Karel Appel and the CoBrA movement take centre stage at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris

Published on 03.04.2017
Dutchman Karel Appel is best known as one of the founder members of the CoBrA group. This summer, the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris will come alive with colour as it devotes a retrospective to this vibrant artist. Until 20 August.
© Karel Appel Foundation / ADAGP, Paris 2017
La Chute du cheval dans l’espace silencieux, 2000
Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris

This exhibition has been made possible thanks to an exceptional donation of 17 paintings and 4 sculptures from the Karel Appel Foundation in Amsterdam,” explains curator Choghakate Kazarian. The exhibition, which will run until 20 August at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, comprises a series of landmark works including the Psychopathological Notebook and other ceramic pieces from the 1950s. The exhibition continues with larger installations dating back to the 1970s and 1990s, before finishing with a little-known farewell painting that the artist produced shortly before his death in 2006, at 85 years of age.

The name of Karel Appel will forever be associated with CoBrA, dating back to 1948 in Paris. CoBrA is an acronym of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam, the three cities from which this group of artists originated, including Danish painter Asger Jorn. Appel’s work was subsequently sponsored by art critics including Michel Ragon and Michel Tapié, who saw him as the European answer to the North American abstract expressionist movement spearheaded by Jackson Pollock.

As the Dutchman used to say: “Art must be spontaneous, must come from a need deep inside.” His work is a rejection of established values; it offers a fresh beginning, free from conventions and espousing the spontaneity of naivety. Following a transitional period in the 1970s during which he experimented with more abstract forms, Karel Appel’s art underwent a pictorial renaissance in the 1980s. This period is represented in the exhibition by a series of large polyptychs. The retrospective is punctuated by sculptures, from informal CoBrA-era creations to vast baroque installations whose playful nature perfectly reflects the vital energy of his painted oeuvre.

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