Sat 7 Jan 2012
Connecting art and factories and relating art with the working classes may seem like communist ideals, but here is one big ‘capitalist’ industrial corporation that invested in art and the results are more visible and beneficial. French car-maker Renault started in 1967 a project of forging links with some of the top artists of the time and sponsoring their work for almost two decades. The result is a valuable art collection with a specific identity, reflecting at the same time its moment in the history of the art in the second half of the 20th century, as well as the relation with the industry visible in at least part of the works without being a mandated component. For the last few years parts of the collection have travelled to different places around the world and a section of it was exposed at the Museum of Israeli Art in Ramat Gan (sorry, the Web site is only in Hebrew). It’s quite an unusual kind of exhibition for this museum which focuses almost exclusively on Israeli artists, but the exception was worth being made, and the overall idea of the show works even better because the museum building itself is a former industrial structure in what was once the periphery of Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, now on the outskirts of one of the most active business area of central Israel.
Many interesting artists are present in the Renault art collection and most of them had works in the exhibition in Ramat Gan. Juan Miro whose collaboration with Renault did not last long had one but significant painting here. Three of the fantastic machineries of Jean Tinguely were exposed. Jean Dubuffet had several of his panels made of industrial materials in three colors (red, blue and black) present here, above is a photo of one of them named Fisto la filoche. Victor Vasarely who also re-designed the logo of the company in the 70s is present with a number of works that seem precursors of computer graphics, I could just wonder what he would have done with the technology available nowadays.
A separate section of the exhibition is dedicated to Robert Doisneau, one of the greatest French photographers and photojournalists (author of the famous Le baiser de l’hotel de ville). The origin of his works here are different that the rest of the collection. Doisneau started his career in 1934 at the age of 22 as an advertising photographer for Renault, and between 1934 and 1939 took many pictures reflecting the life, the work and the people who worked in the Renault factories. From this period dates Ouvriere de Renault which already reflects the empathy and the focus on human feelings that will be characteristics for many of his later and more famous works.
For a more complete information about the collection, here is a short film about the history of the collection and the relation with the company.