As part of their 50th anniversary celebrations, Galerie Gmurzynska in Zurich has opened a wide-ranging exhibition of avant-garde artist Joan Miró. The show, which was over 15 years in the making, is co-curated by Miró’s grandson, Joan Punyet Miró, and includes rarely-seen paintings, sculptures and collages spanning the mid 1920s to the 1970s.
Speaking ahead of the opening, Punyet Miró said that: ‘The exhibition really underlines the back and forth in Miró’s oeuvre – the collages of the 1930s are about automatism, chance, collage and animation, and the later minimal drawings from the 1970s are expressions of self-denial and refusal. He wanted to reinvent himself constantly.’ He added: ‘My grandfather always said “I couldn’t care less about death, I couldn’t care less about failure, but I can’t afford to repeat myself over and over again.”’
Zurich’s art crowd turned out in style for the opening night: Chanel rubbed shoulders with Balenciaga, Celine competed with Prada, as guests – including the French actress Catherine Deneuve – sipped champagne and vied with each other for selfies in front of the painting Femme 1 (1972). The exhibition opening also featured a performance by Punyet Miró. Introducing the exhibition, he said: ‘If you want to see Miró, that’s here’ [gesturing to the works]. ‘But if you want to feel Miró, come to see my performance. But I warn you, it will be dangerous.’ Grinning, he concluded: ‘It will be Dada, Surrealism, today.’
Once the crowd had settled into the plush banquettes of the historic Razzia restaurant, one of Zurich’s first theatres, the hubbub rose to a fever pitch – only to be silenced as Punyet Miró – wearing skin-tight luminescent pink snakeskin leggings, a pink padded gilet and wrap-around sunglasses – rode into the theatre on a black Harley-Davidson to the strains of Steppenwolf’s Born to Be Wild. Ascending the stage, he spent the next 20 minutes giving a performance that combined anecdotes about his grandfather’s life with gunshots and occasional nudity.
A PowerPoint presentation with images from Miró’s trip to Japan, family photos, and recordings of the artist’s destruction of his own canvases during the 1970s were interspersed with Punyet Miró mourning the disappearance of risk from the art world. Occasionally, he fired a gun into the crowd to liven things up. At some point – I later found out it was in homage to Miró’s 1938 work, A Star Caresses the Breast of a Negress (Painting Poem), a recreation of which formed the backdrop to the performance – a bare-breasted black woman appeared on stage, stood silently for a while, and then left. As a final highlight, Punyet Miró stripped naked under black lighting and flung paint at both A Star Caresses the Breast of a Negress (Painting Poem) and himself. Stunned into silence, the audience nevertheless applauded, before tucking into dinner.
Punyet Miró noted that: ‘There are too many curators, too many directors, and they all repeat themselves. We have lost magic. Maybe they know more than me about Miró, but they don’t have the right to turn it into a trip to the dentist!’
Joan Miró runs at Galerie Gmurzynska until 30 January 2016.