Art, Surrealism

Chambre 202, Hôtel du Pavot by Dorothea Tanning

Chambre 202, Hôtel du Pavot, in English Room 202, Hôtel du Pavot by the surrealist artist Dorothea Tanning, is an artificial room illuminated by a pale light and decorated with carpet/tweed, floral wallpaper, false panelling and wood. I had the pleasure to see this installation at the Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, two years ago at the exhibition “Behind the door, another invisible door”.

Chambre 202, Hôtel du Pavot by Dorothea Tanning

The origins of such a horrifying work goes back to the 1930s and the beginning of Tanning’s career; the time when she discovered the surrealism during an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, called “Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism”. It is when the artist begins to create her first dream paintings. The first presentation of this work was in the retrospective exhibition of Tanning’s work at the Centre National d’Art Contemporain of Paris in 1974.

In this room, Tanning brings together five of her sculptures in fabric stuffed with wool: Hôtel du Pavot (two figures in pink), Revelation ou la fin du mois (Figure on a toad armchair), Time and Place (a fireplace teeming with monsters) La Table Tragique as well as her first soft sculpture Pelote d’épingles pouvant servir comme fétiche (1965).

Chambre 202, Hôtel du Pavot (detail)

For instance, the painting A Parisian afternoon (Hôtel du Pavot) painted in 1941 to which a blonde hair hungs, its second floor (Eine kleine Nachtmusik of 1946), and the young girls whose erect hair responds to the bodies hidden behind the wallpaper in Les jeux d’enfants (1941). Other painting that must included in this list is her self-portrait Birthday, painted in 1942. In Chambre 202, Hôtel du Pavot is a demonstration of a powerful update of the surrealist universe, the fascination for models and dolls used to create a new morphology of desires, of anxieties.

Chambre 202, Hôtel du Pavot (detail)

About Chambre 202, Tanning once said that she would bring real life to a pile of tweed and filler, and then when we look at this corporeality we wouldn’t know if the materials were only instruments, if the inert is only inert or if life is something else.

Chambre 202, Hôtel du Pavot is at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.