Part of the
exhibition

CHAGALL, PICASSO, MONDRIAN and others Migrant Artists in Paris

21 Sep 2019 until 2 Feb 2020

Overigen — 22 Dec 2020

A selection of the best and most insightful responses from the visitor participation space in the exhibition Chagall, Picasso, Mondrian and Others: Migrant Artists in Paris. This exhibition was on view at the Stedelijk Museum from 21 September 2019 until 2 February 2020.

It is all about art at the Stedelijk, but also about you: our visitors. Which is why the writer and rapper Massih Hutak organised ‘The Salon’ as part of the exhibition Chagall, Picasso, Mondrian and Others: Migrant Artists in Paris. A space in the exhibition where visitors were invited to reflect, respond and tell their own story. Every month, Massih Hutak posed a new question. Questions that the artists in the exhibition would have faced, but which still remain relevant today:

  • Is where you live also who you are?
  • Tell me where you really come from.
  • Describe where you feel at home.
  • Describe the road you travelled to come here today.

16.000 responses

It was astonishing to see the multitude of stories, wonderful contributions, and the time and effort that visitors took. Almost 16,000 visitors from around the world left a written or drawn response. Here we share a selection of these, with our thanks to everyone who left a message. There were so many excellent responses, but unfortunately we can only share a few here.

We would love to know what you think about the contributions, and encourage you to respond. Perhaps there will be another exchange of ideas that we can learn from. Below we share what caught our eye.* 

*) With Thanks to Najiba Yasmin and Nina Hama. 

For our comments we have made use of Najiba Yasmin’s paper entitled The migration mosaic: the Salon in ‘Migrant Artists in Paris’ as a third space (2019), which she wrote for the ‘Museum Concepts and Narratives’ course at the University of Amsterdam. 

Nina Hama wrote her thesis about the visitor experiences of the exhibition Chagall, Picasso, Mondrian and Others: Migrant Artists in Paris. As a result of this thesis and her recommendation, we’ve created this page. 

We also thank our colleagues Fabienne Chiang and Achmed Hajhassan, for their translations from Chinese and Arabic. 

Margita van Vugt, Education Executive, responsible for the introductory film, audio tour and The Salon in the exhibition Migrant Artists in Paris, and Maurice Rummens, Member of the Research Staff at the Stedelijk Museum and curator of the exhibition (eds.).

Describe where you feel at home

As expected, many of the responses to this question suggested a connection to a place, area or country. Nature was also often mentioned. Visitors with a migrant background often spoke of a feeling of belonging in more than one place. Some visitors sketched an ideal place. Others mentioned communities of like-minded individuals. Particularly poignant are those responses which refer to danger and repression in the home country, or to socio-political factors that lead to a feeling of being homeless. And it was also good to see connections being made between the exhibition and the present day. This indicates the continued global relevance of the exhibited art from the period 1900-1960. One visitor resented the ‘left-wing political correctness’ and warned: ‘we are still here with our traditions too’. This reference to traditions is addressed in the exhibition with a publication by the nationalist art critic Waldemar George, who was influential in the interwar period.

  • Picasso and Matisse compete with each other on the walls of the Paris apartment belonging to the Stein family. Wall photo: Theresa Ehrman, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Cone Archives. Room photo: Maarten Nauw.

    Picasso and Matisse compete with each other on the walls of the Paris apartment belonging to the Stein family. Wall photo: Theresa Ehrman, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Cone Archives. Room photo: Maarten Nauw.

