Tate Gallery to introduce the Left Bank show: Independent sponsors exhibition on artistic life in Paris after the Second World War

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The Independent Online
THE WALLS of the studio of the artist Giacometti, complete with sketches and writings, have been transported to London for the first time to be the centrepiece of an exhibition at the Tate Gallery on artistic life in Paris in the years after the Second World War.

The exhibition, to run throughout the summer, celebrates the work of artists of the period and features paintings by Wols and a series of still lifes by Picasso; but it is aiming to be more than a display of paintings and sculpture.

As much of the cultural scene and the flowering of existentialism in Paris at the time was conveyed in writings by Sartre and Camus, in plays by Samuel Beckett, in film and in poetry, in the photography of Brassai and Doisneau, and in the music of Miles Davis and Juliette Greco, the Tate Gallery's exhibition will be the focal point for a range of activities across London.

The French Institute will be presenting a programme of films, photography, lectures and seminars alongside a 1950s French cinema programme at the National Film Theatre. The Tate will run a series of lectures, and will have a documentary section of manuscripts, theatre maquettes, photographs and drawings, plus a jazz evening inside Giacometti's studio.

The exhibition at the Tate, which is being sponsored by the Independent, will evoke the artistic life of Paris in the decade following liberation. As well as the more celebrated names, it will introduce artists who have strong reputations in Europe and America but are barely known here. It will also reveal the disturbed drawings - skulls, sexual parts, human limbs - of Antonin Artaud, the writer and theorist.

Existentialism, which challenged two other prevailing philosophies and ideologies, Catholicism and Communism, was attractive to the young in its insistence that humans must make their own moral choices. It excluded the concept of God and any sort of predestination. Meaning was only given to life by choice, a philosophy capable of inducing melancholy as well as sexual and cultural experimentation.

The freedoms and responsibilities it offered were expressed in novels and plays, and in jazz; sexual experimentation and innovation in the arts - most of which took place on the Left Bank of Paris.

Frances Morris, assistant keeper of the modern collection at the Tate, said: 'This exhibition shows how a number of artists were starting again from zero, outside the museums, salons and more established galleries, and consciously isolated from the protective structures of movements or shared aesthetics.

'Their wartime experiences had been of suffering. Much of their work went unremarked at the time, and only rarely did one exhibit alongside another. They never exhibited as a group and no critic, at the time, drew them together for purposes of comparison.

'This exhibition will recast a period of art history, looking at artists in relation to a set of philosophical ideas rather than similarities in style and technique.'

Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55, sponsored by the Independent and supported by the French Embassy, is at the Tate Gallery from 9 June to 5 September.

(Photograph omitted)

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