How Picasso was inspired by Non-Western Art | Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

How Picasso was inspired by Non-Western Art | Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

Hey Everyone! So recently, I was invited to Paris to view an exhibition called Picasso Primitif at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Jacques Chirac. I apologize in advance for my very terrible French If you saw my previous video on Picasso and his muses, you can probably guess I was pretty stoked to go. Regardless of what you think of the man or the artist himself, whether you like his art or not, it’s hard to deny that he is perhaps one of the most influential, most prolific and most important artists of the past 100 years. This show was the first of its kind: a collaboration
with the Musée Picasso, to explore the development of Picasso’s work, which are shown right
alongside with indigenous non-Western art. It’s was certainly eye opening and I want
to share with you what I learned. To give you a background on the museum itself:
It’s a fairly new museum in a city of legendary museums like the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay. It’s only about 11 years old and it’s
right next to the Eiffel Tower- in fact you get a lovely view from their rooftop restaurant.
It’s this massive, red contemporary structure that is quite the contrast from
it’s Haussmanian neighbors with with it shares its walls. Inside you’ll find it’s massive permanent
collection which showcases the objects and art of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. While the outside is open and bright, with
a lush garden, the interior is dark with winding pathways and spotlights to highlight the objects. In part this helps conserve certain objects
that were made without the intention of lasting very long, but also it creates a sense of
mystery about these foreign objects. I want to take a pause here to discuss a couple of things. In particular I want to talk about what it means for this non-Western museum to be show casing the work of a European man and his interaction with Non- Western Art. It’s an incredibly complicated situation, but I actually think the museum And the exhibition really takes great care
to address this. To give you a little refresher, during the
early 1900s when much of this work was made, France, along with a number of other european
countries, had already been busy building one of the largest colonial empires for the
last 400 plus years. It was basically a race to see which country
could get the most land around the word – for of course – the prestige, but also to control key trading
routes, land and raw materials. It was also seen like a sort of moral mission:
to lift these primitive peoples by giving them are more sophisticated language, culture
and guiding them to the light of Catholic religion. Jules Ferry, the leading proponent of colonialism,
declared; “The higher races have a right over the lower races, they have a duty to civilize
the inferior races.” Now, we can see how there’s a lot of problems
here already. First of all, the use of words like primitives,
inferior, even non-Western, which casts Western as the norm- It’s a very European-centric
perspective. Now there was great interest on the part of
France to show off all the great work they’ve been doing for the world, so
there were a number of occasions where objects from these places were brought to Paris for
exhibition. In fact, if you look into the history of the
collection for this museum, it comes from mainly three sources. One is The Musée de l’Homme (or Museum of
Man, which is an interesting name). And that is a descendant of the Musée d’Ethnographie
du Trocadéro.. *mispronounce* Ohh I don’t know how to say anything 🙁 (recording of Trocadéro) founded in 1878. Which had been built for the third
Paris World’s Fair the same year. That’s the fair where major countries came
in to showcase their new technologies like Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and Thomas
Edison’s megaphone and phonograph. But it also had a very popular human zoo called
the “negro village”, comprised of 4000 “indigenous people”. So you can tell from that, the attitude towards
these people was kind of terrible. Really. Just awful. Turing them, quite literally, into circus
acts- “Come see these exoctic and primitive people of the past!” The second major part of the collection comes
from Musée national des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie, which began as the colonial exhibition
of 1931. And that was an attempt to show off the diverse
cultures and resources of France’s colonial possessions. To highlight how their relationship with their
colonies was mutually beneficial and then really downplaying claims of them assimilating these colonial societies. A lot of these objects, including a portion of
the museum’s collection today, we just don’t have no idea of how they were acquired. And there’s just no way to figure that out. We can tell this specific carving is from
Mali, by a Dogon artist just by looking at the style, subject and material. But there’s no signature or date to know
who made, from where it comes from, or how it came into the possession of the French. They could have been bought, or taken, or
traded with people who stole them. There was a huge demand for these objects
in Europe and many people, including modern artists like Picasso, acquired them on the
cheap. In fact, in the early 2000s, New Zealand’s
national museum the the Te Papa Tongarewa made it their mission to reacquire Maori remains
held in various institutions around the worlds. One of the objects in question were the mokomokai,
