), Martin Schieder’s paper puts the attention to Dalí ‘s portraits exhibition that took place at Knoedler gallery in 1943. As Schieder underlined through some examples, this gallery was not known to be a showcase of avant-garde art, but mostly displayed Old Masters. The choice of a Dalí exhibition, which might appear curious, is nevertheless explainable by the many references to Renaissance painting made by Dalí in his works (both in the subjects and in the technique). The choice of the portrait is in itself a format referring to old tradition (he put classical references in portraits referring to subjects’ origins). In the catalogue introduction text, written by Dalí, who conceived the whole catalogue, Dalí presented himself as an old master of his time (in 1941 he affirmed he was the Raphael of his era).
Dalí’s portraits found great success among American high society, as they were both modern and classical. In addition, Dalí’s skillful self-promotion and his recurrent presence in the fashion press and in advertising enabled his works to enter the houses of the most powerful women of that time (Mona Bismarck, for example, appeared on Harper’s Bazar in 1955 in her living room with her portrait by Dalí on the wall).

In contrast to Dalí’s commercial strategy and Barr’s formal and pedagogical image of Surrealism, Caterina Caputo’s talk shows how some members of the Surrealist group, such as Gordon Onslow-Ford, were trying in the same moment to build a Surrealistic conscience in the US through a theoretical and poetic approach. Onslow Ford’s activity in the Surrealist group started in 1937, at the same time as his activity as a collector, fact that shows the importance of visual arts in his relation to Surrealism. As a painter, he was close to Esteban Frances and Roberto Matta with whom he worked on psychological morphologies. Onslow Ford organized in January 1941 four lectures on Surrealism at the New School for Social Research of New York. These lectures were often associated with exhibitions of Surrealist paintings, which were set in the lecture room (for example the exhibition of Metaphysical paintings by Giorgio de Chirico, from January 22 to February 4 of 1941).
Caterina Caputo’s talk focused on the last show and lecture held by Onslow-Ford in March 1941, presenting the last generation of Surrealists. Paintings by Delvaux, Brauner, Paalen, Hayter, Seligmann, Matta, Francés and Onslow-Ford himself were exhibited, and a catalogue was printed.
In his analysis, Onslow Ford mostly linked Surrealist pictorial production to automatism, an important fact for the upcoming generation of American painters. Unlike Breton, he emphases the importance of Jung’s theories on the new Surrealist painting.
It is interesting to note that Onslow Ford in his descriptions always used “we”, showing the intention to build in the US a feeling of belonging to Surrealist ideology and aesthetic and to gather American artists around the European group (in this sense, it is important to notice that Pollock and Gorky were present at the lecture and saw the exhibition).

The next paper focused on another important exhibition, organized by the Surrealists themselves in New York in 1942: First papers of Surrealism. James Housefield proposed new interpretations of Duchamp’s intervention (the famous twine) in relation with the current representation of the war. He aimed to consider how it might have resonated with the original audience who attended the opening and the patrons who promoted Surrealism in the United States.
Considering the main lenders to and backers of the exhibition (Katherine Dreier, the Arensbergs, Sidney Janis, Helena Rubinstein, Mr and Mrs Latouche, Bernard Rebecca Reis, Mary Jane Gold, Varian Fry, Fernanda Wanamaker Munn, Katherine Warren, Pierre Matisse, and James Johnson Sweeney) and the first exhibition’s audience, which consisted of collectors, “connectors” and promoters, and gallerists, it is evident that for most of them the international conflict was very distant.
Duchamp’s installation had in any case been influenced by – or wanted to evoke – both aesthetically and politically, these international political events. As Housefield showed with some comparisons, Duchamp’s combustible twine evoked contemporary images of air fights and bombings at night.
In the catalogue, references to bombing were numerous. In the text Breton wrote for the catalogue, the detail of Icarus in Brueghel’s painting The fall of Icarus, is underlined by the quotation “Yesterday Düsseldorf was bombed for the fiftieth time” (The newspapers).
As a result, a newspaper article presented the exhibition as a reaction against the « Axis ».Through visual analogies with the new landscapes of nocturnal battles, Duchamp’s twine brought the battle to Surrealism’s stateside sponsors.

