14 October 2016

A rare occurrence: Magritte is coming to Frankfurt on a large scale. Curator Martina Weinhart visited him in advance at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

By Martina Weinhart

Magritte is as familiar to us as his disconcerting images are alien. His unusual pictorial ideas are so widespread today that you can find segments of them as reenactments in fashion magazines just as you find the individual motifs on mugs, umbrellas or cushions. In contrast to this insane presence, which extends to notebooks and calendars too, larger-scale exhibitions incorporating many of his works are nevertheless extremely hard to come by. And it’s no wonder, because they are some of the most sought-after and coveted in the museum world. The amassing of loans can easily become a genuinely never-ending task here.

It’s hard to believe, but it was actually 20 long years ago that Magritte was last seen on a larger scale within Germany – back then it was at Kunstsammlung NRW in Düsseldorf in dialog with conceptual artists such as Brodthaers, Sturtevant, Bloom, Kosuth and Gober. Here at the SCHIRN, we have had the honor once: Back in 2008 we exhibited Magritte’s “periode vache”, the images he painted in the “Bad Painting” style with the aim of provoking the “snobbish” Parisian Surrealists surrounding André Breton. Nevertheless, these were unusual pictures for Magritte, and we would have to wait another ten years for the real “Magrittean”, the typical Magritte.

Thinking in pictures

This typical Magritte will soon be on display for all to see in Frankfurt, but this time viewed from a perspective that highlights unexpected aspects to us. “Magritte worked for his whole life to give painting the same significance as words. He wanted to show that you can think in pictures”, explains the curator Didier Ottinger, who came up with the exhibition concept “Magritte. The Treachery of Images” for the Centre Pompidou. In February the SCHIRN will be hosting the same exhibition in a slightly different form.

It shows Magritte as an artist of “Surrealism under the blazing sun”, which is subject to fewer of the classic methods of Surrealism such as dreams and chance. And the bright daylight illuminates René Magritte as a thinker who maintained a dialog with philosophers with whom he debated the problematic issues of his art. These included none other than the great French post-structuralist Michel Foucault. It was after an exchange of letters with Magritte that he composed the essay “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” – “This is not a pipe”.

This is not a retrospective

The Magritte exhibition at the Centre Pompidou has just opened. We have waited a long time, but now we only have until February before the works go on display in Frankfurt. You can already read about it in the media, which report, true to Magritte’s dictum “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” – “This is not a pipe”, that “Ceci n’est pas un surrealist” or indeed “Ceci n’est pas un retrospective”.