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The director of the Musée d’Art Moderne (MAM) in Paris, Jean Cassou, was in Mexico to supervise an exhibition of contemporary French art to be shown at the Sala Nacional del Palacio de Bellas Artes. Interviewed by Raquel Tibol, Cassou gives his opinion that today’s art is involved in a return to “the great, genuinely French, creative tradition.” He categorizes a certain rumor in circulation as “absurd” and “mumbo jumbo.” The rumor he dismisses is that “the exhibition will reach Mexico just in time to reestablish the equilibrium of aesthetic influences in Mexico. Because lately, based on distance and inadequate resources, Europe seems to be on the brink of losing ground to the United States.”
Jean Cassou (1897-1986) was an important critic and writer of Spanish origin who was a naturalized Frenchman. He was also a committed activist during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and the French Resistance (1939-45). After World War II, he became the curator of the MAM in Paris. At the time, this museum was still considered the symbolic center of Western art. Some critics, such as the curator and former assistant director of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (INBA), Fernando Gamboa, had boundless reverence for the museum. This exhibition, specially organized for Mexico, was seen by the local art world as recompense for the exhibition taken to Paris in 1952 by INBA (and later to Stockholm and London). For that event, Mexico had sent its most important works of art that represented its entire history. By contrast, the French exhibition was a dismal contemporary selection of what was assumed to be the Paris School. The Mexican press harshly criticized the low level of the exhibition.
Two years later, the director of MAM Paris would return to Mexico with a new exhibition; this time, it actually represented the heritage of the institution of which he was director.