Duchamp was also at the heart of the subsequent talk. However, if in previous papers Marcel Duchamp emerges as a recurrent and central figure in promoting and supporting the rise and the circulation of Surrealism in the US, Scarlett Reliquet in her paper analyzed Duchamp’s relationship with his own fame, focusing on the period beginning on his definitive move to the US (1942), through the publication in 1959 of Duchamp’s monography by Robert Lebel. After 1960, Marcel Duchamp actually became a very famous and respected artist.
Reliquet identified three main steps in Duchamp’s career defining his attitude towards the commercialization of his works. During the 1920s and the 1930s, he revealed himself to be far from economic interests. He presented his ready-mades as a struggle against the monetization of artistic objects, qualifying himself as incapable of doing good business in art market. Nevertheless, these were some elements that implicate him in art market dynamics during this first period (the foundation of the Société Anonyme in 1920 with Katherine Dreier or Picabia’s sale in 1926).
These skills proved helpful after Duchamp’s definitive transfer to the US in 1942. Since that moment, he started to be more interested in his self-promotion. Thanks to his American friends and collectors (like the Arensbergs, who donated 37 artworks to the University of California in 1944) he managed to place his works gathered in strategic collections and he started (between 1942 and 1960) to create and sell his multiples.
From 1960, Duchamp did not resist the building of his legacy. He gave many interviews and conferences and had solo exhibitions. He also allowed others to write about him and Dada. In that sense, the marriage with Teeny is relevant, as she decided to keep all the documents concerning her husband’s activity. If irony and joke were often at the origin of his actions, Duchamp showed a lucid knowledge of market rules and strategies, both towards artists his friends and his own art.

Concerning different attitudes put in place by artists to fit the American market taste and rules, Julie Waseige’s paper presents the case of René Magritte’s relations with his gallerist in the US, Alexandre Iolas. Their relationship has been retraced in this paper through the 400 letters they exchanged from 1946 to 1967, mostly conserved at the Menil Collection, Houston. From the first two solo exhibitions at the Hugo Gallery (in 1947 and 1948), to the signing of the exclusivity contract in 1956, we can notice the importance of Iolas’s influence on Magritte’s work and his motivation to please the American taste. For example, Iolas asked Magritte to perpetuate his “old” style and to abandon his “Renoir” manière, typical of the “Surréalisme en plein soleil” period. Even if Magritte complained about Iolas’s very specific requests of “more Magritte’s paintings” (in comparison with his “période vache” works), saying he could not produce “commercial paintings”, but only “poetic paintings”, it is impossible to think that American taste, and so Iolas requirements, did not have any impact on Magritte’s production.
During the same years, Iolas gave several Magrittes to John and Dominique de Menil in order to convince them to buy other ones. In doing so, the Menils became some of the most important collectors of Magritte.

Going back to a collective action led by artists linked to Surrealism, Daniel Belasco presented for the first time the results of his research on the unreleased archives of the Norlyst gallery, opened in New York in March 1943 by Jimmy Ernst and Elenor Lust. The two artists met one year before and had a love affair. After their break up in 1945, Elenor Lust kept managing the gallery.
The gallery mixed styles instead of separating Abstract Art from Surrealism, as Peggy Guggenheim had done in Art of this Century. Several artists close to the movement exhibited there, like Jimmy Ernst himself (1943, 1944, 1945), but also Man Ray (1943), Erwin Blumenfeld (1943), and Boris Margo.
A peculiar characteristic of the Norlyst Gallery was to give the possibility to several women artists to participate at the gallery’s events, both in organizing shows and exhibiting their works. In particular, the gallery became a platform for American and emigrant Surrealist women artists. For example, Louise Nevelson had her first exhibition of interactive sculpture in 1943, and Jacqueline Lamba her first solo show in 1944. Belasco focused especially on Louise Bourgeois’ case. Arrived from France to the US in 1938, she was in contact with Marcel Duchamp and André Masson. She sent her canvases for the first time to the Norlyst Gallery in 1944, where she also organized a collective exhibition in June 1945 and participated in another collective show at the gallery in September 1947. She finally had her first solo exhibition one month later (October – November 1947). In this iconic exhibition, Louise Bourgeois presented the “Femme-Maison” series, which can be seen as a feminist response to Surrealism. Belasco’s researches showed how the Norlyst provided a rare gallery space that was open to younger women in the context of American Surrealism and supported a public discussion of the visual cultures of racial, ethnic, and sexual difference.

