– The ZPK shows Paul Klee in the face of technology
The museum dedicated to the artist must always find something new. Nevertheless, his presentations today tend to resemble each other.
The Zentrum Paul Klee (ZPK) in Bern has once again reshuffled the cards. With the same artist to honour, it’s about finding a new angle every year. And if possible not a blind spot! Died in 1940 at only 61, the painter did not know the longevity of a Pablo Picasso. Although real, the diversity of its creation is not so apparent. Finally, it lacks the sex, the money and the violence that have always surrounded the Spaniard of Paris, then of Provence. The kind Lily Klee is no match for the beauties that will have been torn for decades around the genius of the 20th century. The fame of her husband can therefore only rest on his work, it is true very abundant. Something in the ten thousand pieces, all media combined, four thousand of which are in the ZPK. Full ownership or long-term loans.
A difficult basement
It is from this mass that the curators of this institution draw the material for one or two exhibitions each year. There are large ones on the ground floor and small ones contented with the basement. A very thankless space, all in width and with incomprehensible circulations. But what do you want? The ZPK remains without doubt Renzo Piano’s great failure in terms of museums… You have to “deal with it”, knowing that the result will become mediocre at best. Some time ago, the ZPK, which now willingly leaves its beacons to offer artists who are less and less close to the master, nevertheless succeeded here surprisingly in its Adolf Wölfli. The raw artist was not, however, at first glance the ideal client for this vast cellar, which was more like a shelter for cultural property in times of war. All that’s missing are the sandbags…
“Klee, looking towards modernity, inevitably had to be interested in discoveries such as X-rays, electric light, microscopy or relativity.”
Zentrum Paul Klee
And what is the ZPK showing here today, while waiting in the main hall for the inauguration of the major exhibition devoted to the American-Japanese sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi (1)? Klee’s “craze for technology” who, looking towards modernity, was bound to be interested in discoveries “like X-rays, electric light, microscopy or the theory of relativity” expressed by the Bernese by adoption Albert Einstein. It remains to be determined how these changes in intellectual or everyday life influenced his painting from the start. For this, it was necessary to find the appropriate canvases, watercolors and drawings. It is better to exploit as little as possible works that pedants would qualify as polysemic. There are indeed Klee that one could put all the sauces in spite of the allusive titles given by their author. This is indeed the danger of the thematic presentations multiplied by the ZPK, which avoids clear chronological courses like the plague. Why make it simple when you can make it complicated?
Some wonderful paintings
The result of this “Paul Klee, The Enthusiasm for Technique” is paradoxically to resemble all the other exhibitions on the artist offered in the lower depths of the ZPK. There are some magnificent paintings there, including “Qui plane” (1930), “The Invention” (1934) or “Combat Harmonisé” (1937). Some color creations on paper turn out to be of the same level. Then come the pencil drawings, which are by far not the most attractive aspect of the production. They often remain pale, dull and without magic. The problem is that the Zentrum has a lot of them. Something must be done with it. The theme serves as an excuse. The leaves seem to impose themselves. Nevertheless, the partition which supports twenty large ones in four rows remains, in my opinion, not very edible.
A bit of cinema was essential among all these modernities. So there is a long documentary from 2021 about Klee by Bernd Engelmann and Gisella Wunderlich presented according to the hours in German, English and French. Plus silent excerpts featuring a ballet decorated by Oskar Schlemmer or Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”. At the start of the route, the visitor can also see the evocation of the big city in the 1920s. Surprise! For once the urban plans shown are not taken from “Berlin, Symphonie einer grossen Stadt” by Walter Ruttmann (1927), but from the little known “Die Stadt der Millionen” by Adolf Trotz from 1925. a small change!
(1) It’s for September 26.
“Paul Klee, The craze for technology”, Zentrum Paul Klee, 3, Monument in Fruchtland, Bern, until May 25, 2023. Tel. 031 359 01 01, website www.zpk.org Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Born in 1948, Etienne Dumont made studies in Geneva which were of little use to him. Latin, Greek, right. A failed lawyer, he branched off into journalism. Most often in the cultural sections, he worked from March 1974 to May 2013 at the “Tribune de Genève”, starting by talking about cinema. Then came the fine arts and books. Other than that, as you can see, nothing to report.More informations
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