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Amedeo Modigliani. A painter and his dealer

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Amedeo Modigliani. Un peintre et son marchand

Paris, Musée de l’Orangerie, du 20 septembre 2023 au 15 janvier 2024

1. Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Paul Guillaume, Novo Pilota, 1915
Oil on board - 105 x 75 cm
Paris, Musée de l’Orangerie
Photo: RMN-GP/H. Lewandowski
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There’s nothing like a famous name to get the season off to a flying start: following on from a fine display presented last year, the exhibition has everything it takes to seduce visitors, despite a new season saturated with modern art. It is with enthusiasm that the confident visitor takes the road of the museum which houses today the last witnesses of the collection of the art dealer Paul Guillaume, but with astonishment that we discover his name removed from the title where it initially appeared. His "invisibilisation" is no doubt justified for commercial reasons, but it certainly does not augur well when the idea was to finally do justice to the "Novo Pilota" (ill. 1) who was the artist’s first dealer. It is around this very famous painting - which Paul Guillaume’s widow, Juliette/Domenica, never parted with - that a focused exhibition devoted to the relationship between the two men unfolds and stretches out. Despite the good subject matter, however, visitors are left wanting more, even though we know how difficult it is to bring together a respectable group of paintings - authentic ones - by the artist who became one of the most sought-after in the world after his untimely death in 1920. Three (!) of the four effigies of the dealer painted between 1915 and 1916 are thus brought together here, from Milan or Toledo. It has to be said that the memory of Paul Guillaume is not really celebrated as it deserves to be: because of the conditions dictated by his widow, who later married her lover, the architect Jean Walter, it is under the names of both spouses that the collection is presented today at the Orangerie, even though the latter had no part in it. For its part, the museum, which is constantly rearranging its display, now presents its works under the title "Les Arts à Paris", in which only the initiated can discern the name of the magazine - largely promotional - launched by Paul Guillaume in 1918.

2. View of the second room of the exhibition "Amedeo Modigliani. A painter and his dealer" at the Musée de l’Orangerie
Photo: Sophie Crépy
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In recent years, the Musée de l’Orangerie has - gradually - done away with the last remains of the fittings that evoked the rich widow’s interiors, with its beautiful rocaille armchairs clashing delightfully with the concrete walls and modern works painstakingly reinstalled in 2006 (see article). On the other hand, there are a number of welcome developments, such as the acquisition or long-term loan of non-European pieces from the Musée du Quai Branly, but also some specifically purchased on the art market to illustrate the passions that Paul Guillaume shared with Amedeo Modigliani, among others. In the exhibition catalogue, Yaëlle Biro returns to the subtle…

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