Effie Rentzou focused on another initiative organized by Surrealist artists, aiming to promote their vision of art in the US. Bloodflames, an exhibition conceived and curated by Nicolas Calas, took place at the Hugo Gallery in March 1947. Works by Gorky, Matta, Lam, Kamrovski, Isamu Noguchi, David Hare, Helen Phillips, and Jeanne Reynal were exhibited, showing an oscillation between abstraction and figuration using biomorphic shapes. This event can be read as the successful consequence of the talks and the exhibitions organized by Onslow Ford in 1941, that succeeded in creating a bridge between Surrealism and young American painting of the time.
Calas’s exhibition tried to determine what Surrealism could look like in the postwar period, taking into consideration the impact the war had on visual arts and life (with a socio-political approach that emerges from Calas’s text in the exhibition catalogue).
Kiesler’s charming scenography can be considered as the heart of the exhibition itself (his plan was reproduced in the exhibition catalogue), as space and perception had a central role in Calas’s curatorial project. The spectator was introduced into a destabilizing space, in which the unusual display gave a distorted perception of artworks. Communicating ceilings, walls and grounds introduced the visitor into a magic dimension, the opposite of the “modernist grid” supported and developed by Clement Greenberg. For Calas, magic can describe the relation between humans and their environment and the magical architecture by Kiesler was a sort of crystallization of his ideas, a union of physiology and psychology.
Effie Rentzou ended with an interesting comparison between Calas’s Bloodflames and the International Exhibition of Surrealism held a few months later at the Galerie Maeght in Paris. This comparison is even more pertinent knowing that Calas took distance from Breton’s political positions, exposed in the “third manifesto” (Prolégomènes à un troisième manifeste du surréalisme ou non).

Wednesday, November 29

Finally, the importance of gallerists and dealers in the diffusion and the reception of Surrealism in the US was the focus of the third day of the conference. Quite close to the Surrealist group, we can find gallerists such as Julien Levy in New York and William Nelson Copley in Los Angeles. A paper on the Mexican Art Gallery and its director Ines Amor also provided a vision of cultural exchanges between Mexico and the US, as a significant part of the gallery’s activity included Surrealist art.

Anne Helmreich’s talk on Julien Levy’s strategies in promoting Surrealist art started from a question. Did Levy use new or established strategies to run his gallery?
After describing Levy’s formation in modern art at Harvard and his first travels to Paris during the 1920s, Helmreich focused on his gallery and the historical context of the art market in the US at the time. To open a gallery in 1931, at the height of the Depression, could appear to us as a risky choice. The modern art market was nevertheless still prolific in New York at the time, and several galleries were active (Pierre Matisse, Valentine, etc.). Firstly consecrated to the promotion of American and European photography, the Julien Levy Gallery started promoting Surrealist art in 1932, when Levy organized the exhibition “Surrealism” which included Cornell’s works. After this first exhibition, he organized several others on the subject before the gallery closed in 1949.
In leading his gallery, Levy followed the strategy of the dealer expertise, choosing to focus on Surrealist art. If he looks innovating in in representing Surrealism, Helmreich highlighted that his strategy was already known and had been adopted by dealers since the end of 19th century. As a dealer, Levy was not as progressive as the artists he represented. In addition, his gallery’s design set-up, which appeared ultra-modern with its bowed walls, was not in fact a real innovation, as specific and modern outfitting were already set by other dealers (at the end of the 1920s, it was already possible to see this kind of decorations in Pierre Chareau’s atelier). The last point of Levy’s strategy, which represent maybe also the most progressive one, was his collaboration with museums, in particular with the Museum of Modern Art. To answer to her first question, Helmreich concluded by saying that Julien Levy meld established strategies with innovative ones, the latter mostly lying in the promotion of film and photography and in the relationships he established with modern art museums.

Even if it was most concentrated on the East coast, the promotion of Surrealist art was not restricted to New York City. Timea Andrea Lelik presented the short but significant adventure of the Copley Gallery, opened in Los Angeles in September 1948 – and closed just a few months later – by William Nelson Copley (1919-1996). Writer, painter, gallerist and collector, Copley decided to open a gallery in the challenging context of Hollywood in post-war years, which he defined as an “intellectual desert”. In a short period, Copley organized six exhibitions, showing connections and relationships with the most important Surrealist dealers of the time. The first show was consecrated to Magritte (organized in collaboration with Iolas), the second to Cornell, the following to Matta, Tanguy (both organized with the help of Leo Castelli), Man Ray and, the last, in January/February 1949 to Max Ernst (with Julien Levy). The main problem in the gallery’s management was surely that most of the budget was spent buying the works exhibited. Even if Copley sold several works (as we learn from his correspondence with other dealers), these sales were not adequate to cover his spending. Lelik focused on the case of the Cornell exhibition in September 1948, for which Copley bought 50 works by Cornell for $50 each, fixed the sale prices to $200, but sold none.
The Copley Gallery was not an economic success, but it played an important role in the diffusion of contemporary art, and particularly Surrealist art, in a conservative Californian post-war context. It was through the Copley Gallery in fact that a young curator as Walter Hopps (who later curated the exhibition at the Pasadena Museum in 1966) discovered several Surrealist artists.

