Parisian exhibition catalogues, May 2015

One of the advantages of working in European Collections and Cataloguing is the opportunity to see new exhibition catalogues shortly after publication, which can be very useful when planning a visit to a European capital. When the workflow is at its most efficient, the catalogue’s acquisition can coincide with the opening of the exhibition, often the case when the volume is supplied under the terms of one of the Library’s approval plans.

Fondation Louis Vuitton by Flickr user Howard Stanbury

Fondation Louis Vuitton by Flickr user Howard Stanbury

In the middle of May I spent a long weekend in Paris, and before departure had the chance to look through two catalogues of exhibitions I was visiting – Poussin et Dieu (S950.a.201.3164) at the Louvre, and Velázquez at the Grand Palais (S950.a.201.3127). It was particularly interesting in the latter case to be able to compare the range of paintings exhibited with those presented at the National Gallery exhibition in 2006. Both the Paris catalogues are very substantial publications, presenting the latest research on the artists in question, but it is hard to imagine anyone actually carrying the books round and consulting them whilst in the exhibition.

Only when in Paris, however, was I fully to realise the plethora of exhibitions on offer in May. It was only after my return that the catalogue of the current exhibition at the Musée Marmottan arrived, La toilette ; naissance de l’intime, (2015.11.406) featuring a mixture of paintings, drawings and bibliographical exhibits, with its for me personal highlight of an astonishing sequence of images by François Boucher.

To my shame I had not been aware before my Parisian visit of the significant new exhibition space in the Frank Gehry designed Fondation Louis Vuitton. We are currently ensuring that the Library has an adequate collection of books on this extraordinary new structure, with its memorable commissions by Ellsworth Kelly and Adrian Villar Rojas. I found on my return that the approval plan had already delivered the English language version of the exhibition catalogue, Keys to a passion (S950.a.201.3165), which has essays and texts by some 25 international art historians and specialists. The exhibition celebrates some of the most recognisable works of twentieth century art, works which established the foundations of modernity, centrepieces of collections such as MoMA, the Hermitage and Tate Modern, and therefore rarely loaned. But the exhibition is a testament to the greatest works that money can borrow. The earliest work on display, the version of Edvard Munch’s The scream, stolen in Oslo in 2004, was not even lent to the Pompidou Centre for its Munch retrospective in 2011-2012.

It is important to stress, however, that users cannot automatically expect such catalogues to be acquired to coincide with exhibition openings. A case in point is the exhibition on Napoléon et Paris at the Musée Carnavalet (S950.a.201.3181). Although the exhibition opened on April 8th, the UL only acquired its copy on May 28th. We also have to be careful to ensure that the same exhibition has not generated catalogues in different languages at different locations, since that might involve unnecessary duplication. The exhibition on sculpture from the Ivory Coast currently on display at the Musée du quai Branly, entitled Les maîtres de la sculpture de Côte d’Ivoire, started life in Zürich and moved on to Bonn and Amsterdam before arriving in Paris, so the Library has the German rather than the French version – Afrikanische Meister : Kunst der Elfenbeinküste (S950.a.201.2183).

Some of May's exhibition catalogues

Some of May’s exhibition catalogues

Nothing reflects the richness of the Parisian cultural scene more than the range of exhibitions on offer. It would be quite impossible to see everything, but at least the Library’s collections give our readers the opportunity to experience at second-hand what is being displayed and discussed. Other exhibitions running in May included the following:

Also at the Grand Palais: Icônes américaines (S950.c.201.558)

Also at the Louvre: Épopée des rois thraces (S950.a.201.3253)

At the Musée d’Orsay: Pierre Bonnard : peindre l’Arcadie (S950.a.201.3129) and Dolce vita : du Liberty au design italien, 1900-1940 (S950.b.201.2257)

At the Centre Pompidou: Le Corbusier : mesures de l’homme (S950.a.201.3231)

At the Bibliothèque nationale: De l’argile au nuage : une archéologie des catalogues (S950.b.201.2216) and François 1er : pouvoir et image (2015.9.1425)

At the Musée du Luxembourg: Les Tudors (S950.b.201.2238)

At the Musée Jacquemart-André: De Giotto à Caravage : les passions de Roberto Longhi. (S950.b.201.2384)

At the Musée de l’Orangerie: Adolfo Wildt (1868-1931), le dernier symboliste. (S950.b.201.2258)

At the Musée de l’Armée-Invalides: Churchill, de Gaulle. (2015.10.898)

David Lowe

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