Despite debates around who was the founder of abstract art, there’s no denying Russian-born painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was one of the true pioneers. For a chance to see some of his works, the second Centre Pompidou x West Bund Museum Project has brought a collection of over 100 to Shanghai for Kandinsky: The Pioneer of Abstract Art, on show through Sunday 5 September.
Curated by Angela Lampe and her team from Centre Pompidou in Paris, the exhibition traces Kandinsky’s abstract explorations in chronological order across five distinct periods. We see anecdotes and artworks most representative of his style during each time, starting with his formative years in Munich, through to his time in Moscow at the outbreak of the First World War, and finally the last 11 years of his life in Paris. As well as key paintings that illustrate how his work evolved over the years, the exhibition also houses his lithography prints, woodcut prints and drypoint prints, collections of picture books and magazines as well as his paintbrushes, a palette and even his smoking pipe.
A lovely surprise comes when you exit the fourth section showing the artist’s Bauhaus years (1922-1933). You'll be greeted by a room covered seamlessly (including the ceiling) with large-scale mural paintings – a reconstruction of the Entrance Hall designed by Kandinsky for the Juryfrieie exhibition in Berlin, 1922. It’s the first time these pieces have been shown in Asia.
Whatever your knowledge of abstract art is, Kandinsky's works will spark joy and open your imagination. The best way to appreciate them? As the artist himself once said, ‘Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and... stop thinking!’