  • Visitors at the entrance to the exhibition. Photo: Maarten Nauw.
    Visitors at the entrance to the exhibition. Photo: Maarten Nauw.
  • Visitors at the exhibition opening. Photo: LNDW Studio.
    Visitors at the exhibition opening. Photo: LNDW Studio.
  • Flag with the Cedar of Lebanon, a piece of land and the word ‘Lebanon’ in Arabic.
    Flag with the Cedar of Lebanon, a piece of land and the word ‘Lebanon’ in Arabic.
  • Marc Chagall, Bella Dressed in Green, 1934-1935, The Circus-Rider, 1931, Love Idyll, 1925, all Stedelijk Museum, formerly on loan from P.A. Regnault;  Interior of a Synagoge, Safad, Palestine, today Safed, Israel, 1931. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    Marc Chagall, Bella Dressed in Green, 1934-1935, The Circus-Rider, 1931, Love Idyll, 1925, all Stedelijk Museum, formerly on loan from P.A. Regnault; Interior of a Synagoge, Safad, Palestine, today Safed, Israel, 1931. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Visitors in front of Marc Chagall, The Circus Rider, 1931, collection Stedelijk Museum, formerly on loan from P.A. Regnault. Photo: Maarten Nauw.
    Visitors in front of Marc Chagall, The Circus Rider, 1931, collection Stedelijk Museum, formerly on loan from P.A. Regnault. Photo: Maarten Nauw.
  • Baya, from: Exposition Baya, 1947. The Algerian Baya Mahieddine, better known as Baya, broke through as an artist in Paris at the age of 16. She did not paint for the duration of the French-Algerian war, but did pick up her brush again afterwards.
    Baya, from: Exposition Baya, 1947. The Algerian Baya Mahieddine, better known as Baya, broke through as an artist in Paris at the age of 16. She did not paint for the duration of the French-Algerian war, but did pick up her brush again afterwards.
  • The Salon, wall collage with immigrants in Paris, then and now, including the artists Chagall, Sonia Delaunay, Marlow Moss, Baya Mahieddine, singer Aya Nakamura and rap duo PNL. Their music could also be heard in The Salon. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    The Salon, wall collage with immigrants in Paris, then and now, including the artists Chagall, Sonia Delaunay, Marlow Moss, Baya Mahieddine, singer Aya Nakamura and rap duo PNL. Their music could also be heard in The Salon. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Right, Despiau, 1954, a nationalist publication by Waldemar George, promoter of the idea of a French tradition in art that would be threatened by the many foreigners and Jews in Paris. Left, works by Jacques Lipchitz. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    Right, Despiau, 1954, a nationalist publication by Waldemar George, promoter of the idea of a French tradition in art that would be threatened by the many foreigners and Jews in Paris. Left, works by Jacques Lipchitz. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Visitors at the exhibition opening. Jan Sluijters, Bal Tabarin, 1907, on loan from a Private Collector, promised gift. Photo: LNDW Studio.
    Visitors at the exhibition opening. Jan Sluijters, Bal Tabarin, 1907, on loan from a Private Collector, promised gift. Photo: LNDW Studio.

Is where you live also who you are?

The answers to this question diverged greatly. Art with its individual, spiritual freedom was cited as the best proof to the contrary. Another visitor disagreed and pointed to Nazi Germany. Others said that nowadays we are so connected to the entire world that identity has become independent of a geographical area and is more related to the cultural baggage that you carry. One visitor recognised themselves in Chagall’s sense of living between two worlds. Someone else longed for the time when the museum will no longer be about ‘identity politics, but art itself’, adding that ‘the Stedelijk has become politically dependent’.

