Tom Wesselmann at Villa Paloma. Delighting promises on French Riviera

A short monographic exhibition in Monaco celebrates the New York artist featuring unmissable paintings and milestone drawings: Pop Art in the Sixties.

Tom Wesselmann, Great American Nude #82, 1966

The concise monographic exhibition dedicated to Tom Wesselmann, from the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, will last exactly six months, until 6 January 2019. Inside Villa Paloma’s spaces, “La Promesse du Bonheur” finds the ideal landscape and the optimal aesthetic temperature to present itself, through twenty-five works. Among the most famous paintings of the New York artist (who unfortunately passed away in 2004) also sculptures and drawings made over thirty years, from 1963 to 1993, are exhibited lucidly.

Tom Wesselmann, Bedroom Painting #24, 1970
Tom Wesselmann, Bedroom Painting #24, 1970. Oil on shaped canvas, on show at Villa Paloma, 2018

One of the most powerful engines lying behind “La Promesse du Bonheur”, is Villa Paloma in itself (nicknamed Villa Coquette) that architecturally and perceptually accompanies visitors inside a monastic atmosphere, interrupted by honey-fuggle abstract and figurative works. The building is developed on three floors, composing one of the most beautiful upper-class Monaco’s residences, thanks also to its panoramic position, prominent on the Côte d'Azur Riviera. Although Villa Paloma’s construction date its actually uncertain, what it’s pretty known is the fact that its garden and the huge entrance terrace of the villa were conceived by Octave Godard, the most beloved pupil of the famous landscape designer Edouard André (1840-1911). Here Godard designed an old-fashioned garden, a project considered one of his best peculiarity.

Tom Wesselmann, Bedroom Face with Lichtenstein, 1988-92
Tom Wesselmann, Bedroom Face with Lichtenstein, 1988-92. Oil on cut-out aluminium, on show at Villa Paloma, 2018

The exhibition, which draws its title from the well-known Stendhal quotation “La beauté n’est que la promesse du bonheur” (literally: “beauty is a promise of happiness”),  was possible thanks to the direct intervention of the Wesselmann Estate, whose mission is also to preserve the extensive testimonies of the artist on his production and exhibitions until 1959, as well as systematizing an archive of letters, written interviews, films and photographic materials.

Tom Wesselmann on show at Villa Paloma, Monaco, 2018
From left: Tom Wesselmann, Still Life #48, 1964, acrylic, collage and assemblage on board; Bedroom Painting #4, 1968 oil on canvas. Exhibition view at Villa Paloma, Monaco, 2018

The artist, one of the most important artists of American Pop Art in the Sixties, began to be known thanks to the Great American Nude series in which he reinvented the classical nude by exploring the use of additional materials, such as magazine images, posters advertisements and urban billboards found around the city. As underlined by the exhibition, with the oblique, uninhibited oil on canvas titled Great American Nude # 53 (1964) and the drawing First Drawing for Great American Nude # 53 (1963), the means-to-an-end, for the artist, was to compose larger works requiring extensive elements for collages. Elements that Tom Wesselmann personally bought from advertisers.

Tom Wesselmann, Dropped Bra, 1978-80
Tom Wesselmann, Dropped Bra, 1978-80, Liquitex on 100% ragboard. Exhibition view at Villa Paloma, Monaco, 2018

The thirty-year life line monographic examines Tom Wesselman’s practices deeply, through works such as Bedroom Paining # 4 (1968). Here the fetishization of Victorian and post-Victorian society, through delicate reactions to femininity, is represented and related to a wealthy post-war economy. It is pretty well enhanced the great ability of the artist in fluidizing human bodies, as impregnable objects of desire. The artist's muse is symbolized, on Wesselmann’s final surfaces, not only by a sort of delighting ecstasy (Bedroom Face with Lichtenstein, 1988-89), but also by the prism through which the colour range in a static motion must be observed; fixed nuances on the canvas, silent as a gaze directed towards forbidden areas, necklines finally opened on a daily, surreal life (Still Life # 4, 1968).

La Promesse du Bonheur
Tom Wesselmann
Villa Paloma
Opening dates:
21 June 2018 – 31 January 2019
56 Boulevard du Jardin Exotique, Monaco, Principality of Monaco

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