A passion for art
Les Clefs d’une passion, a flamboyant exhibition of masterpieces of modern art, is on show at the Fondation Louis Vuitton this spring. Numéro spoke to the foundation’s artistic director, Suzanne Pagé.
Picasso, Rothko, Kandinsky, Matisse, Munch, Giacometti, Bacon, Monet, Mondrian… Rarely has one exhibition gathered together so many masterpieces. With Les Clefs d’une passion (literally “the keys of a passion”), the Fondation Louis Vuitton has made clear its curatorial ambitions, inviting us on a journey through some of the 20th century’s most iconic works from The Scream by Munch to La Danse by Matisse.
As well as the clout of Louis Vuitton and Bernard Arnault, this smorgasbord of splendours owes much to Suzanne Pagé, a discreet but essential figure in the art world, who forged her reputation as director of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, which she left in 2006 to take over the reins at the Fondation Vuitton. Today, she’s one of the few people capable of obtaining loans of this stature, thanks to the very high esteem she enjoys among collectors and museum directors. According to Pagé, the “passion” to which the exhibition gives us “the keys” is Bernard Arnault’s, and more widely that of all art lovers and collectors. But it’s inevitably of Pagé’s passionate personality that one thinks when contemplating the selection of intense, fiery, vital, iconic works that she’s put together, works that are as physical as they are spiritual or intellectual, and which, as she reminds us, “successfully broke the rules and canons of art in their time.”
Numéro: Suzanne Pagé, will the exhibition Les Clefs d’une passion allow us to comprehend better the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s collection?
Suzanne Pagé: It’s certainly one of its goals: asserting the founding principles of our collection, which is structured according to four main lines of thought that correspond to Bernard Arnault’s particular passions. The idea behind this exhibition is to show that these choices resonate with the history of art in the 20th century. The first part of the show corresponds to the expressionist line and the anxieties everyone has about life, death, loneliness, existence and so on. It includes The Scream  by Edvard Munch, which has been lent by the Munch Museum in Oslo, and also a very precise selection of works by Bacon, Giacometti, Otto Dix and artists who are less well-known here, like Helene Schjerfbeck, whose self-portraits bear witness to the slow effects of time and decrepitude.
The contemplative line, on the other hand, will lead us from meditation in nature, with Claude Monet and Ferdinand Hodler for example, to the abstraction of Mondrian, Malevich and Rothko, as well as another more hedonist path leading to Bonnard or Picasso. With respect to L’Été  by Bonnard, Ellsworth Kelly told me that he sees his own abstract compositions in it, perceiving it not as a landscape but as the blue, green and yellow planes found in his work. The third part, the pop line, seeks to explore modern life, urbanity, sport, the media, etc. through work by Fernand Léger and Delaunay, as well as extraordinary montage paintings by Picabia. Finally, the musical line explores the relationship with sound that is found in the work of artists like Henri Matisse, whose La Danse [1909–10] displays a vigour that is as Dionysian as it is minimalist, or painters like Kupka and also Kandinsky, who was a friend of the composer Arnold Schönberg…
Les clefs d'une passion à la Fondation Louis Vuitton. Until July 6th, from 9am to 7pm, Monday to Sunday. www.fondationlouisvuitton.com
Interview by Thibaut Wychowanok
Read the full story in Numéro 162, now in stands and available in our iPad app.