Annabel Ruckdeschel: Studying an Art Center Inside-Out: Paris-Montparnasse in Latin America

During the interwar period numerous artists and critics referred to Paris, and especially its artists’ quarter Montparnasse, as a center of the art world that attracted artists from all over the world. They frequently repeated this topos with regard to the so-called School of Paris, the “École de Paris”, a name used since 1925 by art critics, artists and art dealers to refer to the many foreign artists working in Montparnasse, including Chaïm Soutine, Marc Chagall, Tsuguharu Foujita and Pablo Picasso. But we can also observe a reverse movement: Many artists moved back to their home countries or were constantly moving between Paris and cities in other European countries, in Asia, North America and South America. It was not unusual for those artists to spread a similar image of Paris-Montparnasse as center of the art world by organizing exhibitions outside Paris.

In this paper I will focus on the latter phenomenon and present two examples from Chile and Brazil. First, I will talk about the Grupo Montparnasse, which was founded in 1923 within an artists’ network between Santiago de Chile and Paris by the artists Julio and Manuel Ortíz de Zárate, Henriette Petit, Luis Vargas Rosas und José Perotti. Secondly, I will analyze an exhibition of the School of Paris that took place in 1930 in Brazil, which was organized by the painter Vicente do Rego Monteiro in Recife, São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro. These projects intervened in the artistic spheres of different cities at the same time. Artists and critics tried both to find their place in art scenes in and outside Paris, affirming and challenging the cultural hegemony of Paris at the same time.

Therefore, the paper asks on a methodological level, how these references to Paris-Montparnasse as a center of the art world can be studied within a transregional framework that sheds light on the dynamics between activities in and outside Paris. In doing so, I want to avoid repeating the classical hegemonial narrative of modern art’s diffusion from the ‘center’ (Paris) to ‘peripheries’. Rather, I will show that it is a possible and gainful endeavor to study the implementation and transformation of narratives of Paris as the global center of the art world within a horizontal perspective as conscious and strategic acts.

Annabel Ruckdeschel is a PhD candidate at the Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen (Germany) and has been a research fellow in 2018/2019 at the German Center for Art History in Paris (Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte, Paris). She is currently a scholar at the International Graduate Center for the Study of Culture (GCSC) in Giessen. In her research project, “Carrefour artistique du monde?” The Invention of Paris-Montparnasse as a Cosmopolitan Art Center and the ‘École de Paris’ (1918-1939), she focuses on different discourses and artistic practices linked to the image of Paris as the world’s center of art during the 1920s and analyzes the transcultural dynamics of the École de Paris between France, Brazil, Argentine, the USA, Russia and Italy. Annabel Ruckdeschel studied Art History, Philosophy and Curatorial Studies in Heidelberg, Berlin and Frankfurt. In her master thesis, she focused on the Parisian Groupe d’action d’art, an anarchist group of art critics in the early 20th century. During her studies in Frankfurt, she worked at Städel Museum and co-curated two exhibitions (2014-2015). Before that she was student assistant in the project “Art, Space, and Mobility in the Early Ages of Globalization” at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz (Max-Planck-Institut). Her second research focus is on the interconnections of art critical and psychiatric discourses during the first half of the century, especially in the case of the expressionist avant-garde artists Paul Goesch.


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