L’Art Informel at Opera Gallery

Karel Appel, Le Cri Tournant, Courtesy Opera Gallery

To conclude its 2023 program, Opera Gallery presents L’Art informel: le Signe et le Geste – 1950-1970 from October 19th to November 28th 2023, an exhibition-event curated by art historian and critic, Lydia Harambourg.

This artistic movement, which originated in the 1940s, not only flourished in France and Europe but also found its way to Japan and the United States. By focusing on the movement’s historical period, this exhibition delves into the evolution of this post- war art form and its influence on contemporary art. Visitors will have the opportunity to admire – and even acquire – around forty works from this period, featuring renowned artists such as Karel Appel, Jean-Michel Atlan, Hans Hartung, Georges Mathieu, Jean Paul Riopelle, Antonio Saura, and Pierre Soulages, all of which showcase the richness of these artists’ plastic proposals.


From a semantic perspective, it would be fitting to consider ‘‘art informel’’ as the art of the ‘‘unformed’’ a concept that might have been dubbed ‘‘the art of refusal’’ in a different context. In light of this, as the author and curator of this exhibition, Lydia Harambourg, aptly questions in the preface to the catalog, ‘‘How have certain words contributed to the instrumentalization of art history?’’

Jean-Michel Atlan, Composition, 1959, Courtesy Opera Gallery

She further reflects on the matter, stating, ‘‘Lyrism, Informel, Tachisme, ‘Art autre,’ and Action painting are terms used to define an art that each individual embraces according to their pictorial convictions and the temporal fluctuations linked to current events. […]’’

With this invitation, Opera Gallery encourages the public to engage with the selected works, to connect with their own emotions, and to develop their unique personal definition of this art form known as ‘‘informel.’’


From Karel Appel to Pierre Soulages, via Antonio Saura, Jean-Michel Atlan and Jean Paul Riopelle, Opera Gallery will be exhibiting and offering for sale exceptional works by these great figures who embody ‘‘art informel’’, each in their own way.

Karel Appel (1921-2006), the co-founder of the CoBrA movement, set the tone: he wanted his art to be exhilarating. From his ‘‘paint carousing’’ came wild, volcanic primitivism. His painting was experimental and went beyond expressionism to reach the informal sphere. His vehement palette was fertilized by thick matter in order to create allusive forms influenced by children’s art, while avoiding the pitfall of abstraction. Opera Gallery will be presenting ‘‘Woman and Bird on Beach’’, an oil on canvas from 1956. The gallery has also selected another important work by Karel Appel, ‘‘Le Cri tournant’’, an oil on canvas from 1959, which is described by Lydia Harambourg as follows: ‘‘This scream is a tornado of painting. The swirling subject is sucked into this informal maelstrom of vertiginous impetuosity, leaping on its incommunicability to describe and identify anything. Sign and myth come together in the identity of Karel Appel, whose vision of the world is fractured and tense, and where colour and matter freely celebrate a raw universe of overflowing sensuality’’.

The dramaturgy of Antonio Saura’s painting (1930-1998) draws on a pictorial tradition (Velázquez, Greco, Goya, Picasso) that does not hinder the invention of his own forms. These multiply according to the principle of metamorphosis to reach a baroque expression and the austerity of a palette that is restricted to black and white. Saura’s female bodies have the strangeness of a twilight, mystical vision tempered by the casual manner with which the artist draws. ‘‘Nule’’, an oil on canvas from 1958, stands as a perfect illustration of this technique and will be on show.

Antonia Saura, Nule, 1958, Courtesy Opera Gallery

A pioneer and precursor of art informel, Jean-Michel Atlan (1913-1960), with his archaic signs framed in sumptuous black, created a painting that revived the great primitive rhythms. It was harsh and sensual, and it drew on the unconscious as much as on a memorial heritage. The artist’s magic of the ideogram was earthly, mystical and prophetic. It prefigured gestural painting and made him the abstract painter of the great cave hieroglyphs. This can be seen in ‘‘Composition’’, an oil on canvas from 1959.

The gestural style of Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002) reflected his desire to transpose his impressions of the world and of ever-present nature. A precursor of automatism and informalism, Riopelle used pure colour applied directly from the tube in impastoed or knife-worked brushstrokes, interlocking forms in a circular motion with mosaic-like breaks. ‘‘Untitled’’ (1953) is an exceptional work which is typical of Riopelle’s technique. It will also be on view.

Pierre Soulages, Peinture 92 x 65 cm, 3 août 1954, Courtesy Opera Gallery

A master of black, a colour that contains all values – ochre, red, blue – in its monochromy, Pierre Soulages (1919-2022) was attentive to the opacities and transparencies of oil in his large segments of black bars, with which he experimented with a rhythm of space and its fragmentation. His abstraction refused any reference to nature. At once a universe and a language, his work – as can be seen here with his painting entitled ‘‘Peinture 92 x 65 cm, 3 août 1954’’, favours matter, whose intense and violent presence contributes to a singular poetry.

About Opera Gallery

Located at 62, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris’s Golden Triangle, Opera Gallery, a modern and contemporary art gallery founded in 1994 by Gilles Dyan, currently boasts a network of sixteen galleries worldwide: Paris, London, Monaco, Geneva, New York, Miami, Bal Harbour, Aspen, Dubai, Beirut, Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul; the Madrid gallery opened on May 12, 2023. Directed by Marion Petitdidier, the Paris-based gallery offers his public and private audience composed of art lovers and collectors a permanent selection of works by modern, post-war and contemporary artists – Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet, Alexander Calder, Pierre Soulages, Manolo Valdés… – as well as monographic, group and thematic exhibitions.

Opera Gallery, Parigi62, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré 75008 Paris


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