Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
27 Mar 2014 - 08 Sep 2014


Neil Dawson, Globe, 1989 Photo: rights reserved

“Magiciens de la terre“, presented simultaneously at the Centre Pompidou and the Grande Halle de la Villette in 1989, was one of the exhibitions that revolutionised the 20th century international art scene. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of this pioneering event, the Centre Pompidou is staging an international symposium at the end of March, presenting a documentary exhibition in early July, laying on a summer university, and publishing a new reference book.

Various events are being staged by the Centre Pompidou for the 25th anniversary of “Magiciens de la terre“, with Annie Cohen-Solal as general curator:

– An international symposium will be taking place on 27 and 28 March in the Grande Salle, looking back over the experience provided by the exhibition and the prospects it opened out. A number of major international figures have responded to the Centre Pompidou’s invitation to discuss the question of globalisation in terms of economics, sociology, the political sciences and the history of art.

– A documentary exhibition, 2 July – 8 September, curated by Didier Schulmann, head of the Bibliothèque Kandinsky in the Musée National d’Art Moderne, will be presenting the archives of “Magiciens de la terre 1989“ : a large collection of photographic documents, travel diaries, drawings, catalogues and films in an original staging designed by the artist Sarkis.

– A summer university, from 1 to 10 July, open to PhD students, PhD graduates and curators, will enable a new generation of researchers to explore the sources of this exhibition and meet creators, artists and curators, together with archivists and librarians.

A new book co-published by the Editions Centre Pompidou and the Editions Xavier Barral will trace the origins of this event and provide a critical assessment, while looking ahead to the future and further prospects through the writings of sociologists, historians, curators and art critics. Many of the artists who took part in the 1989 exhibition will also provide their current views, and a completely new photo report will take readers back to the 1989 exhibition rooms.This book is part of the series begun in 2010, with publications on the exhibitions “Dada“ and “Daniel Buren. Le musée qui n’existait pas“.

Lastly, all the «Magiciens de la terre“ archives will be made available to a broad public through a large-scale digitisation programme, going online on the virtual Centre Pompidou, the centre’s new website :




Free entry, within the limit of available seats.
Simultaneous translation (English)

An international symposium devised by Jean-Hubert Martin and Annie Cohen-Solal, in collaboration with Jean-Pierre Criqui, head of the “Spotlight“ section in the cultural development department, will launch the programme of events celebrating the 25th anniversary of the exhibition “Magiciens de la terre“.

Specialists in the shape of academics, exhibition curators and art critics from five continents will present various points of view to assess the contribution and reception of “Magiciens de la terre“ in 1989, and its influence on the current global situation. They will look at the questions raised by the geographical and aesthetic broadening of contemporary art beyond Western borders and canons.


THURSDAY 27 MARCH AT 2.00 p.m.

Opening with Alain Seban, President of the Centre Pompidou

Introduction by Jean-Hubert Martin
The general curator of the exhibition “Magiciens de la terre“ in 1989, Jean-Hubert-Martin is now an independent curator, after a period as a general heritage curator. The former director of the Kunsthalle in Berne, the Centre Pompidou Musée National d’Art Moderne, the Château d’Oiron, the Musée National des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie, the Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf and FRAME France, he was the curator for numerous exhibitions, including the 5th Lyon Biennial, “Partage d’exotismes“ in 2000, “Altäre – Kunst zum Niederknien (“Altars – the art of bending the knee“) in Düsseldorf in 2001, “Africa Remix“ in Düsseldorf in 2005,“Une image peut en cacher une autre“ at the Grand Palais in 2009,“Dalí“ at the Centre Pompidou in 2013 and “Le Théâtre du monde“ at the Maison Rouge in 2013. L’Art au Large (Flammarion, 2012) features a collection of his texts.

