The Curatorial Avant-Garde

Surrealism and Exhibition Practice in France, 19251941

By (author) Adam Jolles

Paperback - £27.95

Publication date:

15 July 2015

Length of book:

288 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271059396

All too often, the historical avant-garde is taken to be incommensurate with and antithetical to the world inhabited by the museum. In The Curatorial Avant-Garde, by contrast, Adam Jolles demonstrates the surrealists’ radical transformation of the ways in which spectators encountered works of art between the wars. From their introduction in Paris in 1925, surrealist exhibitions dissolved the conventional boundaries between visual media, language, and the space of public display. This intrusion—by a group of amateur curators, with neither formal training nor professional experience in museums or galleries—ultimately altered the way in which surrealists made, displayed, and promoted their own art. Through interdisciplinary analyses of particular exhibitions and works of art in relation to the manner in which they were displayed, Jolles addresses this public face of surrealism. He directs attention to the venues, the contemporary debates those venues engendered, and the critical discourses in which they participated. In so doing, he shines new light on the movement’s artistic and intellectual development, revealing both the political stakes attached to surrealism within the historical context of interwar Europe and the movement’s instrumental role in the trajectory of modernism.

“Jolles discusses the Surrealists’ own exhibitions, with which writers and artists possessing no formal curatorial training attempted to wrest control back from the high art establishment, with wild results. Exhibitions centered on Surrealism are currently having a moment, making it the perfect time to look at the way these artists displayed their own art.”

—Zoë Lescaze, ARTNews