This year’s first presentation of the Fondation Beyeler collection engages with the constantly changing relationship between figuration and abstraction in modern art, as exemplified by around 70 important impressionist, modernist and contemporary paintings and sculptures.
The transition from the figurative to the abstract becomes apparent not least in the different representations of landscapes and figures. Abstract pictorial elements, for example, quite often originate in natural motifs, which are subjected to a process of reduction and transformation. By the same token, however, abstract forms and structures can be incorporated into figurative compositions. Abstraction and figuration, in other words, can perpetually interpenetrate and be reciprocally revitalizing. This is exemplified by Claude Monet’s famous waterlily paintings dating from the early twentieth century, which in the 1950s inspired America’s Abstract Expressionists to hazard some radically new compositions. Under the conceptual umbrella of the “passage,” the presentation brings together works that allow the lines of influence between two completely different but complementary approaches to the image to be retraced. Understood as a transitional or transitory path, the “passage” concept can be detected in the motifs and imagery of many other works, too.
Among the artists represented in this collection presentation, Gerhard Richter (*1932) occupies a prominent position. To mark his ninetieth birthday, one gallery is devoted solely to the wide-ranging oeuvre of this prolific artist, bringing together works from the collection as well as works on loan, visualizing the artistic interplay of figuration and abstraction in the most impressive way.
Another gallery is dedicated to is the American artist Agnes Martin (1912–2004) and her characteristically abstract, geometric works, generously on loan from the Daros Collection.
“Passages – Landscape, Figure and Abstraction” is curated by Dr. Raphaël Bouvier, curator at Fondation Beyeler.