It was 502 years ago that Tomás Moro imagined a half-moon shaped island, whose inhabitants shared the work and the produce they grew, chose their representatives in meetings and refused to resort to violence to resolve disputes. He called it Utopia, and since then the name has symbolised something as ideal as it is unattainable. It is also the focus of the new collection at the Pompidou Centre in Malaga, which was inaugurated this week and will continue until the end of 2020.
This new collection, ‘Modern Utopias’, contains far fewer works than the last one - 63, to be exact - and features 20th and 21st century artists who have reflected upon “the aspirations of men”, as the assistant director of the Georges Pompidou Modern Art Museum in Paris, Brigitte Leal, describes them. The works are displayed in six separate rooms.
The grand utopia
The first room features works from the early 20th century, with a focus on the birth of modern art and the avant-garde. The colourful ‘Rhythm, Joie de Vivre’ by Robert Delaunay (1930) sets the stage for the rest of the exhibition: large-size works with an optimistic content. Others include ‘Summer Entertainment’ (1934) by André Masson and Pablo Gargallo’s ‘The Prophet’ (1933-36); the sculpture called ‘Prometheus Strangling the Vulture’ by Jacques Lipchitz (1936), and the model of an ideal city by Kazimir Malevich, called ‘Alpha’ (1923-1978).
Also on view are Julio González’s bronze sculpture ‘Head of Montserrat Crying’ (1942) and ‘My Sky is Red’ (1933) by Otto Freundlich, fitting preludes to the distilled uneasiness of ‘A Maïakovski’ (1976), in which Manolo Valdés and Rafael Solbes of the Equipo Crónica group look back at the past without anger.
The end of the illusions
Anyone searching for major names in the history of art will find some of them here: Picasso, Malevich, Chagall and Kandinsky, almost rubbing shoulders with one another.
The first work in this room is Picasso’s bucolic ‘The Spring’ (1956), which came four years after his last political work and shows his delight at life in his mansion on the Côte d’Azur.
Visitors come next to the trio comprising ‘Development in Brown’ (1933) by Vassily Kandinksy, ‘[Sensation of Danger] The Running Man’ (1930-31) by Kazimir Malevich and ‘The Fall of Icarus’ (1974-77) by Marc Chagall, before moving on to more contemporary artists such as Erik Bulatov and his ‘Spring in a Workers’ Rest House’ (1988), ‘Final Summer’ (2002) byAdam Adach and the video ‘My Country, So Young, It Cannot Be Defined!’ (2001) by Cuban artist Tania Bruguera.
It is perhaps in this room that the difference between this new ‘semi-permanent’ collection and the last one is most noticeable. The previous exhibition contained a large number of important works by a variety of artists; this one is much more minimalist.
The change of style is also obvious: the disturbing mobile structure by Jean Tinguely has now been replaced by a double bed in the form of a tin can: ‘N. Y., 06.00 A. M.’ (1995-2000), by Franck Scurti, while the space occupied by Tatah’s polyptych is now taken by ‘Dyad’ by Antonio Saura (1978-79). Also on display are ‘All Together’ (1995) by Jaffe Shirley, and the contemporary version of ‘Luncheon on the Grass’ (1964) by Alain Jacquet, among others.
The shining city
Le Corbusier used the term ‘shining city’ to describe one which is more organised, comfortable and ecological. The model of ‘habitable space’ by the Swiss architect for the Tiergarten in Berlin has influenced the video called ‘This
Is No Time For Dreaming’ (2004) by Pierre Huyghe.
The most eye-catching piece in this room is, unsurprisingly, ‘Cosmos’ by Boris Achour (2001), which is over two metres in diameter and weighs 60 kilos.
Imagining the future
Architecture is mainly featured in the fifth section of this display, including the model of an underwater city imagined in the 1970s by Jacques Rougerie and the ‘Cherry Blossom Palace’ by Cristina Díaz and Efrén García. Other designs include the seafront promenade in Benidorm by Carlos Ferrater and Xavier Martí, the Dutch pavilion for Expo 2002 in Hannover by the MVRDV studio and the interesting modular design by Carlos Arroyo for the new town hall in Oostkamp, Belgium (2008-2012).
The Golden Age
Once again this room, which is the principal exhibition space at the Pompidou Centre, contains some of the most impacting works in the collection, including ‘Old Lady of the Garden’ by Frank Stella, ‘Personages and Birds in the Night’, by Joan Miró, ‘The Pond of No’ by Roberto Matta, and ‘Flock of Sheep’ by Françoise-Xavier Lalanne 1965-1979), among other thought-provoking creations which reflect the hopes, ideals and disappointments of ‘Modern Utopias’.