Picasso Museum of Barcelona

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October 26th, 2017 - January 28th, 2018

‘Arthur Cravan's fight against Jack Johnson’. April 23rd, 1916. Affiche imprimée contrecollée sur toile;. 168x 70 cm. Collection Galerie 1900-2000, Marcel et David Fleiss, Paris

Adventurer, poet and boxer, the “colossal mystic”, as Mina Loy called him, was physically powerful. Fabian Avenarius Lloyd, who took the pseudonym Arthur Cravan after arriving in Paris in 1909, was a highly enigmatic person. He was a unique being, his life blending in with his work, his birth and death still as mysterious as was his source of income. Cravan, who called himself the nephew of Oscar Wilde (with whom he was related on his father’s side of the family), who presented himself as the “shortest-haired poet in the world”, became famous for a non-conformist journal, Maintenant, which he directed, edited and wrote entirely alone. All the other names appearing in the indexes were pseudonyms. Five issues of Maintenant came out from 1912 to 1915, and were sold by him directly from a cart.

Due both to the mystifications surrounding him and his own behaviour, in the ring or on the stage, as well as for his way of treating art and literature like any other everyday phenomenon, taking scandal as an artistic tool, Cravan found himself amidst the leading precursors of the Dada movement. This exhibition presents for the first time the works of an imaginary painter who showed at the Bernheim Jeune gallery in 1914: Édouard Archinard. Marc Dachy insinuated in his Journal de Dada, that the name was practically a phonetic anagram of the word “anarchie”.

The exhibition focuses on Cravan’s stay in Barcelona. In December 1915 he arrived in the city and met up with the artistic couples Juliette Roche and Albert Gleizes, Serge Charchoune and Helena Grunhoff, and the Picabias. To make a living he gave boxing classes in a reputable club and refereed fights. In March, 1916, with the arrival of the boxer Jack Johnson (the first African-American heavy weight champion of the world), things would move quickly. Both men sought notoriety and publicity, with Johnson being at the end of his career and Cravan wishing to raise funds to travel to New York. A deal was signed and the fight was held in Barcelona on 23 April. Cravan was unable to get a punch to his rival and retired in the sixth round.

Over the course of 1916 he went a number of times to Tossa de Mar, where he would also find Picabia and Maria Laurencin. He was said to spend more time boxing than writing literature, and would flee to this “foreign colony” up the coast to his “ivory tower.” At the end of 1916 he decided to travel on to the Americas.

    Practical Information

  • Open to the public: October 26th, 2017 - January 28th, 2018

  • Curated by:
    Emmanuel Guigon

  • Organization and production:
    Museu Picass, Barcelona

  • Space:
    1st floor of the Palau Finestres

  • Opening times and admission »

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