Exploring a relationship that was both personal and artistic, the exhibition focuses on the French writer and painter Henri Michaux (1899-1984) and the Chinese-French painter Zao Wou-Ki (1920-2013). Zao Wou-Ki arrived in France from China in the spring of 1948 and met Henri Michaux at the end of the following year. Made up of a warm regard emanating from both men, the human bond joining them was to last until the death of the poet. But above all it was an artistic bond. Not only did Michaux provide his fellow artist with moral support, but the two men’s work in drawing and painting also shares a certain number of choices that brought operational procedures into play. There is the attention paid to the sign, the hunger for experimentation, the importance of the gesture, the primacy of movement.
The pieces on display come mainly from the collection of rare editions of Henri Michaux that are in the Martin Bodmer Foundation’s possession, along with the collections of Micheline Phankim, Michaux’s legal successor, Françoise Marquet, Zao Wou-Ki’s legal successor, and the Belgian bibliophile Sven Pitseys, who is well known to lovers of Michaux’s work. Finally, a number of institutions generously agreed to specific loans for the show. These include, in Switzerland, the Cabinet des estampes of the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire of the City of Geneva and the museums of Winterthur and Locarno; and in France, the Musée national d’Art moderne (the Georges Pompidou Center) and the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. Many of the items selected for the exhibition are being shown for the first time. Bringing them together for this show is itself an event.
Curators: Bernard Vouilloux and Jacques Berchtold
Exhibition design: Stasa Bibic