Images of utopias

"We know we can't achieve utopia, yet we try every day. "
Gilbert & George

This summer, the Fernand Léger National Museum offers visitors an immersion in two 20th century masterpieces: on the one hand, Les Constructeurs (Définitif), painted by Fernand Léger (1881-1955) in the aftermath of the Second World War; on the other, the triptych CLASS WAR, MILITANT, GATEWAY, created in 1986 by the British artist couple Gilbert & George, born in 1943 and 1942 respectively.

In a visually striking contemporary echo, the monumental work by Gilbert & George, owned by the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, opens up an unprecedented dialogue with the plastic power of one of the major paintings in the history of 20th century art, an emblematic work of the Fernand Léger National Museum.

Gilbert & George's triptych is in line with the work of Fernand Léger, a pioneer of the French avant-garde: their wonder at the spectacle of the city, their commitment to scrutinize the changes in society, their evolution towards an asserted monumentality, and their conviction of the need for art for all are all common points that unite these artists across generations.

These two works also question the notion of utopia, that imaginary and ideal government described in the 16th century by the British philosopher, Thomas More. The symbolic significance and the epic breath that runs through these works exalt the artists' hope in the conquest of individual liberties and the advent of a better world. Chroniclers of their times, they manage to go beyond the simple political context in which they live and create to give their images a universal dimension.

In the wake of Pop Art, which emerged at the turn of the 1960s in the midst of a booming consumer society, Gilbert & George invented an artistic language oscillating between the seriousness of the subject matter, the exuberance of the images, and a social satire with an offbeat and caustic, even subversive humour.

Through their predilection for everyday objects, their striking graphics, and the sharp eye they take on the contemporary world, a filiation is established between the British duo and the pioneering work of the bard of modernity, Fernand Léger.
The contemporary art policy in the Alpes-Maritimes national museums of the 20th century is an important part of the life of these three museums. It aims to bring living creation into the museums by making visitors discover the works of their contemporaries.

The work CLASS WAR, MILITANT, GATEWAY is on exceptional loan from the Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris, partner of this exhibition.

Exhibition organized by the National Museums of the 20th century of the Alpes-Maritimes