or Maori tattooed heads held in the Quai Branly, and the objects were formally returned to
New Zealand in 2012. It’s a tricky landscape to navigate: what
right do museums have to possess these objects, or to even show these objects? For example, some of these objects were made for rituals they’re not made to be preserved. They’re made for maybe an initiation ceremony Where only the older men and young boys were allowed to see the objects Women were not allowed to see certain things. What does it mean for the museum to be showing this to anyone who comes in? In same cases, these groups of people no longer
even exist. During the tour of the permanent collection,
I was stuck by the amount of sensitivity necessary to work in this space. There’s a sense of responsibility to preserve
history and knowledge of these cultures that are no longer existing, or quickly declining, but also a great joy in sharing the limited knowledge that was very difficult to acquire Trying to understand how various people live, how they think about the world, their religion and virtues. It’s important to understand their original
contexts, but to also consider it’s current situation: are these objects art or artefacts? The third major source are recently acquired
pieces by the museum itself. Thankfully, today, there’s less shadiness. They’re better documented and there’s more of a process. But especially when it comes to institutions
like the Quai Branly, they are a lot more thorough, and sensitive, and selective in this process. That being said, when it was still open, the
Trocadero museum was very popular among modern artists – including the man in question today: Pablo Picasso. While it’s easy to go down this path discussing
cultural appropriation and simply linking the visual similarities between Picasso’s
work and non-Western Art, the show, however, takes a very interesting approach. The exhibition is split into two categories
that approach the relationship from two different ways: The first is chronological and follows
Picasso’s work, in key times that he comes into contact with non-Western art. Many of which are actually on display like
the object he first acquired: a Tiki from the Marquesas Islands, and the Nevimbumbao
body mask from Matisse, which Picasso refused to take until Matisse’s death in 1954. After Picasso’s visit to the Trocadero Museum,
he apparently reworked his famous Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The visual similarities of the faces of the
women are often compared to African masks. He is quoted by Francoise Gilot in Life with
Picasso, saying A big argument of the show is that Picasso
was not simply inspired visually by these objects. In fact, he said that he wasn’t even aware
of “Negro Art” the term used to refer to objects that were not just African, but
basically anything that wasn’t European or Asian. He wasn’t interested in the excoticism of
these objects, and instead identified with these works as equal, works of art that spoke
to him deeply. The second part of the exhibition approaches
this by exploring the similarities in stylization and themes:
First, though archetypal body positions, like nudity, verticality of the human form, and
the simplification of the body into sign. In Metamorphosis, they compare Picasso’s
interest in images containing other images, recursive imagery, and the use of animal-human
forms, like the Minotaur, which was often used by Picasso to represent himself. They also show how he started create assemblages
from found objects – a technique often used in non-Western works. Finally, in id, they discuss the primal nature
shared between these works: the importance of urges and Instinct. His fascination with the gaze, face, mouth
and genitalia are abstracted and distorted. They become especially gruesome during times
of war and when the artist struggled with loss. The objects are placed in a way where sometimes
it’s hard to tell, which works are Picasso, and which are made by unknown artists – placing
them on the same level as Art. Picasso felt there was something about these
things that were truly at the core of human experience. Photographs show that he collected and kept
these objects intermingled with his work, throughout his studio and quotes show his
admiration, respect, and even fear of the power of these objects. The title, Picasso Primitif, isn’t just
a nod to the weight of the term in art history, but rather refers to that initial deepest
and most fundamental part of the human experience that is understood by all. And this, they argue, is what Picasso deeply
identified with in these non-Western objects. It was through conversations with these objects
that Picasso was able to break from formal Western approaches and change the course of
Modern Art. I hope you guys enjoyed this video. If you did, please give it a thumbs up and subscribe to this channel Little Art Talks If you want to continue riding that Picasso train, I do have another video on Picasso and his various muses:
his lovers, his women, his wives. Things like that. A huge thank you to the Museum, quai Branly I apologize for my French again But they were amazing, It was just a good tour. I had such a great time and the tour was just spot on. If you are in Paris or visiting Paris this summer,
You should definitely go visit Picasso Primitif will be up until July 23, 2017. So I hope you guys will have a chance to check it out. And if you miss the show they have other wonderful exhibitions. The permanent collection is also fantastic So I hope you’ll have the chance to check it out. As always, thanks so much for watching and I’ll see you next time!