  • Marc Chagall, Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers, 1912-1913, with Paris on the left, and rural Russia on the right. Gift of P.A. Regnault to the Dutch State on loan to the Stedelijk Museum, 1953.
    Marc Chagall, Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers, 1912-1913, with Paris on the left, and rural Russia on the right. Gift of P.A. Regnault to the Dutch State on loan to the Stedelijk Museum, 1953.
  • Gino Severini, Hospital Train, 1915. The French flag can be seen as a nationalistic tribute from an assimilated Italian immigrant during the First World War.
    Gino Severini, Hospital Train, 1915. The French flag can be seen as a nationalistic tribute from an assimilated Italian immigrant during the First World War.
  • From left to right, works by: Kees van Dongen, gift of VVHK, 1962; Paula Modersohn-Becker, 2 x, both gifts of baron Edouard von der Heydt, Ascona, 1962. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    From left to right, works by: Kees van Dongen, gift of VVHK, 1962; Paula Modersohn-Becker, 2 x, both gifts of baron Edouard von der Heydt, Ascona, 1962. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Nicolaas Warb (Fine Warburg), Composition, 1939, gift of Francis Nicolas, Paris, 1970; Sonia Delaunay, curtain fabric, 1951, produced by Metz & Co., Amsterdam. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    Nicolaas Warb (Fine Warburg), Composition, 1939, gift of Francis Nicolas, Paris, 1970; Sonia Delaunay, curtain fabric, 1951, produced by Metz & Co., Amsterdam. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Composition from introduction film: Studio Wim in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum. Modern immigrant artists in Paris, from left to right: Sonia Delaunay, Wifredo Lam, Joaquín Torres-García, Ossip Zadkine and Baya Mahieddine.
    Composition from introduction film: Studio Wim in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum. Modern immigrant artists in Paris, from left to right: Sonia Delaunay, Wifredo Lam, Joaquín Torres-García, Ossip Zadkine and Baya Mahieddine.
  • Room view with works by artists including Picasso, Karel Appel and Matisse, around the theme of creative influence and competition. In the background: a Picasso, acquired with support of the Vereniging Rembrandt. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    Room view with works by artists including Picasso, Karel Appel and Matisse, around the theme of creative influence and competition. In the background: a Picasso, acquired with support of the Vereniging Rembrandt. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • The Salon, wall collage with well-known immigrants in Paris, then and now. Between the rap duo PNL (bottom centre): Virgil Abloh, designer-artistic director at Louis Vuitton. Music in The Salon by PNL and Aya Nakamura. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    The Salon, wall collage with well-known immigrants in Paris, then and now. Between the rap duo PNL (bottom centre): Virgil Abloh, designer-artistic director at Louis Vuitton. Music in The Salon by PNL and Aya Nakamura. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Giselle Freund, from left to right: Adrienne Monnier, 1938-1939; Jean Cocteau, 1939; André Gide, 1939; Colette, 1939. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    Giselle Freund, from left to right: Adrienne Monnier, 1938-1939; Jean Cocteau, 1939; André Gide, 1939; Colette, 1939. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • From left to right, works by Nicolaas Warb (Fine Warburg, 2 x), Sedje Hémon and Marlow Moss. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    From left to right, works by Nicolaas Warb (Fine Warburg, 2 x), Sedje Hémon and Marlow Moss. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Pablo Picasso, poster for the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris, 1956. Portrayed is the famous poet and politician Aimé Césaire, writer of texts including Corps perdu (Lost Body), with illustrations by Picasso.
    Pablo Picasso, poster for the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris, 1956. Portrayed is the famous poet and politician Aimé Césaire, writer of texts including Corps perdu (Lost Body), with illustrations by Picasso.
  • Chagall, The Virgin with the Sleigh, 1947, gift of the artist; The Violinist, 1912-13; The Pregnant Woman (Maternity), 1913 (partially visible), both: gift of P.A. Regnault to the Dutch State as a loan to the Stedelijk Museum, 1953. Photo: Maarten Nauw.
    Chagall, The Virgin with the Sleigh, 1947, gift of the artist; The Violinist, 1912-13; The Pregnant Woman (Maternity), 1913 (partially visible), both: gift of P.A. Regnault to the Dutch State as a loan to the Stedelijk Museum, 1953. Photo: Maarten Nauw.

Tell me where you really come from

A large number of responses to this question came from visitors with a migrant background who referred to current or historical socio-political developments that have influenced their lives, such as Brexit or colonialism. One visitor revealingly wrote: ‘I speak French because I lived in Senegal’. Beneath this they drew a tree: the left side is bare; the right side is green. Another response shows people holding hands in a circle. The text beneath this is a delicate reminder that the exhibition was sponsored by a major financial institution. Museums must be wary of conflicts of interests.

