Christian Bérard, Excentrique Bébé continues the NMNM program of exhibitions dedicated to the revolutionary aesthetics developed by Serge Diaghilev in Monte-Carlo. Heralding certain aspects of contemporary art, the cross-disciplinary approach taken by the founder of the Ballets Russes brought radical transformation to the decorative arts during the 1910s and ’20s and had a lasting influence on visual and performance art to this day.
Following the exhibitions Portraits d’Intérieurs and Designing Dreams, a Celebration of Leon Bakst, Célia Bernasconi, chief Curator at the NMNM, is extending, for this new project, the dialogue begun in 2014 with the artist Nick Mauss, with the purpose of presenting the extraordinary modernity of Christian Bérard, affectionately referred to as Bébé by his friends.
Adopting an off-centered perspective, the exhibition is founded on the notion of “eccentric modernisms” defined by the American academic Tirza True Latimer, who proposes an inclusive reconsideration of official art history in order to reassess artists relegated to its margins.
Featuring interior views and Mediterranean landscapes, the exhibition makes reference to the places associated with Bérard’s many stays in the south: these include Monte Carlo, where he produced his first designs for the Ballets Russes in 1932, Tamaris, where he had his studio during the summer period, the Lily Pastré estate in Marseille, and the villa belonging to Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles in Hyères. Over 300 paintings, drawings, photographs and interior decorations trace Christian Bérard’s encounters and collaborations with the great creators of the time, among whom Jean Cocteau, Louis Jouvet, Christian Dior and Gabrielle Chanel.
Throughout the exhibition, works by Nick Mauss invoke Bérard as a lost practitioner of modernism’s irreverence, taking up his techniques to re-entwine the practices of drawing, writing, and decoration, and suggesting a continuity between staged and domestic spaces.