41 thoughts on “How Picasso was inspired by Non-Western Art | Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac”

  1. I really liked this video!! As a person that lives in Costa Rica I don't have many opportunities to go to museums and see these wonderful things. I loved catching a glimpse of this exposition and how you explained it too! Here in Costa Rica we have like 5 big(-ish) museums, and 3 of those are just based around pre-colonial art, so having gone to those museums like 3 times already , it was very interesting to see the impact these pieces had on the rest of the world in this video. Thanks for sharing this awesome exhibition with us and for creating more awareness an appreciation for non-European art. I would love to see more videos like these where you go to an exhibition and explain it. Keep up the good work 🙂 p.s. sorry for the essay :p

  2. I can't believe you're sharing all this knowledge for free! Thank you for such a great and thoroughly explained video!

  3. Thank you for taking the time to dissect the history of exhibiting indigenous arts in Western Museums. That was a wonderful analysis! I'll be traveling to Holland and Germany this Summer, and now I will be taking a side trip to see this exhibition. You've opened a new perspective on Picasso for me. Thank you again!

  4. I've stumbled on your channel by accident while looking at the Izanagi and Izanami creation story, but I'm glad I did! Your videos are so informative and cute! As an art lover myself, I'm very grateful that there's an art channel out on Youtube that keeps me interested for hours whilst learning more stuff I've never knew. Thanks for sharing! ;DD

  5. Thanks for the work you put into these informative and truly cool presentations, they are very smart and eloquent, they change from the general youtube loud and obnoxious" look at me" tones.

  6. Hey girl I really like your videos, I learn so much from you. You're a genus when it comes to art and I really learned to love you more when you shared the video about your little project (which is huge btw so congrats) but please stay away from history. 2:53 "A moral mission to lift these primitive people by giving them more sophisticated language, culture and guiding them to the light of catholic" whaaat? girl it was only for our raw material.. THEY TOOK EVERYTHING. and we had one of the most beautiful culures ever, google Ageria before 1830, they wanted to erase our culture religion and even language. they wanted to erase our identity.
    We don't need a more sophisticated culutre because we're in love with our culture. The Algerian culture is rich, varied and very old, each region, each city or oasis constitutes a particular cultural space. Kabylie, Aures, Algiers, Hauts Plateaux, Mzab Valley, Gourara, Hoggar, Saoura, Oranie are each regions with cultural and sometimes linguistic peculiarities. The first cultural events on the territory of present-day Algeria are thousands of years old, such as the fascinating rock art of Tassili n'Ajjer, passing by all the beautiful buildings erected throughout the history of our country, even the crafts (artizana) are very present. Algerian art reflects the history chapters of this country and the different influences it has had.
    *"A more sophisticated language" excuse you but Arabic is one of the mostly common spoken languages. In fact Arabic is the 5th common language in the world. Around 300 million people speak Arabic around the globe. And the oldest form of Arabic literature is poetry. Arabic literature has a great old history. The history of Arabic literature goes back to 16 centuries ago.
    During the Middle Ages, Literary Arabic was a major vehicle of culture in Europe, especially in science, mathematics and philosophy. As a result, many European languages have also borrowed many words from it. Arabic,, influence, mainly in vocabulary, is seen in European languages, mainly Spanish and to a lesser extent Portuguese, Valencian and Catalan, owing to both the proximity of Christian European and Muslim Arab civilizations and 800 years of Arabic culture and language in the Iberian Peninsula, referred to in Arabic as al-Andalus. Balkan languages, including Greek and Bulgarian, have also acquired a significant number of Arabic words through contact with Ottoman Turkish.
    *"and guiding them to the light of catholic" they came a little late because we were guided to the light of Islam and we're satisfied with it.
    I only talked about Algeria cause I'm Algerian and I know the history of my country, but I'm sure it's the same case with the whole African continent.
    I have more to say but I don't have time I'm in an exam period. by the way it was a really beautiful video I only hated the history part because Algeria has lost more than million and a half martyrs to win our independence in 1962 against France. And both my grandparents fought and made war agaist france. They lost everything their first children their brothers and sister, their parent and their homes. My grandpa still have bullets scars he's a survivor and my other grandpa is a martyr, they killed because he kept teaching arabic to children in secret
    Ps: I don't hate french people or France, in fact I visited paris twice. I just hate the leaders who declared war against us and decided to eslave us and also those who committed all those war crimes (yes there are many).