  • Composition from introduction film: Studio Wim in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum. Modern immigrant artists in Paris, from left to right: Sonia Delaunay, Wifredo Lam, Joaquín Torres-García, Ossip Zadkine and Baya Mahieddine.
    Composition from introduction film: Studio Wim in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum. Modern immigrant artists in Paris, from left to right: Sonia Delaunay, Wifredo Lam, Joaquín Torres-García, Ossip Zadkine and Baya Mahieddine.
  • Piet Mondrian, Composition No. IV, with Red, Blue and Yellow, 1929. Modern immigrant artists incorporated elements of their cultural backgrounds in their art. In the case of Mondrian, these are spiritual ideas on the elevation of the individual.
    Piet Mondrian, Composition No. IV, with Red, Blue and Yellow, 1929. Modern immigrant artists incorporated elements of their cultural backgrounds in their art. In the case of Mondrian, these are spiritual ideas on the elevation of the individual.
  • Joaquín Torres-García, Structure with Street, 1929. Modern immigrant artists incorporated elements of their cultural backgrounds in their art. In the case of Torres-Garcia, these are Inca structures.
    Joaquín Torres-García, Structure with Street, 1929. Modern immigrant artists incorporated elements of their cultural backgrounds in their art. In the case of Torres-Garcia, these are Inca structures.
  • Above: xenophobic and anti-Semitic publications by Camille Mauclair from 1928 and 1930. Below: a cosmopolitan publication by André Warnod from 1947, about the peaceful co-existence of international artists in Paris . Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    Above: xenophobic and anti-Semitic publications by Camille Mauclair from 1928 and 1930. Below: a cosmopolitan publication by André Warnod from 1947, about the peaceful co-existence of international artists in Paris . Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Composition from introduction film: Studio Wim in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum. First World War, Moroccan foot soldiers in Amiens, included in the exhibition as a contextual image for a poster by Clairin.
    Composition from introduction film: Studio Wim in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum. First World War, Moroccan foot soldiers in Amiens, included in the exhibition as a contextual image for a poster by Clairin.
  • Poster by Georges Clairin from 1918, intended to raise money to finance the First World War. More than 300,000 colonial soldiers from North Africa fought in Europe. Many remained in France after the war.
    Poster by Georges Clairin from 1918, intended to raise money to finance the First World War. More than 300,000 colonial soldiers from North Africa fought in Europe. Many remained in France after the war.
  • Composition from introduction film: Studio Wim in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum. Senegalese foot soldiers in Paris, 14 July, 1939. Included in the exhibition as a contextual image for a photo by Emmy Andriesse.
    Composition from introduction film: Studio Wim in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum. Senegalese foot soldiers in Paris, 14 July, 1939. Included in the exhibition as a contextual image for a photo by Emmy Andriesse.
  • Emmy Andriesse, Paris, 1938, print Ata Kandó, 1958-1959. As well as veterans from the French colonies, many workers and students from these colonies also lived in Paris.
    Emmy Andriesse, Paris, 1938, print Ata Kandó, 1958-1959. As well as veterans from the French colonies, many workers and students from these colonies also lived in Paris.
  • Composition from introduction film: Studio Wim in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum. French-Algerian colonial war, photos by Eva Besnyö and Johan van der Keuken that in the exhibition suggested the tensions in Paris at that time.
    Composition from introduction film: Studio Wim in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum. French-Algerian colonial war, photos by Eva Besnyö and Johan van der Keuken that in the exhibition suggested the tensions in Paris at that time.
  • Ralph Prins, Buy a Coupon, Algerian Refugee Students, ca. 1961; Johan van der Keuken, Extreme Right-Wing Demonstration, Arc de Triomphe, 1956; Eva Besnyö, Paris, 1952. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    Ralph Prins, Buy a Coupon, Algerian Refugee Students, ca. 1961; Johan van der Keuken, Extreme Right-Wing Demonstration, Arc de Triomphe, 1956; Eva Besnyö, Paris, 1952. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Visitors to the exhibition with in the background Jan Sluijters, Bal Tabarin, 1907, on long-term loan from a Private Collector, promised gift. Photo: Maarten Nauw.
    Visitors to the exhibition with in the background Jan Sluijters, Bal Tabarin, 1907, on long-term loan from a Private Collector, promised gift. Photo: Maarten Nauw.

Describe the road you travelled to come here today 

One visitor calls the protests for more democracy in Hong Kong ‘the revolution of our times’, a reference to the struggle for independence in Vietnam, formerly Indochina, a French colony, which is touched upon in the exhibition. According to the penultimate contribution, ‘institutions (we should probably also understand this to mean museums -  ed.) are obstinate’ (in Arabic text). [N]ow they are a continuum of colonialism.’ This topical criticism presumably not only refers to the fact that collections continue to be witness to the colonial origins of museums, but also to the entire museum system, including the staff responsible for exhibitions.

