Museu Picasso
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26.10.17 - 28.01.18

Adventurer as well as poet and boxer, ‘mystic Colossus’, towering figure, Fabian Avenarius Lloyd (1887-1918), assumed the pseudonym Arthur Cravan on arriving in Paris in 1909, he was a highly enigmatic man, a uniquely colourful character whose life merged into his work, and whose birth and death remain as obscure as his livelihood.

Cravan, nephew of Oscar Wilde, achieved fame through the non-conformist magazine Maintenant, of which he was director, editor and sole contributor. Not only as his mysterious background but also his behaviour and ‘sense of provocation’, Cravan is clearly entitled to a place among the key precursors of Dadaism. Surely the least of Cravan’s feats included entering the ring against a world champion in Barcelona, Jack Johnson, selling his poetry in the streets of Paris like a barrowboy hawking fruit and vegetables, and on numerous occasions giving active voice to his views under the imperious and imperative title: MAINTENANT?

Exhibition:

Archinard: An Imaginary Painter?

Édouard Archinard was quite probably the pseudonym of Arthur Cravan. On the express wish of Félix Fénéon, the artistic director of Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, an exhibition was organized featuring forty of his works, just before the beginning of the First World War. It was held from 16 to 28 March 1914. Fabian Avenarius Lloyd had already chosen another pseudonym, Arthur Cravan, for the launch of the journal Maintenant: “Arthur” was his overt homage to Rimbaud, while “Cravan[s]” referred to the home town of his partner. “Archinard”, for its part, was the name of a Swiss pastor, the director of the canton school of Lausanne where he spent his first years as a student. We are inevitably led to think, in artistic terms, of Frenhofer, the painter conceived by Balzac for his novel Le Chef-d’œuvre inconnu, illustrated by Picasso in an edition from 1931. A further reference could be that of Jusep Torres Campalans, a Catalan painter and friend of Picasso, whose biography and work were the invention of the writer and critic Max Aub, in 1961.    

A Double Combat

One of the posters announcing the boxing match between former world champion Jack Johnson and Arthur Cravan, the poet-boxer, has become an iconic image of the year 1916. Cravan, who had arrived in cosmopolitan Barcelona in 1914, fleeing from the war, had settled in the city along with other European artists and intellectuals at the forefront of cutting-edge modern art. The fight, which was held in the Monumental bullring on 23 April 1916, was preceded by a huge advertising campaign. Despite the hype, the crowd was thin and the poet-boxer ended up knocked out on the canvas in the sixth round. Cravan, as was his way, did not seem to be too concerned about the loss: he had been paid for the show, and that was how he made his living. For him it was all part of the game, provocation as a work of art.

Giant Jack Johnson

Picasso’s interest in boxing is in fact an expression of his taste for popular forms of entertainment, alongside his well-known passion for the circus, comics, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and the cinema, amongst others. Fernande Olivier, his partner until 1912, confirms this: “[Picasso] really loved boxing…” The painter himself, in words that seem quite enthusiastic, wrote to his dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler: “Last Sunday afternoon I was in Avignon, at the cinema, and I saw the Carpentier-Klaus fight.” Picasso’s personal archives include various ticket stubs to boxing matches, a further demonstration of his interest in the sport. In 1915-1916, Picasso appears in photographs standing shirtless, wearing tight, white shorts, with his socks folded over his ankles, in the middle of his studio on Rue Schoelcher. Surrounded by his paintings and defiantly staring back at the camera’s lens, he takes on the pose of a boxer, like the fighter in his engraving from Picasso, his work and his public, from 16 March 1968. The sport of boxing, combining combat, spectacle, strength and bravery, was for him a metaphor of creation itself.  

Picasso, Boxer

Picasso’s interest in boxing is in fact an expression of his taste for popular forms of entertainment, alongside his well-known passion for the circus, comics, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and the cinema, amongst others. Fernande Olivier, his partner until 1912, confirms this: “[Picasso] really loved boxing…” The painter himself, in words that seem quite enthusiastic, wrote to his dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler: “Last Sunday afternoon I was in Avignon, at the cinema, and I saw the Carpentier-Klaus fight.” Picasso’s personal archives include various ticket stubs to boxing matches, a further demonstration of his interest in the sport. In 1915-1916, Picasso appears in photographs standing shirtless, wearing tight, white shorts, with his socks folded over his ankles, in the middle of his studio on Rue Schoelcher. Surrounded by his paintings and defiantly staring back at the camera’s lens, he takes on the pose of a boxer, like the fighter in his engraving from Picasso, his work and his public, from 16 March 1968. The sport of boxing, combining combat, spectacle, strength and bravery, was for him a metaphor of creation itself.

Activities

-Session of actions: «Pugilistic conspiracy in Picasso’s home: Arthur Cravan versus Carles Hac Mor»
Thursday November 16th, 7pm >>

-Roundtable and projection: «Cravan vs Cravan»
Thursday November 30th, 7pm >>

-Roundtable: «Barcelona 1917: the avant-garde who fled from the Great War»
Thursday December 14th, 7pm >>

-Session of actions: «Cravan Constellation: Mina Loy, Olga Sacharoff, Otho Lloyd, Francis Picabia»
Thursday January 11th >>

Catalogue

>Arthur Cravan. Maintenant!

The Barcelona of the First World War years was a complex city, fully immersed in various social and political conflicts, and culturally very active, thanks, in part, to the presence of many artists who took refuge there. Within this context of vibrant modernity, an enigmatic and complex character arrived in the city to fight in a boxing match: Arthur Cravan.

The Museu Picasso has wanted to dedicate an exhibition to this controversial figure -poet and writer, dadaist avant la lettre, boxer, lecturer, performer, traveller─ who in 1916 took on the world champion Jack Johnson and managed to disturb the microcosm of Barcelona for a few weeks. His rather unconventional life and his disappearance continues to turn him, even today, into a myth with a lot to discover. The exhibition, which counts on a large volume of written and graphic documentation, helps us to approach some of these less known aspects of the trajectory of Cravan, and it is, at the same time, an excellent prelude to understanding the cultural environment of a Barcelona that Picasso would visit the following year.

Title: Arthur Cravan. Maintenant?
Author: Emmanuel Guigon, Georges Sebbag, Jean-Paul Morel, Aitor Quiney, Erich Weiss
Year: 2017
Pages: 320
Languages: Catalan/English, Castilian/English, French/English
Size: 16 x 22 cm
Publisher: Fundació Museu Picasso de Barcelona /Silvana Editoriale, Milan
ISBN: Catalan/English 978-84-946450-7-5 Castilian/English 978-84-946450-8-2 French/English 978-84-946450-9-9 French/English (Silvana Editoriale) 978-88-366373-5-5
Price: €32

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Press release

Useful information

Admission

Collection + temporary exhibition
11€

Temporary exhibitions
6,50€

Opening Times

Tuesday to Sundays: 9am to 7pm
(including holidays, except Public holidays Mondays)

Thursdays: until 9.30pm

Mondays: closed
(including Public holiday Mondays)

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