  7. Amazing! Great explanation on why Picasso wasn't appropiating these "exotic art forms" for his own purpose of creating something original, but instead, in seeing them as equals, as artists and multidimensional people. A direct slap on the face on academic/eurocentric society of his time.

  8. This exhibition opened about a year after my trip to Paris and its museums. A shame that I did not have an opportunity to see it but am glad that you did, and that you reviewed it so superbly. Good work; keep it up!

  9. if you want to talk about cultural norms , artist , media, and gallery ethics…. then why not learn to pronounce the French words properly. with the tools at hand i, am sure that it would be easy for you-it would look more professional , instead of apologizing for not being able to speak the language-which looks too high school for u to be taken seriously..

  10. Wow! You really captured the scope and the details of this exhibition. Your videos are such an education and a delight! Please keep up the amazing work.

  11. I want to thank you for doing these videos. Your format, imagery, and style of presentation make art history approachable. You put complex subjects into language that is easy to understand and well thought out. I teach art history and look forward to sharing your videos with my students.

  12. It's not "influence" its appropriation. It isn't "western bias" its racist. Your "cute" facial expressions don't do the topic justice, and are downright inappropriate. You are not handing these extremely sensitive subjects well. I suggest you read more non-art oriented historical text to supplement your ability to contextualize. You're coming across as shallow and insensitive.

  13. Waw, thank-you for this video. I'm an artist working and living in Victoria BC Canada. As a first nations person from Canada it was easy to recognize the Chilkat blanket in this video – it reminds me of the ones from Tongas Alaska that were inherited by my family via marriage, along with a mountain and names and ceremonies.

    I was sitting here with my daughter teaching her about art etc, we are a homeschooling family, and suddenly this video brings up the concept of appropriation! So good! Thanks this was a most excellent video for helping explain what goes on in and around our cultural art forms. This was my first meaningful subscribe of 2019, 😀

  14. Great video, It was really informative (:

    You were really mature with explaining all the controversies in your video

  15. I studied poccasos work very hard he was like my Teacher I noticed he was Transforming his Ideals in cubist abstract I have Art Beyond his style hidden and Vangos also I had to almost give my Art away alot of it why I'm poor in 💰 but Rich in God's Creativity that Has been Greatly Disrespected by Art thieves liars and Murders Greedy as fucking hell and selfish there all about themselves cons using street con Games to fool Artist they won't help you back I notice that I see know why there Creating bombs and Army's it's so easy to Dog and play on Artist but beware time for Games are running out KARMA is not a funny Dept to pay I see all these Gangs and Army's and Bombs times for childish Games are coming to a Head the Time is at Hand because of con Artist Future Buisness is Ruined and I for see Death as Your Master have fun laughing at that since it's so funny to Dog the ones who helped your ungreaful asses

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