The first retrospective in Italy dedicated to Max Ernst (1891–1976), the German – later American and French – painter, sculptor, poet and art theorist, opens in Milan on 4 October 2022. The exhibition, promoted and produced by the City of Milan – Culture and by Palazzo Reale with Electa, in collaboration with Madeinart, is curated by Martina Mazzotta and Jürgen Pech.
There are over 400 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, collages, photographs, jewellery and illustrated books from museums, foundations and private collections, in Italy and abroad. These include the GAM in Turin, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Museum of Ca’ Pesaro in Venice, the Tate Gallery in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Cantini Museum in Marseille, the State Museums and the Arp Foundation in Berlin, the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid.
The long period of study and research carried out by the curators has made it possible to include among the loans about eighty paintings, works and documents that had not been exhibited to the public for several decades.
The breadth of themes and experiments in Ernst’s work spans over seventy years of 20th century history, between Europe and the United States, constantly eluding any definition. Pictor doctus, profound connoisseur and visionary interpreter of the history of art, philosophy, science and alchemy, Max Ernst is presented through this project as a humanist in the neo-Renaissance sense of the word. If André Chastel claimed to find in Ernst a sort of “reincarnation of those Rhenish authors of Bosch-type devilishness”, Marcel Duchamp found “a comprehensive inventory of the different eras of Surrealism”.
On the main floor of the Palazzo Reale visitors can immerse themselves in a fascinating tour that traces the artist’s adventurous creative path, marked by the great historical events of the twentieth century and filled with great loves, as well as illustrious friendships. The tour recounts events from Ernst’s life, grouping them into 4 main periods, in turn divided into 9 themed rooms that reveal interdisciplinary approaches to his art.
It’s a large, idealised library, that of the artist’s, composed of illustrated books, study manuals, photographs, objects and documents, winding through the entire tour of the exhibition, inviting visitors to engage in games to find the references and similarities between the sources of inspiration and the works themselves.
Like a great cabinet of curiosities, and analogous to Max Ernst’s universe, the exhibition and the companion book challenge visitors to discover fascinating games of perception that are at times marvellous, others astonishing, where logic and formal harmony are combined with unfathomable mysteries, where works, techniques and constellations of symbols lead us beyond painting.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a brochure published by Electa, a guide and a new edition, also by Electa, of two fundamental works by Paola Dècina Lombardi on the surrealist movement: Surrealism 1919–1969. Rebellion and Imagination and Women, Freedom, Love. A Surrealism Anthology.