The first-ever presentation in Northern Europe of the work of Niko Pirosmani (1862-1918), Georgia’s most famous artist and a mythical figure in the story of early modernist art. Showcasing around fifty, rarely seen Pirosmani masterpieces on loan from the Georgian National Museum.
There is something almost mythical about the story of Pirosmani, who lived and worked in Tbilisi around the turn of the last century. As the exhibition will show, the simple, gleaming depictions of people and wildlife by this self-taught sign painter and penniless vagabond place Pirosmani as an outstanding exponent of early modern art.
Naivity as power
When it comes to the work of Pirosmani, the image comes first. Pirosmani’s blunt images are monumentally simple, with their colours gleaming against the black canvas background. In a sense, they are images for and in the public space. They are certainly neither private nor psychological.
They are about human space, people encountering animals, people eating together and people moving about. The power emanating from these images is simple, yet sophisticated, because the images are so effective. With a few brushstrokes, Pirosmani transformed the mundane into something extraordinary, creating icons of glowing intensity.
An avant-garde discovery
The myths about Pirosmani are many, not least because of this naivety - but there is no indication that he was naive. With Pirosmani, one must first of all look at the strength of the image.
To a rare extent, already in his lifetime Pirosmani's art spoke to all, from people in the street and in taverns to avant-garde artists and writers. His art bridged worlds, it celebrated a feeling of belonging and dedication.
This places Pirosmani as an important figure in the history of modern art's break with the classical tradition and the search for other, more authentic expressions.
With a few brushstrokes, Pirosmani transformed the mundane into something extraordinary, creating icons of glowing intensity.
The exhibition is organised jointly by the Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel.and Louisiana and realised in cooperation with the Georgian National Museum and the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Youth of Georgia, generously supported by the Infinitart Foundation.
All images: The Collection of Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts of Georgia, © Infinitart Foundation