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Bechtler Exhibit Examines Art Through Artists' Relationships

Briana Duggan

Warhol and Basquiat, Monet and Renoir ; Some of history’s greatest artists were also great friends.

A new exhibit at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art looks into some of modern art’s greatest relationships, using its collection as inspiration. On display until July 29, the exhibit pairs together art by lovers, mentors, and friends as a way to see how these relationships may be reflected in the art.

Among the art featured in the exhibit is work by lovers, Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle, mentor and student, Bernard Meadows and Henry Moore, and the unlikely lifelong friends Alexander Calder and Joan Miró.

The Bechtler’s new exhibit makes me think of the Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris.

The film takes place in 1920s Paris, a golden age of literature and art, when some of the biggest names, like Salvador Dalí, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemmingway and Picasso, were friends and hung around in cafes and salons.

The Museum focuses on this artistic exchange between friends and intimates in its latest exhibit, Artistic Relationships: Friends, Lovers and Mentors  Partners, Mentors, Lovers. It’s a way to visualize how late night conversations between some of the artists in the collection  may have influenced the work you see today.

The exhibit displays works by lifelong friends, Alexander Calder and Joan Miró.The two met in Paris in 1928, not long after the movie, Midnight in Paris, takes place.

They were an unlikely pair, says  Bechtler’s President and curator of the exhibit, John Boyer.

“Calder, this kind of big, kind of beefy tailback kind of a sculptor and Miró more diminutive, who even at his poorest would always find a way to wear a three piece suit, a bowler, and a monocle,” says Boyer. “So if you meet these two together in one of the Montparnasse’s restaurants you’d think these were the least likely of friends but in fact they became increasingly close as friends. They traveled together, would go out dining and drinking until the wee hours together in Montparnasse.”

Today Calder is best known for his delicately balanced hanging mobiles; Miró is best known for his paintings. Artistic Relationships displays several of the friends’ individual prints, watercolors, and textiles.

Calder once said rcheologists will tell you there’s a little bit of Miró in Calder, and Calder in Miró.” And looking at these pieces, it’s clear why.

On the floor is a carpet by Miró, and on the wall behind it, a tapestry by Calder. Both are in black, white, and primary colors with rounded, organic-looking forms, as if  looking under a microscope. You can almost imagine the two friends meeting up, chatting over the major scientific discoveries of the day, and then going home and turning the ideas into art.

“There’s a lot out there that suggests that artists always work in this lonely isolation and all of these discoveries and epiphanies are completely self generated,” says Boyer. “While that is very often the case it is certainly not exclusively the case. In fact, here we see works that could have never happened were it not for the relationships that these artists had with each other.”


  This story was produced through a grant from the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance (CAJA), a consortium of local media dedicated to covering the arts.