Rachel Kaplan concluded this session by presenting the activity of the Galería de Arte Mexicano in Mexico City, which opened in 1935 by a woman, Inés Amor. The gallery hosted in 1940 the first International Exhibition of Surrealism in the Western Hemisphere, an event that launched it on the international scene. Inés Amor exploited this opportunity to build relationships with American museums, galleries, and collectors to promote her artists, and Mexican contemporary art in general in the US. As Kaplan explained, by tracing specific artworks that traveled through these networks, Inés Amor was very much involved in shipping works for exhibitions to galleries and institutions. Some paintings coming from the galley were exhibited at MoMA in 1940 for the exhibition Twenty Century of Mexican Art, others in occasion of Mexican Art Today, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1943, or at the exhibition Mexican Paintings, organized at the Knoedler Galleries in 1945.
Through her strategy, Inés Amor aimed to expand understanding of Mexican art. In doing so she championed easel painting as the height of Mexican artistic production as opposed to the renowned post-revolutionary mural movement.

Two papers describe and analyze the last exhibition organized by the Parisian Surrealist in the US, Surrealist entrance in the enchanters’ domain, held in the winter of 1960-61 at the D’Arcy Galleries in New York.
Susan Power
’s talk mainly focused on the conflictual relationship between the Parisian organizers (André Breton, Edouard Jaguer and José Pierre) and the gallerist Maurice Bonnefoy.
A specialist of Non-Western Art, Bonnefoy had the idea to organize an exhibition showing the influences that Non-Western objects had on Surrealism. He made contact with Breton, proposing their collaboration on this project. Even if Bonnefoy saw the exhibition E.R.O.S. in Paris the same year, he showed a weak knowledge of Surrealism, creating misunderstandings on both sides. In fact, although the New York exhibition was partly inspired by E.R.O.S., it presented many structural and ideological differences.
The exhibition aimed to be the expression of the Surrealist conception of the world, but Bonnefoy decided to reject works he considered too erotic, fearing the reactions of a supposedly conservative American audience. The scenography was not spectacular, as it was in Paris in 1947 or 1959. National flags were added to signal each artist’s nationality and to highlight the internationalism of Surrealism. The artists exhibited can be divided into three parts: pioneers (such as de Chirico, Duchamp, Picabia, Arp), artists who had been linked to Surrealism or were still involved in it (Dalí, Giacometti, but also Brauner and Bellmer), and a young generation of artists close to Surrealism (the main part coming from “Phases”, an artistic movement led by Edouard Jaguer, with artists such as Enrico Baj or Jacques Lacomblez).

Lewis Kachur’s talk concentrated more on the role of Marcel Duchamp in the exhibition’s organization, as he appeared to be the link between his Parisian friends and the American partners involved in the project.
Kachur recalled that Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg met in 1959 in New York during a group exhibition, Art of the found object, organized at the Time-Life Reception Center. Although Duchamp was not present in Paris at the moment E.R.O.S. took place, he was involved in its organization and he made sure that his friends young American artists (Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns) had their works displayed at the Parisian exhibition. The same works were presented, once again thanks to Duchamp’s intervention, at the D’Arcy galleries exhibition in New York a year later, in 1960.
The American supporters of Surrealism in the US were also involved in the event, such as the retired dealer Julien Levy, who loaned 22 works (mostly by Ernst and Gorky), the majority of which were for sale.
Kachur then presented the seven rooms of the exhibition, with several elements conceived by Duchamp: closet with living chickens, a motorcycle hung from the ceiling, etc. The final room of the show gathered works by Ernst, Rauschenberg and Johns; Kachur suggested several aspects of the legacy of this Surrealist presence in the US at the beginning of the 1960’s. Noticing that with the presence of works by Wifredo Lam and Augustin Cardenas, two Cuban artists, the idea of America presented in the exhibition was extended to the Caribbean, he focuses on the case Cardenas. In the 1960, he embodied the renewal of Surrealist art, particularly in the realm of sculpture. Formerly presented in 1959 E.R.O.S. in Paris, his presence in the US exceeded the 1960 collective show as he had a solo show in Chicago in 1963, with a preface by Breton. This is one thread of a strong Surrealist center in Chicago, extending the reach of a globalized Surrealism into the early 1960s.

