Centre Pompidou-Metz

Simple Shapes

13 Jun 2014 - 05 Jan 2015

13 June 2014 - 5 January 2015

This exhibition brings to the fore our fascination with simple shapes, from prehistoric to contemporary. It also reveals how these shapes were decisive in the emergence of the Modern age.

The years between the 19th and 20th centuries saw the return of quintessential forms through major universal expositions which devised a new repertoire of shapes, the simplicity of which would captivate artists and revolutionise the modern philosophy. They introduced, within the evolution of modern art, both an alternative to the eloquence of the human body and the possibility that shapes could be a universal concept.

Nascent debates in physics, mathematics, phenomenology, biology and aesthetic had important consequences on mechanics, industry, architecture and art in general. While visiting the 1912 Salon de la Locomotion Aérienne with Constantin Brancusi and Fernand Léger, Marcel Duchamp stopped short before an aeroplane propeller and declared, "Painting is dead. Who could better this propeller?"

These pared-down, non-geometric shapes, which occupy space in a constant progression, are no less fascinating today. Minimalist artists such as Ellsworth Kelly and Richard Serra, spiritualist artists such as Anish Kapoor, metaphysical artists such as Tony Smith, or poetic artists such as Ernesto Neto are as attentive to simple shapes as were the inventors of modernity.

The exhibition draws on the senses to explore the appearance of simple shapes in art, nature and tools. This poetic approach is balanced by an analytical view of the twentieth century's history.

It connects scientific events and technical discoveries with the emergence of modern shapes. Subjects pertaining to industry, mechanics, mathematics, physics, biology, phenomenology and archaeology are equated with objects from art and architecture, which are in turn set alongside their ancient predecessors and natural objects.

The Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès* is joint producer and patron of Simple Shapes. Fondation d'entreprise Hermès is concerned with the creativity man employs to shape an object, a tool or an artefact. The Foundation and Centre Pompidou-Metz have therefore joined together to give a wide audience a new view of objects in their purest shape, and of the creative energy released through the interaction of man and nature.

Tags: Constantin Brancusi, Marcel Duchamp, Anish Kapoor, Ellsworth Kelly, Fernand Léger, Ernesto Neto, Richard Serra, Tony Smith