Jazz & Lettres

Temporary exhibitionsJazz & Lettres

24 June 2017 / 25 March 2018

Jazz marked the beat for much of 20th century art and literature. This exhibit showcases the ongoing dialogue between the era’s writers and musicians. Over the years, as a vibrant source of inspiration for the likes of Beckett, Butor, Cendrars, Cocteau, Kerouac, Vian, Soupault, Reverdy and many others, jazz naturally took its place as the hallmark of its time.

The centenary of the jazz era is commemorated through a number of key milestones: the first recording of a jazz orchestra in New York. American troops brought the rhythm of ragtime to Europe. In New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, the closing of the “reserved quarter” incited the first diaspora musicians to head north. The exhibit features an autographed score by Darius Milhaud, the young avant-garde composer of Man and His Desire, a ballet to African American rhythms and a scenario by Paul Claudel.

Exhibit showpieces include Jazz (1947) by Matisse, Boris Vian’s mythic novel L’écume des jours (translated in English as Froth on a Daydream, Foam of the Daze or Moon Indigo) , and Nancy Cunard’s Negro: An Anthology (1934), the first manifesto to hail African-American culture, and jazz first of all.

The core jazz themes are complemented with unpublished material, recordings and films: An original “sound shower” allows exhibit visitors to rediscover the masterpieces of the time, including some of the best performances of jazz greats such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.


Curators : Jacques T. Quentin, Jacques Berchtold et Nicolas Ducimetière
Scenography : Stasa Bibic