The last two papers of the conference studied various aspects of what can be called “American Surrealism”, focusing on the specific cases of Man Ray and Joseph Cornell, their reception and their commercialization in their homeland as “American artists”.
Wendy Grossmann
’s paper presented the complex reception of Man Ray in the US. She first recalled that as an artistic medium, photography did not achieve the status of a collectable commodity until the conceit of the “vintage” image was established in the 1970s. If we consider that Man Ray played with his iconoclastic attitude towards the status of photography (in 1937 he published La photographie n’est pas l’art), the commercialization of his photographical production is complex and confounded the market. Wendy Grossmann retraces the main steps of Man Ray’s career during the first half of the twentieth century, highlighting the role of some tastemakers and mediating agents who helped shaping the reception and market for Man Ray’s photographs in the US. Man Ray found an artistic recognition first in Europe: Jacques Doucet bought three of his photographs in 1922 and, in the same year, Vanity Fair’s editor, Frank Crowninshield, published his rayograph.
This European success is probably at the origin of Man Ray’s reception in the US as an European photographer (he was exposed at the Julien Levy’s exhibition Modern European photography in 1932). The American public was hungry of images of the European avant-garde that came across Man Ray’s studio and it is maybe for this reason that, with his rayographs, his avant-garde production was the most required. Using a ironical attitude, quite similar to Duchamp’s one, Man Ray played with the status of his photography (for example by making copies of his rayographs) and the status of the artist itself (as it can be seen in his painting Self-portrait, 1941, where he represents himself taking a picture).

Mary Ann Caws then focused on the American reception of Joseph Cornell, who, unlike Man Ray, never left his hometown of New York. Often portrayed as a solitary outsider, Cornell however had connections with Surrealism, but also with Abstract Expressionism, in particular through his friendship with Robert Motherwell, whom he met in 1942. He was also linked to the gallerist and dealer Leo Castelli, who emigrated to the US in 1941 and who frequented Art of this Century and Surrealist circles during the war. It is certainly there that Castelli saw for the first time works by Cornell, as the artist was exhibited in the inaugural collective show at Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery. Before getting to Abstract Expressionism and then to Pop Art, Castelli was close to Surrealist circles since the inaugural exhibition he and René Drouin organized in 1939 in Paris, in which they presented Surrealist and decorative art.
Robert Motherwell wrote an essay on Cornell in 1953, as a preface for the unpublished catalogue of a solo exhibition held the same year at the Walker Art Center of Minneapolis. In his text, Motherwell emphasized the profoundly American character of Cornell’s work rather than its strong link with European avant-gardes. Moreover, Motherwell juxtaposed Cornell’s work with that of Gorky, regretting that the Surrealists in exile “preferred Gorky’s moustache, to their shame”. In opposition that sounds quite significant in the mouth of one of the most representative figures of American Abstract Expressionism.

In conclusion, several interesting aspects emerged from this three-day conference. Firstly, it has been possible to identify a remarkable number of agents (curators, private collectors, dealers, gallerists, backers) involved in the promotion and the support of Surrealism and Surrealist artists, not only in New York, but also in other important and lesser-known centers, such as Hartford, Houston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.
The second principal aspect we can notice in Surrealism’s fortune in the US, is that Surrealist artists found very soon a place in museums, starting of course by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. As compared with Europe, Surrealist art entered American public collections very rapidly; and, already by the 1930s, it was presented to American public as an established movement.
Concerning the displaying of Surrealist art, museum curators or art dealers privileged a formal approach, starting from Barr’s exhibition in 1936. This formal approach, which helped Surrealism in becoming quickly an aesthetic trend in the United States, won against the more theoretical, ideological and poetical one proposed by the Surrealist group. In this sense, it is interesting to compare the attitudes of the two Surrealist members that appeared through the three days of the conference as the most leading mediators of Surrealist art in the US, Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dalí. If the first shows a more engaged attitude towards the Parisian group and its ideological integrity, Salvador Dalí consciously and explicitly played with the commercialization of his works and with the building of his image, independently from group’s directives both in artistic and political questions.
Therefore, as Kachur said in conclusion of his paper, we could say that “Surrealism wanted to take over America, but it was America that took over Surrealism”.

Dr. Alice Ensabella
Current fellow at the Center for Italian Modern Art, New York

Anne Foucault
PhD candidate in Contemporary Art History, Université de Paris Nanterre, Paris

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