“Art without borders: the last frontier of art ?“
 Laurent Jeanpierre
Twenty-five years ago, at the same time as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the exhibition “Magiciens de la terre“ represented a turning point in the representation and exhibition of so-called contemporary art. It provided a critical look at its ethnocentrism and helped to draw it into the globalisation process. With and after it, new fields of exploration and appreciation opened up to critics, curators, art historians, museum curators and dealers. The scope of art, constantly broadened by the modernist tradition, was pushed out even further – this time right to the bounds of non-Western otherness. For some, art without borders became the last frontier of art. With this movement, initiated by Jean-Hubert Martin, who was also its critical observer, new frontiers appeared nonetheless, which impeded the emergence of a contemporary art that fully recognised its differences.

“Mapping contemporary indigenous art after “Magiciens de la terre“
Jonathan Mane-Wheoki
A moment of awakening followed the exhibition “Magiciens de la terre“, enabling the indigenous contemporary art of New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific to emerge as a distinct category in the history of art, and gradually enter into contact with a global artistic network. Where does this phenomenon stand in the global history of art ? Why is it still not genuinely recognised in Europe ?

“Half-way between news and history : the reception of “Magiciens de la terre“
Daniel Soutif
At the time, the exhibition “Magiciens de la terre“ was often considered not to have kept its promises – particularly in terms of attendance. Over the next twenty-five years, perspective little by little completely erased this lukewarm reception, and Jean-Hubert Martin’s exhibition gradually established itself as a major event marking a key turning point in the late 20th century.

“Almost the same but not quite : the resistance of the marketisation of the global“
Niru Ratnam
“Magiciens de la terre“ renewed the debate on relations between the modern Western movement and the visual cultures of the rest of the world. The exhibition was criticised for its implicit idealism, and some considered it out of place to present artefacts produced by “non-Westerners“ in a context of Western art. Since 1989, contemporary “non-Western“ art has been discovered by the market and has flourished considerably in China, India, Latin America and, more recently, Africa. In its desire to focus on practices rooted in tradition and cultural history, “Magiciens de la terre“ provided a point of resistance against the standardisation brought about by the market. From it emerged an art that was “almost the same but not quite“ (Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture, 1994).

“Meanwhile, in Africa…*“
Christine Eyéné
Retracing a parallel or contemporary history in “Magiciens de la terre“, at the root of several 21st century art movements, makes it possible to look back over the emergence of new attitudes, theoretical and critical approaches and curatorial practices coming from African and diasporic spheres. How can the current African scene be assessed ? Who or what are its artists, themes, artistic techniques and formats, curators, institutions (particularly independent initiatives), publications and collections ?
A new imperative is leading curators, artists, cultural players, historians and art theorists to join forces in supporting the art scene, while endeavouring to preserve – and even to research and document – the history and vital work of the artists of the “Magiciens“ generation.


FRIDAY 28 MARCH AT 7.00 p.m.

Introduction by Annie Cohen-Solal
General curator of all events staged for the 25th anniversary of “Magiciens de la terre“, Annie Cohen-Solal has a PhD and is a university lecturer.

Globalisation of contemporary art :
a dialogue between Saskia Sassen and Hans Belting moderated by Annie Cohen-Solal

“Twenty years after its first manifestations, the time has come to discuss the nature and purpose of global art that emerged, like a phoenix from the ashes, from modern art at the end of the twentieth century and opposed modernity’s cherished ideals of progress and hegemony. Contemporary art, a term long used to designate the most recent art, assumed an entirely new meaning when art production, following the turn of world politics and world trade in 1989, expanded across the globe. The results of this unprecedented expansion challenged the continuity of any Eurocentric view of ‘art’. Global art is no longer synonymous with modern art. It is by definition contemporary, not just in a chronological but also in a symbolic or even ideological sense“.

(Hans Belting in The Global Art World, Hans Belting and Andrea Buddensieg, Ostfildern, 2009.)

“The space constituted by the global grid of global cities, a space with new economic and political potentialities, is perhaps one of the most strategic spaces for the formation of new types, including transnational identities and communities. This is a space that is both place-centred in that it is embedded in particular and strategic sites; and it is transterritorial because it connects sites that are not geogra- phically proximate yet intensely connected to each other“.

(Saskia Sassen in A Sociology of Globalisation, W.W. Norton, 2006.)


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