Archives - Exhibition Surrealism in 1947

At the end of the war, as soon as his gallery opened, Aimé Maeght went to New York to meet Marcel Duchamp and suggest that he do an exhibition summarizing surrealism. Organized by Marcel Duchamp, André Breton and Aimé Maeght "The International Surrealism Exhibition in 1947" will be one of the events that will make the Maeght Gallery known worldwide.

Aimé Maeght, on the left and André Breton

Below, extract from La Saga Maeght
"In the wake of the Braque exhibition, during the three months of the summer of 1947, Aimé presented the crazy project that he had gone to submit to Marcel Duchamp, in Manhattan. He wished, he wanted to organize it in Paris, in his gallery , a great exhibition of surrealism.
His verve and dynamism carried the day. Duchamp was thrilled by the ardor and energy of Aimé, who offered to make his entire gallery available to André Breton and Marcel Duchamp.
Thus, “Surrealism in 1947” opens on July 7.
The exhibition is spread over four distinct spaces. The entrance staircase risers have the appearance of book spines and make an ideal surreal bookcase. Frederick Kiesler, who designed Peggy Guggenheim's New York gallery, imagined the architecture of the "Room of Superstitions" which, as described in the important work published for the occasion, " opens the theoretical cycle of tests and the visitor must realize the synthesis of the main existing superstitions and force himself to overcome them in order to continue the visit .” Then comes an endless winding corridor, built to impose on the viewer a long journey in front of the works, it opens onto a billiard table behind which a curtain of rain constantly falls.
Beyond are twelve octagonal cells, each being, according to Breton, " dedicated to a being, a category of beings or an object likely to be endowed with mythical life and to which an altar will have been erected on the model of pagan cults – Indian or Voodoo, for example .” Breton has carte blanche and does not hesitate to listen to his surrealist friends.

André Breton and foreman Zigotto

Excerpts from a letter from Benjamin Péret sum up the spirit of the exhibition quite well: “I propose that curtains of rain fall on women's mouths in relief...
For the Table Wolf, we could hear the amplified sound of the invisible heartbeat...
Votive object for Jeanne Sabrenas: A very large plate in the shape of a star, with five branches ending in an eye and containing milk on which fake spiders float...
The serpentine bird wears a crown of condoms...
The worldly tiger wears the monocle and stares at a surgeon's coat bearing bloody handprints...
I also think that we could introduce intermittent noises: the laughter of women being tickled, the sound of torn fabric, the sound of a person falling down a staircase, the sound of frying, birdsong, geese squeaking, frog songs, kissing noises, priest's bell with revolver shots, enraged barking... »
Modernity of thought, again, when it is written: “Everything is false today in the relationships between man and woman. These relationships are between master and slave; it must disappear among us. »
And, still in the catalog, from the pen of Sarane Alexandrian: “I believe in the possibility, for a handful of men, of inaugurating a cult of women so profoundly mystical and carnal.”
Ernst, Duchamp, Tanguy, Miró, Lam, Dali, De Chirico, Matta, Henry Miller, Bataille, Désaire, Hans Bellmer, Arp, Calder, Picabia specially imagine works, objects, ensembles – today we would say “installations” or “conceptual works” – for the exhibition.
The gallery hosts one hundred and fifty works by eighty-seven artists from twenty-four countries; opportunity for so many meetings for Aimé. “ Beauty will be convulsive or it will not be ” is the manifesto of the exhibition.
We can see a foam breast bearing the inscription “ prayer of touch ” (a work by Duchamp then aged eighty-five), a naked woman wanders around, garlands of breasts are suspended outside the gallery – the police rush to get them off the hook. The exhibition caused a scandal. Good people are shocked and Guiguite is worried, she fears these expressions mocking religion, we understand better, by reading the description of the exhibition, what will push her to look for holy water.
Prévert, mockingly, wonders if the photographers aren't photographing themselves because the flashes are flashing so much. Mice droppings block the mechanism of a mobile, billiard players are bored because the public has stolen their balls. All the press is reporting on the exhibition. Tempers rise and communist activists, opposed to this Americanized surrealism, are sent by Aragon to cause a scandal. This is additional advertising. More than forty thousand curious people will flock to see this event with international impact. However, the exhibition takes place during the summer in a deserted Paris.
What's the result of it ? Nothing sold because nothing to sell, endless discussions and a Homeric shouting match between Breton and Aimé. But there are so many new and admirable encounters that the adventure, far from being considered a fiasco by Grandpa, on the contrary acts as a particle accelerator." End of the extract from The Maeght Saga.

