Pablo Volta, "Affiche de la Huitième exposition internationale du surréalisme à la galerie Daniel Cordier (1959-1960)", d’après l’œuvre de Mimi Parent, Masculin-Féminin, 1959, encre sur papier, collection particulière © Adagp, Paris, 2023 ; photo courtesy Succession Mimi Parent et Hôtel des Ventes de Lausanne

E.R.O.S. (1959)

The story of a surrealist exhibition through the Daniel Cordier collection

New presentation to celebrate the centenary of Surrealism in 2024

Since their opening in 2000, the Abattoirs, Musée - Frac Occitanie Toulouse has housed the Daniel Cordier collection, donated to the Musée national d'art moderne - Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), on permanent loan. A former secretary to Jean Moulin and Companion of the Liberation, Daniel Cordier was also an art lover and gallery owner from 1956 to 1964 - "eight years of turmoil", as he put it. At the heart of this period, in 1959, he hosted the eighth Exposition inteRnatiOnale du Surréalisme, "E.R.O.S.", celebrating eroticism. Today, Les Abattoirs invites you to delve back into the history of this event.

Twelve years after "Surrealism in 1947" at the Galerie Maeght, the writer André Breton (1896-1966), author of the Manifeste du surréalisme [Surrealist Manifesto] (1924), and the artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), have come up with a new group exhibition for the group at the Galerie Cordier, stenographed by the graphic artist and architect Pierre Faucheux (1924-1999). The movement, founded in 1924, had already been the subject of seven similar events, since the 1936 exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries (London) and the 1938 exhibition at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

In "E.R.O.S.", André Breton avoided dealing with carnal love, the better to celebrate the Surrealists' "fundamental need for transgression": like Cordier, they too were agitators. E.R.O.S." is a labyrinth of works by Friedrich Schröder-Sonnenstern, Robert Rauschenberg, Mimi Parent and a host of others, including some of the group's historic works and others that have never been shown before or are related. Welcomed by the scent of a perfume with "sexual" notes and the diffusion of "amorous sighs", the audience enters a velvet-covered labyrinth. On the floor, a thick layer of sand muffles all sounds: in what remains one of the first happening exhibitions, everything is done to disorientate the spectator, from the "Forest of sex" to the "Den", via the "Crypt of fetishism".

At Les Abattoirs, this evocation of 'E.R.O.S.' through Daniel Cordier's collection brings together some of the artists who were there, as well as contemporary works that bring the exhibition up to date. Under the aegis of Eros, which serves as the red - or pink - thread running through the visit, the themes explored explore the different springs of love, sensuality, fantasy and even violence. The first room focuses on the body: alongside Hans Bellmer's Poupées, the evocation of Meret Oppenheim's Festin shares the image of a particular body, that of the woman in Surrealist representations. From the body, we move on to the living in the second room, to the breath of life shared by Man and Nature: the union of the two produces works where the vegetal and the carnal merge, like the rose-covered grotto created in the Cordier gallery. In a third room, the Object concentrates the interest shown in it by the members of the group, whether in their works, following the example of Alberto Giacometti, inventor of the "symbolically functional object", or in their interest in naturalia. Cordier was also a man of letters: in a final room, forms and materials are combined with the pleasure of reading. Surrealists, poets and academics have all contributed to writing a history of sexuality and eroticism since the post-war years, and today Cordier's re-reading of the poetics of the body is politically charged.

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