The Museum of Modern Art in New York, then in Düsseldorf, took 77 years to understand Mondrian’s painting. (New York City 1) exhibited on the walls…hung upside down. The issue, apparently, is the lack of a signature at the bottom of the painting, as well as the arrangement of horizontal lines. The larger ones logically represent the foundations, but actually evoke the gravity of the heavens. This long-ignored error could have fueled the usual ironic comments about modern art: pure snobbery? No one understands anything about it, everyone finds it very ugly, but everyone pretends to be ecstatic?
Don’t look like a fool
We know the story of the emperor’s new clothes: a vain ruler, a crooked tailor, slave courtiers and an innocent child. A foolish and self-absorbed emperor orders a ceremonial suit from the newly arrived court tailor. Lazy and greedy, but nevertheless intelligent, the tailor extols the merits of a magnificent cloth that shines with its will, which consists in showing its colors only to intelligent people. Others will simply see nothing. The young stylist pretends to place yards of fabric in front of the emperor, who pretends to see the patterns and colors, and is terrified of looking like a fool. On the day of the great imperial banquet, the emperor appears naked under his veil like a wolf. Courtiers compete with each other in bowing and justify all this: “If I admit that I have not seen anything, I will be a fool.” Or worse: “I don’t see anything: there’s nothing to see, no, the problem must be with me: I’m too stupid.” » The end is known: the forgery is raised when a young child, seeing the procession passing by, shouts loudly: “The king is naked! And the news spread like wildfire. The lesson is simple: when nobody sees anything, there’s usually nothing to see. When nobody understands absolutely anything about it, because there is nothing to understand…
We raise our gaze
But this is the whole paradox of Mondrian’s work: even if he pretended to be upside down, he would continue to tell us something, talk to us without words, without sentences. He never fails to show us the purity of form hidden in the apparent chaos of nature or human constructions. Let’s remember that these geometric lines were inspired by the artist, inspired by the great New York avenues intersected by the light rays followed by the lights of the cars, and the lines of power thrown by the big trees stripped of their leaves towards the sky. . This strain towards perfection on the canvas has been overlooked and even misunderstood.
A true work of art educates us in spiritual realities, we see only one side of things with our physical eyes, our own aspects.
This is why art, especially modern art, which is sometimes criticized, unjustly adored or executed, is essentially religious. It invites us to look beyond appearances, to seek meaning, but also to accept not understanding everything. A true work of art educates us in spiritual realities, it makes us realize that with our physical eyes we see only one side of things, that which is our own, which we choose to adopt.
Too ugly to be pie?
And sometimes the king is exposed: the fraud is revealed, the artist is just a money machine. This is ultimately what the young ecologists of the soup at the museum taught us. There are works that, rather, they are not going to tackle (if they think about it) for fear of thanking or heartily congratulating them. Jeff Koons’s tulips of controversy didn’t hurt the tube fountain that was supposed to light up the Champs-Élysées circle that everyone had been passing on for months, and the crazy neon that the Buroullec brothers didn’t do any better. Lights from the workshops of Claude Leveque to wreaths and here and there to the pediments of town halls or the parapets of bridges: too ugly to be engraved? Are our young taggers the little boys in the fairy tale?
All this confusion in museums still reminds us that the saint is always trying to find his way, to transmit his light: in the smallest door, even in clumsy hands, he shows himself and is known to us.