The Jazz Age in Paris
Serge Guilbaut and René Urtreger
This encounter, which opens the exhibition Lost, Loose and Loved. Foreign Artists in Paris, 1944–1968 in the Museo Reina Sofía, sets out to examine the complex fabric of post-war national identity and cultural politics through jazz and the relationship it bears to modern art. The encounter comprises a short lecture by art historian Serge Guilbaut, the exhibition’s curator, and a concert by bebop pianist René Urtreger.
Guilbaut is behind the renowned theory that argues how the transfer of art’s capital status from Paris to New York in the aftermath of the Second World War was in response to a string of actions aimed at building up American hegemony from culture. In parallel, something else was conversely “stolen” — the consideration of jazz as a purely French art form, despite its invention in the USA. In this lecture Guilbaut sets forth his ideas about post-war French painting drawing from jazz to cling to modernity on account of American Abstraction.
Upon its arrival on French shores in 1917, jazz was immediately understood as a free and spontaneous style of music, yet these qualities would soak in progressively; on one side through cosmopolitanism, in identifying the genre with the music of racial minorities and, on the other, in the sense of a distinctly French composition. Thus jazz would be split into two styles: the classical, ordered French-style jazz of New Orleans; and the improvised, frenetic and impromptu jazz of bebop. Both styles would have a hand in the reinvention of the School of Paris — a name that brought together different pictorial trends in the city between 1920 and 1959 — at a time when the French capital had become an erstwhile centre of the art world.
Upon the conclusion of the lecture, René Urtreger, one of the most eminent composers and pianists around since the 1950s — when he played with Miles Davis, Stan Getz and Chet Baker — will perform a concert, running through the major themes in bebop.
Serge Guilbaut is an art historian and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. His publications include How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art (University of Chicago Press, 1985), Sobre la desaparición de ciertas obras de arte (Curare, 1995) and Los espejismos de la imagen. Ensayos de arte contemporáneo (Akal, 2009). He is also the curator of Be-Bomb. The Translatlantic War of Images and All that Jazz (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona, MACBA, 2007–2008) and Lost, Loose and Loved. Foreign Artists 1944–1968 (Museo Reina Sofía, 2018–2019).
René Urtreger is a musician and composer. Regarded as one of the founders of bebop, he has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Konitz, Johnny Griffin and Sonny Rollins, and numerous others. In 1958 he worked with Miles Davies on the soundtrack to Louis Malle’s film Ascenseur pour l’echafaud (Lift to the Gallows), which was based on the album under the same name, recorded by both artists in 1957. The record also featured Daniel Humair on drums and Pierre Michelot on double bass, both of whom would form the HUM trio with Urtreger in 1960. His discography also includes René Urtreger Plays Bud Powell (1955), Modern Jazz au Club Saint-Germain (1955), HUM (1960, 1979 and 1999) and Onirica (2000).