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Paris and the surrealists

Paris and the surrealists is an exhibition that looks at surrealism from inside the movement. Taking a broad overview, it analyses the principal themes that concerned the artists and highlights the relevance and modernity of the movement.

The city of Paris is the linchpin: the over 370 works that make up the exhibition were inspired, created, shown or collected in the French capital. For the surrealists, Paris was a city to love like a human being, a forest of wonders, an exceptional place of desire.

An initiatory journey
A whole constellation of artists, writers, film directors, activists and revolutionaries met in Paris after World War I. Drawn to the City of Light, the art capital since the 19th century, they brought about an authentic revolution in the field not just of images but also of ideas. Today, the concentration of artists that took place in Paris with the emergence of surrealism seems quite unimaginable to us, yet this phenomenon of passionate comings-together, not without great emotional and political tensions, produced spectacular results between 1919 and 1966. Paris became, in the words of Guy Debord, the "workshop of the future", with numerous surrealist works providing the germ for countless subsequent artistic productions .

In 2002, two major exhibitions about surrealism took place in Europe. ‘Surrealism. Desire Unbound ' , at the Tate Modern, explored the role of love and affective complicities in the movement's development; and ‘La Révolution surréaliste', at the Centre Georges Pompidou, illustrated the importance of surrealism with a great many masterworks. While the former took a specific approach, the latter stood out for the number and quality of the exhibits on show. Since then, studies about the movement have proliferated in academic circles, and a critical debate has begun following the publication of the book by Jean Clair, Du Surréalisme (Paris, 2003), that challenges the radicalism of the movement.

This exhibition sets out to explain surrealism by means of a visual and textual itinerary, from the point of view of surrealism itself, from inside the surrealist mentality. We therefore intend to reconstitute and explain the movement not just from its aesthetic viewpoint but also from its ethically mould-breaking spirit and recall its revolutionary political stance ¾ in short, to remind spectators that surrealism, far from being a mere literary or artistic school, aspired to the total emancipation of the individual.

As it is a co-production of the Centre de Cultura Contemporània, an institution specialising in the relationship between city and culture, the exhibition will devote particular attention to the relations that surrealism established with its host city, and especially the view that the surrealists presented of Paris with their vindication of a series of public spaces such as the passages, the marchés aux puces , the cafés, certain public monuments, the lit-up advertisements, the circus and the cabarets.

The exhibition will be organised around a series of themes that marked the development of surrealism in Paris between the wars. Audiovisual language plays a major role in the exhibition: some of the themes are addressed in productions by the CCCB's audiovisuals department and a film cycle will be organised alongside the exhibition, including surrealist films and others about the Paris of the 1930s.

Curators: Victoria Combalía

Previous activities

Surrealist Nights

Film programme to complement the exhibition ‘Paris and the Surrealists'

The validity of surrealism

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