Christian Zervos & Cahiers d’Art: The Archaic Turn, an exhibition in Athens
04 December 2019

Christian Zervos (1889–1970), publisher, critic, gallery owner, and collector of Greek origin, played a key role in shaping the modern art scene from the period between the two World Wars until the 1970s.

An exhibition organized in his honor by the French School at Athens, the Benaki Museum, and the Musée Zervos will introduce him to a new generation. The exhibition will be on display from December 12, 2019 to March 1, 2020, at the Benaki Museum (on Pireos Street) and is realized with the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).
Founder of the avant-garde journal Cahiers d’Art (1926–1960) and the gallery and publishing house of the same name, which had the exclusive rights to publish and promote the paintings of Pablo Picasso, resulting in a monumental work of 33 volumes. Zervos proposed, in both archaeological books and the journal, a new perspective on archaeological finds that activated them in the present, recording modern art within a historical perspective, primarily through photographic juxtaposition and the creation of elective affinities.
Approximately 60 rare and unique works of modern art by Matisse, Miró, Picasso, Laurens, Calder, Lam, Kandinsky, Ghika, Sklavou, Giacometti, Brancusi and others from Zervos’s personal collection will travel outside Vézelay for the first time for the exhibition. At the same time, documentation from the Musée Zervos and from archives and libraries in Greece and Paris will shed light on the significance of Cahiers d’Art in the development of modern art in Paris. The exhibition will also explore the wider context of engagement with “Mediterranean primitivism” by proponents of modern art. Finally, it will sketch out the correlation between Zervos’s work and modern Greek intellectual life, plumbing the foundations of his methodology as related to his Greek origins and highlighting his importance in the reception of modernism in Greece.
The exhibition is directly linked to a research program at the French School at Athens entitled “Christian Zervos au miroir de la Grèce,” which has been running since 2017 in collaboration with a team of researchers active in France and Greece.