Musées de Strasbourg
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Tristan Tzara, the Approximate Man - Poet, Art Writer, Collector

[Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art]
Illustration de Tristan Tzara, the Approximate Man - Poet, Art Writer, Collector

The MAMCS (Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) presents the first major exhibition devoted to Tristan Tzara (1895-1963). A poet, art writer and collector, Tzara's name is invariably linked with Dada. However, his immense work is still insufficiently recognized despite having been a major influence for generations. This exhibition offers a chronological reading through a series of 450 works by artists who were in contact with Tzara, a selection of Art Brut and non-Western art pieces (Africa, Oceania, Mesoamerica) and a wide choice of documents on Tristan Tzara.

The exhibition has been approved as being of national interest by the Ministry of Culture and Communication/ Directorate General for Heritage / Department of Museums of France. It thus enjoys exceptional financial support from the French State.


Tristan Tzara was a major witness of his time but equally a key player of the century, marking it with his outcries, his laughter and his writing. The man with the monocle, described as "a ruthless genius" by the poet Huelsenbeck, worked unremittingly at developing his poetic and political commitment.


The artistic landscape of his early years – spent in the country of his birth Romania– was still marked by Symbolism, but the exhibition also shows the raw energy of a young man choosing writing as a weapon to counter outdated art forms and the absurdity of a world on the brink of chaos. Arriving in Zurich in 1916, Tzara continued his personal crusade aimed to glorify speech and spontaneous gesture, now accompanied by his compatriot Marcel Janco and by Hugo Ball and Hans Arp, who was to remain his lifelong friend. Four years later in France, another circle opened up to him, that of Picabia and a group of young people, Aragon, Breton and Soupault – later to become the Surrealists – in a fraternity marked by break-ups and reconciliations.


Throughout his life, Tzara showed fervent commitment to different causes. He was a member of the Association of Revolutionary Writers and Artists in 1934, and fought for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. He afterwards joined the Communist Party, denounced the Soviet intervention in Hungary and signed the Manifesto of the 121 at the time of the war in Algeria. Over the years, Tzara continued to work with tireless intensity on his abundant writings consisting of poems, essays and art criticism. These writings were illustrated by some of the greatest artists of his time, who were also his friends.


Artists featured: Arp, Brancusi, Brauner, Calder, Chirico, Dali, Delaunay, Max Ernst, Le Douanier Rousseau, Duchamp, Auguste Forestier, Giacometti, Juan Gris, Gruber, Janco, Klee, Kertész, Greta Knutson, Germaine Krull, Laurens, Man Ray, Marcoussis, Masson, Matisse, Maxy, Michaelescu, Miró, les Barbus Müller, Perahim, Picabia, Picasso, Ribemont-Dessaigne, Hans Richter, Arthur Segal, Schwitters, Sophie Taeuber, Tanguy, Tatzlisky, Zadkine…


Curatorship General  Curator: Serge Fauchereau, art historian. Exhibition Curator: Estelle Pietrzyk, directress of MAMCS. Academic Consultant: Henri Béhar, emeritus professor of French literature, editor of the Complete Works of Tristan Tzara.


The exhibition has been organised in partnership with the Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet (Paris) and with the support of the Romanian Cultural Institutes in Brussels and Strasbourg.


Parler seul : poème / Tristan Tzara ; Paris : Maeght, 1950 (détail) 1 vol. (117 p.) : lithographies en noir et en couleur de Joan Miró. Legs Michel Leiris. Fonds spécifique : Fonds Michel Leiris. Paris, Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet © Successió Miró / ADAGP, Paris, 2015