Brassaï — Graffiti

Exhibition

Photography

Brassaï
Graffiti

Past: November 9, 2016 → January 30, 2017

Galerie de photographies, Niveau -1

Drawing on its rich collection of photographs, the Centre Pompidou is devoting a presentation to the celebrated Graffiti series by the Hungarian-born French photographer Brassaï.

As a nocturnal wanderer, Brassaï (1899–1984) took an interest early on in Paris’s districts of « ill-repute » and popular culture. After his famous cycle Paris de nuit, he turned his attention to drawings, signs and scribblings appearing on the city walls. He was one of the first in the history of modern photography to think of the camera intuitively as a tool for dissecting urban life. He established a protocol, and began a systematic recording process, building up over the years a catalogue of the traces left on walls by the city’s inhabitant : a book of popular images. « With the language of walls, we are dealing not only with an important social reality never yet studied, but also one of the most powerful and authentic expressions of art », as he said in 1958 about his series, on which he was then working assiduously. These found and photographed inscriptions can be read as the expression of the city’s subconscious. Brought together during the Fifties for exhibitions and published in the book Graffiti (1961), they are classified according to the artist’s own particular typology.

This approach established his work as part of a growing movement focused on ethnology and everyday sociology.

The Graffiti series, on which the photographer worked for over twenty-five years, contains over 500 pictures, some still little-known. By unveiling many hitherto unpublished images, the exhibition staged by the Centre Pompidou in the Galerie de Photographies takes a more in-depth look at this celebrated group of works and its influence on artists and writers close to Brassaï, who included Pablo Picasso, Jacques Prévert and Jean Dubuffet.

The exhibition contains around a hundred works and documents : Brassaï’s period prints of the Graffiti, book dummies, reviews and collages by Jacques Prévert and lithographs by Jean Dubuffet, which come from the Centre Pompidou collections, the photographer’s estate and various other private collections and Paris institutions.

In a completely new way, the exhibition places this cult Graffiti series in its context and sheds light on how it was perceived and understood in its time.