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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Felix Feneon

Click here to see Against the Enamel of a Background Rythmic with Beats and Angels, Tones and Colors, Portrait of Felix Feneon in 1890.

And an excerpt from an excellent essay in Axess, by Mark Irving.

"Astute visitors, however, will pay particular attention to the way Moma has now reopened the story of the modern. Instead of Rodin's St John the Baptist Preaching, which used to stand outside the galleries, pointing to Cézanne's The Bathers, Lowry has decided to start the collection with Signac's 1890 Portrait of Félix Feneon. This, he says, is "a great magical gesture that essentially raises the curtain on the very idea of modernity. It is Signac's greatest picture, though he's not the artist you'd usually pick." Dispensing with the Cézanne (Lowry claims it is a "rétardaire picture, still wrestling with Poussin") and highlighting instead Feneon—the Parisian critic, collector, impresario and anarchist—is a telling move. "It's about showmanship, the masses, about a fundamentally different moment," he continues. "It's almost the same date as The Bathers, but it's about the curtain coming up on popular culture, breaking through the screen of avant-garde art. It pinpoints the notion of celebrity and offers us references to Warhol later in the hang."

This, then, is how Moma has recast the history of modern art as seen from our times, with showmanship and celebrity culture the dominant thread. Each generation retells history its own way, but is this really where the march of progress has taken us? It risks appearing as just a repackaging of those features of modern art that conveniently mimic our current, transitory obsessions. But for Lowry, the story of modern art is not complete without the canonisation of Andy Warhol, the original media-savvy, celebrity-driven artist. "Of the giants of this period, he is the guy," says Lowry. "Pollock is already over." "