This is what is truly subversive, because we are in 1947. In front of a work by Joan Miró, a large unrolled strip of fabric, a young woman is lying naked. On the penis, a piece of velvet to which a foam breast is attached. Next to it, a label reads "Please touch", the breast and the title are included on the cover of the catalog.

To "adorn" the catalog, Duchamp, who lived in New York, recovered, from an American surplus, foam breasts which were designed for the wives of GIs who had discovered more "buxom" women in Italy and France. Duchamp had them fixed on a precious velvet then the covers of the voluminous catalog of the exhibition. On the back a label says "please touch".

Aimé Maeght had a passion for publishing, he created Maeght Editeur to provide the ideal communication tool to the artists of the Maeght Gallery and the Maeght Foundation

Preparation of the exhibition "Surrealism in 1947", July 1947. Foreman Zigotto during preparations for painting The Liver and the Cock's Comb by Arshile Gorky.
For this huge exhibition organized at the Galerie Maeght with Marcel Duchamp and André Breton in 1947, Aimé Maeght asked Joan Miró to make an original lithograph poster.

This is the first collaboration between Joan Miró and Aimé Maeght. From then on Joan Miró printed almost all of his engravings, lithographs, posters and books at the ARTE Maeght Printing Company, including the posters for his exhibitions at the MoMA, Museum of Modern Art in New York, or in the most important museums in the world.

Victor Brauner, in front of a painting by Joan Miró, presents his sculpture the Table Wolf (1939-1947)

The famous billiards table and in the background, the painting by Joan Miró.

Some of the surrealist group at the Maeght gallery in 1947
1 Maurice Baskine
2 Pierre Demarne
3 Maurice Henry
4 Jerzy Kujawski
5 Claude Tarnaud
6 Francis Bouvet
7 Enrico Donati
8 Marcel Jean
9 Jacques Kober
10 Stanislas Rodanski
11 Gaston Criel
12 Hans Bellmer
13 André Breton
14 Henri rye
15 Henri Pastoureau
16 Geerbrandt
17 Victor Brauner
18 Sarane Alexandrian
19 Toyen
20 Madame Rye
21 Nora Mitrani
22 Jacques Hérold
23 Henri Goetz
24 Frédéric Delanglade
25 Matta
26 Frederik Kiesler
27 Jindrich Heisler
28 Aimé Maeght
29 Ervin Marton

Photograph: Denise Bellon, 1947 (c) the equinox films - Denise Bellon photographic collection n

Catalog Surrealism in 1947 - Editions Maeght

Executed in 1947 in an edition of 999 copies, including 49 numbered I-XLIX and 950 on superior wove paper.
On the pink cardboard cover, hand-colored foam rubber breast mounted on black velvet, made in collaboration with Enrico Donati. Catalog of the International Exhibition of Surrealism presented by Marcel Duchamp and André Breton at the Galerie Maeght in July-August 1947. Texts by André Breton Georges Bataille, Hans Bellmer, Joë Bousquet, Benjamin Péret, Robert Lebel, Pierre Mabille… and 24 original illustrations including 5 color lithographs by Victor Brauner, Max Ernst, Jacques Hérold, Wifredo Lam and Joan Miro, 5 five etchings by Hans Bellmer, Marcel Jean, Maria (Maria Martins), Yves Tanguy and Dorothea Tanning and 12 lithographs in black by Serge Brignoni, Alexander Calder, Bruno Capacci, Elizabeth Van Damme, Julio de Diego, Enrico Donati, David Hare, Jacqueline Lamba, Matta, Kay Sage, Yves Tanguy and Toyen.

The book La Saga Maeght by Yoyo Maeght, with dedication. Link here

The Maeght Saga by Yoyo Maeght