L’insoutenable légèreté — Les années 1980



L’insoutenable légèreté
Les années 1980

Past: February 24 → May 23, 2016

Heterogeneous, elusive, painful, fantastical, still too close, as light-hearted as they were serious, the Eighties were full of contrasts and paradoxes. With films and photographs from its collections, the Centre Pompidou cast a fresh eye on this decade in an exhibition featuring over 20 artists and some 60 works in a completely new circuit.

From Florence Paradeis to Jean-Paul Goude, and from Karen Knorr to Présence Panchounette by way of Martin Parr and Pierre and Gilles, the works selected mostly express criticism of culture and society through various strategies, such as irony, realistic or imaginative staging, pastiche, subverted sets and odes to artifice. The history of Eighties photography somewhat eludes comprehension even today.

While neo-documentary forms (such as “The Düsseldorf School”, the photographic project of DATAR, the Interdepartmental Delegation for Territorial Development and Regional Attractiveness) were positively received by critics overall, the same was not true of “manufactured”, staged or possibly “Baroque” photography, which represented much of the work produced in the Eighties. Beyond the sometimes too all-inclusive concept of post-modernism, the Eighties saw the emergence of new issues that were both poetic and political. Hybridisation, humour, irony, eroticism and nostalgia are all possible keys to interpreting the art of this period, particularly its photography.

Mainly dedicated to the Western and American scene of the 1980s, well-represented in the Centre Pompidou’s collection, this exhibition reflects the geopolitical and economic order of a time when the ideological divisions between North and South, East and West, capitalist democracies and centralised totalitarian regimes were being swept aside by the new global economy.

With a mix of famous works and others awaiting rediscovery, the exhibition draws us into the aesthetics and sometimes popular iconography typical of this period and geography.

In France, the Eighties were crucial for photography in terms of art and heritage. Several major photography museums and collections sprang up or developed under a new impulse. At the same time, a new generation of “painter-photographers” appeared, who were keen to do away with the barrier between photography and painting and rebelled against the language of the previous generation. This new photography, often highly “pictorialist” in Western countries, developed forms that were closely connected with technical advances in this area: the availability of good-quality colour photography, the possibilities provided by large formats and the instantaneousness of Polaroid. The meeting between these new production methods and the search for different forms and themes in classic photography created another paradox: works that were openly anti-documentary proved to be such an accurate reflection of the reality they came from that in the end they were its best representation.

04 Beaubourg Zoom in 04 Beaubourg Zoom out

Place Georges Pompidou

75004 Paris

T. 01 44 78 12 33 — F. 01 44 78 16 73


Hôtel de Ville

Opening hours

Every day except Tuesday, 11 AM – 9 PM
Late night on until 11 PM

Admission fee

Full rate €16.00 — Concessions €14.00

Gratuit pour les moins de 18 ans, billet exonéré pour les moins de 26 ans. Et pour tout le monde, les premiers dimanches du mois.

Venue schedule

The artists

  • Martin Parr
  • Karen Knorr
  • Pierre & Gilles
  • Joachim Mogarra
  • Florence Paradeis
  • Unglee
  • Présence Panchounette
  • Sandy Skoglund
  • Tom Drahos
  • Agnès Bonnot
And 12 others…