Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy. Ring of Iron, Ring of Wool

The Helly Nahmad Gallery is pleased to present Kay Sage & Yves Tanguy: Ring of Iron, Ring of Wool (9 May – 29 July 2023), curated by Victoria Noel-Johnson. The exhibition, which gets its title from a Kay Sage painting referencing the couple’s seventh wedding anniversary, highlights how the personal and artistic trajectories of these two eminent Surrealists gave rise to a reciprocal and dynamic exchange of ideas.

Constituting the third joint show of their work ever to be organized (with the first held at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in 1954 shortly before Tanguy’s unexpected death), the displayed artwork weaves together a delicate narrative spanning several decades, interspersed with a silent dialogue provided by their respective poetic titles.
Each artist encountered the others work before meeting; Sage saw Tanguy’s prophetically titled Je vous attends (I Await You) in 1935 and Tanguy saw Sage’s work for the first time in 1938. The two eventually married in 1940. Though numerous artist couples come to mind, such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, Lee Miller and Man Ray among others, Sage and Tanguy have remained relatively obscure until recently—Sage even more so, her work often overshadowed by Tanguy’s greater fame.
Over the last 20 years, the male bias has been acknowledged within the art world, with art historians, curators and museum institutions seeking to analyze the historic phenomenon with fresh eyes and assess the female partner’s artistic contribution in their own right and the challenges that they encountered. With regard to Sage and Tanguy, the present exhibition will address difficult questions including the obstacles and/or denied opportunities Sage dealt with at the time as an artist, writer and poet, including the prejudices she faced as an aspiring female artist in stifling aristocratic circles in Italy during the 1920s, the avant-garde Parisian milieu of the 1930s, as well as the competitive market of New York in the 1940s and 1950s.
Featuring 60 artworks lent by prestigious museums, institutions and private collections, the decision to display their work side by side (which they intentionally avoided during their lifetimes in order to assert the semblance of separate artistic entities) emphasizes such aesthetic points of contact but, at the same time, reinforces clear differences in stylistic and conceptual approaches in a parallel game of give-and-take. Here, Tanguy’s constantly evolving and responsive inner world of fantastic landscapes populated by a vast array of biomorphic forms and anthropomorphic personages harmoniously co- exists with Sage’s universe of metaphysically-charged dreamscapes featuring barren plains, architectural scaffolding and latticework structures adorned with brightly-colored cloth.
Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy: Ring of Iron, Ring of Wool was made possible through the generous participation of loans from museums, institutions and private collections such as the Mattatuck Museum, Mint Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Colorado Springs Fine Art Center at Colorado College, Williams College Museum of Art, the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, Mark Kelman, Enrico Donati family, Esther Grether Family Collection, John Cavaliero Collection. It will also be accompanied by a richly-illustrated publication published by Skira with texts by Victoria Noel Johnson, Stephen Robeson Miller and Ara H. Merjian.

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