Les fleurs américaines


Drawing, installation, painting, sound - music

Les fleurs américaines

Past: December 13, 2012 → February 17, 2013

Le plateau grid Les Fleurs américaines au Plateau Intelligente et facétieuse plus que théorique et froidement historique, l’exposition _Les Fleurs américaines_ immerge dans la fabri... 3 - Bravo Critique

Conception of the exhibition: Elodie Royer and Yoann Gourmel in collaboration with the Salon de Fleurus, New York, and the Museum of American Art, Berlin

“Art is defined only within the story called Art History. Artifacts shown at this exhibition are not works of art. They are rather souvenirs, selected specimens of our collective memory.”

Walter Benjamin

“Once upon a time there was a history known as the history of modern art…” The exhibition American Flowers might begin like a tale whose leading characters would be the various artists, curators, historians, and collectors at the hub of 20th century art, not forgetting works, exhibitions and institutions.

This exhibition brings together three exhibitions, revisiting the development of the narrative known by the name of the history of modern art, from its origins at the beginning of the 20th century to its recognition as a dominant narrative in the 1950s. Its aim is thus to question the bases and heritage of modern art while at the same time, by way of copies and anonymity, short-circuiting the criteria of artwork originality, uniqueness and authenticity, that still prevail today.

But if all the works on view in the show are reproductions, they are not, for all that, seeking to hide their status as copies: their dates of creation inaccurate and it seems their producers have in no way tried to repeat the material quality of the originals. What we see here are not so many individual artworks but series of artifacts organized as (hi)stories. These are memories of works playing a special part in what has helped to define the “history of modern art”.

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

The first of these three (hi)stories brought together in American Flowers starts at 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris, between 1903 and 1913. Titled From The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, after Gertrude Stein’s eponymous book, it is a recollection of the famous Salon de Fleurus, housing the American author’s modern art collection which would greatly inspire, some thirty years later, the decisions and choices of the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, Alfred Barr, Jr.

Museum of Modern Art

The second part of the exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, includes 46 iconic works by European artists dated between 1990 and 2025 and presented on the basis of Alfred Barr Jr.’s hanging plan for the exhibitions “Cubism and Abstract Art” and “Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism”, both held at the MoMA in 1936. In replacing in particular the notion of “national schools” by that of “international movements”, these exhibitions formulated an American interpretation of European art, as Barr had represented it through the chronological “evolutionary tree” reproduced on the cover of the catalogue for the exhibition “Cubism and Abstract Art”. They thus played a decisive role, forming the loam in which American art duly developed a few years later, and so contributed to this latter’s gradual domination on the international scene after the Second World War.

50 Years of Art in the United States

It was in fact only after the war and the emergence of the generation of Abstract Expressionists that the MoMA started to include and incorporate American artists in its narrative of modern art, by situating them in the continuity of the European avant-gardes and promoting them abroad through its international program. As the last chapter of our (hi)story, the travelling exhibition 50 Years of Art in the United States (presented at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, in Paris, in 1955) is evoked here through paintings reproducing archival documents and pages from the exhibition catalogue, mixed with copies of some of the pictures on view in this latter. Today regarded among other travelling MoMA projects as a form of cultural propaganda, which contributed to the artistic supremacy of the United States, this exhibition nevertheless marked a new stage in the writing of this history by legitimizing the place of the most recent American art under the aegis of a new “international” style.

By juggling with the established categories of the original and the copy, history and fable, signature and anonymity, painting and conceptual art, American Flowers sets in motion the facts and strategies, which helped to define 20th century art. In this sense, it is not an exhibition of modern art, but a contemporary exhibition about the construction of the history of modern art and the way it still defines today’s art criteria.

Elodie Royer and Yoann Gourmel
  • Opening Wednesday, December 12, 2012 6 PM → 9 PM
19 Paris 19 Zoom in 19 Paris 19 Zoom out

22 rue des Alouettes

75019 Paris

T. 01 76 21 13 41



Opening hours

Wednesday – Sunday, 2 PM – 7 PM
Late night and drinks : 1st Wednesday of each month (except opening dates) until 9pm

Admission fee

Free entrance

Venue schedule