Dec 31, 2023 – May 27, 2024
Marie-Laure Bernadac and Bernard Marcadé, art historians,
in association with Gérard Wajcman and Paz Corona, psychoanalysts
The ideas of Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) are, alongside the work of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze, essential for understanding our modernity. While homages and exhibitions have already been dedicated to these intellectual figures, the thought of Lacan has not been dealt with in museums to date, even though he was strongly attached to works of art, to the point of buying Gustave Courbet’s famous painting, L’Origine du Monde.
In a text devoted to the work of Marguerite Duras, Lacan wrote that ‘the artist always precedes him (the analyst) and that he (the analyst) does not have to play the psychologist where the artist paves the way for him’. Over 40 years after the psychoanalyst’s death, it was thus urgent to plan an exhibition linked to the unique relations between Jacques Lacan and art, by gathering together the works he himself referenced, but also by putting into perspective modern and contemporary works providing an echo to the major conceptual and significant connections of his thought.
Although claiming to be working in the tradition of Sigmund Freud, Lacan opened up an innovative and subversive field that is a part of our modernity and our present. Today we debate problems of sex, love, identity, gender, power, belief or disbelief, all questions about which Lacan provided, not remedies but reference points, sometimes surprising, but deliberately essential. Lacan is the thinker of dazzling theorems. With their provocative and humorous accents, they leave no one indifferent: ‘There are no sexual relations’, ‘Woman does not exist’, ‘The unduped are mistaken’, ‘I always speak the truth. Not the whole truth, because there’s no way to say it all.’, ‘The unconscious is structured like a Language’.
The exhibition should be seen and understood as a journey through specifically Lacanian notions (the Mirror, the Lalangue, the Void, the Hole, Nothingness, the Object, the Gaze, the Voice, the Name-of-the-Father etc.), filled with artistic references, both direct (Diego Vélasquez, Hans Holbein, Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp) and indirect (the encounter of these ideas with the works of art of our time). The main stages in Lacan’s life are traced, as well as his relations with the Surrealists (Salvador Dalí, Diego Masson, Georges Bataille, Pablo Picasso, Dora Maar) and with the intellectual figures he rubbed shoulders with (Alexandre Kojève, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Martin Heidegger and many others).
Lacan had a close relationship with the art and artists of the 20th century and never ceased immersing himself in the art of all ages in his teaching. Although he never spoke directly about his approach to Art, he looked at works as powerful means to show to us and think about the world. Like psychoanalysis. Creating an exhibition about Lacan does not mean interpreting art through psychoanalysis. The aim is more to interpret psychoanalysis through art. Because art looks at psychoanalysis, but art should even be a royal road to psychoanalysis.