The nature of Arp

Promoted by the prestigious Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, where it comes from, this exhibition on the great French-German artist, painter and sculptor, but also writer and poet, offers (until 2 September) an unprecedented view of his vast production – spanning six decades – which made him one of the most influential Twentieth century artists.

Jean Hans Arp, famed for being among the founders of the Dada movement – centred in Zurich at the famous Cabaret Voltaire – and considered among the pioneers of abstraction, developed a language made of organic forms moving between abstraction and depiction, fast becoming a reference point for several generations of artists.

The first thing I bought for my collection was a Jean Arp bronze. [Arp] took me to the foundry where it had been cast and I fell so in love with it that I asked to hold it in my hands: the instant I felt it I wanted to own it.

 Thus the great American collector and patron Peggy Guggenheim reminisces in the pages of her autobiography – Una vita per l’arte (Rizzoli Editori, Milano, 1998) Out of this century (The Dial Press, New York, 1946 / Andre Deutsch, London, 1979) – about that possibly seminal moment in her life.

Subsequently, Peggy Guggenheim displayed Arp’s artworks in several contemporary sculpture exhibitions organised by her, at first in her London gallery in 1938, then in her Art of This Century gallery-museum in New York, at a solo show in 1944. Not only. Her link with the artist also continued in Venice, where Arp was awarded a prize, for sculpture, at the 27th Biennale, and where the artist would often stay, visiting Peggy.

This is therefore the reason why this famous French-German artist occupies a relevant place within the Peggy Guggenheim Collection – Peggy gathered a good seven works by him – and what has led the museum to bring this artist to Venice, whom critics have recognised as ranking among the founders of the Dada movement and a pioneer of that abstract art which would mark a true revolution within Twentieth century history of art.

The exhibition, which springs from the fruitful collaboration with the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, an institution which the Venetian museum is particularly linked to, gathers over seventy artworks from various international museums and collections. Added to those, is a nucleus of important works by Max Ernst, Jean Hélion, Kurt Schwitters and Theo van Doesburg, all figures embodying the friendships and collaboration which the artist developed, albeit during an age of great rifts, with a great number of artists and writers.

By curator Catherine Craft, with the accompaniment of a rich catalogue, this exhibition may be viewed by the public uninterruptedly until 2 September.

A free guided tour to the exhibition included in the admission ticket is offered every day at 3.30pm based on availability in Italian or in English.