  • From left to right, Gesner Abélard, Dining Room, 1949; Robert Saint-Brice, Composition, 1948, both gifts of Chris Engels, Willemstad, 1950. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    From left to right, Gesner Abélard, Dining Room, 1949; Robert Saint-Brice, Composition, 1948, both gifts of Chris Engels, Willemstad, 1950. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • From left to right, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Untitled, 1960; City of Stones, 1954; Sesostris Vitullo, Dead Christ, 1949; Antonio Saura, Crucifixion, 1969. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    From left to right, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Untitled, 1960; City of Stones, 1954; Sesostris Vitullo, Dead Christ, 1949; Antonio Saura, Crucifixion, 1969. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Composition from introduction film: Studio Wim in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum, Vietnam (formerly French Indochina), with Ho Chi Minh from a contextual image for a photo by Robert Capa in the exhibition.
    Composition from introduction film: Studio Wim in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum, Vietnam (formerly French Indochina), with Ho Chi Minh from a contextual image for a photo by Robert Capa in the exhibition.
  • Photo by Robert Capa, Vietnam, 1954; contextual image with Ho Chi Minh denouncing the French colonial rule of Vietnam at the founding congress of the French Communist party in 1920. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    Photo by Robert Capa, Vietnam, 1954; contextual image with Ho Chi Minh denouncing the French colonial rule of Vietnam at the founding congress of the French Communist party in 1920. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Robert Capa, On the Road from Namdinh to Thaibinh, Indochina (Vietnam), May 25, 1954.
    Robert Capa, On the Road from Namdinh to Thaibinh, Indochina (Vietnam), May 25, 1954.
  • From left to right, works by Sophie Taeuber-Arp; Theo van Doesburg in collaboration with Cornelis van Eesteren; Wassily Kandinsky. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    From left to right, works by Sophie Taeuber-Arp; Theo van Doesburg in collaboration with Cornelis van Eesteren; Wassily Kandinsky. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Visitors at the opening. From left to right, works by: Campigli; Zadkine; Severini (2 x);  Rivera, all gifts of P.A. Regnault to the Dutch State, on loan to the Stedelijk Museum, 1953; and Goncharova. Photo: Maarten Nauw.
    Visitors at the opening. From left to right, works by: Campigli; Zadkine; Severini (2 x); Rivera, all gifts of P.A. Regnault to the Dutch State, on loan to the Stedelijk Museum, 1953; and Goncharova. Photo: Maarten Nauw.
  • From left to right, works by Waldemar George (publication), Chaim Soutine, Stedelijk Museum, formerly on loan from P.A. Regnault; Moissey Kogan (4 x), far right: gift of Friends of the artist, led by Prof. J. Bronner, 1939. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    From left to right, works by Waldemar George (publication), Chaim Soutine, Stedelijk Museum, formerly on loan from P.A. Regnault; Moissey Kogan (4 x), far right: gift of Friends of the artist, led by Prof. J. Bronner, 1939. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Visitors at the opening. Partly visible, works by Charles Kiffer, Kees van Dongen, and Jean Carlu. Photo: LNDW Studio.
    Visitors at the opening. Partly visible, works by Charles Kiffer, Kees van Dongen, and Jean Carlu. Photo: LNDW Studio.
  • Jean Chassaing, Josephine Baker, 1931.
    Jean Chassaing, Josephine Baker, 1931.
  • Wifredo Lam, from: Derrière le miroir, No. 52, 1953; Julio González, La Montserrat, 1935-1937. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    Wifredo Lam, from: Derrière le miroir, No. 52, 1953; Julio González, La Montserrat, 1935-1937. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Mommie Schwarz, Montparnasse, 1933; Van Dongen, Anna de Noailles, 1931; Canal Grande, Venice, 1921.  As a society painter, Van Dongen also immortalised the favourite travel destinations of the Parisian beau monde. Photo: Maarten Nauw.
    Mommie Schwarz, Montparnasse, 1933; Van Dongen, Anna de Noailles, 1931; Canal Grande, Venice, 1921. As a society painter, Van Dongen also immortalised the favourite travel destinations of the Parisian beau monde. Photo: Maarten Nauw.
  • Germaine Krull, Métal, 1928. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    Germaine Krull, Métal, 1928. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
  • Pablo Picasso, poster for the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists,  Sorbonne, Paris, 1956. Portrayed: the famous poet and politician Aimé Césaire, writer of texts including Corps perdu (Lost Body), with illustrations by Picasso.
    Pablo Picasso, poster for the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists, Sorbonne, Paris, 1956. Portrayed: the famous poet and politician Aimé Césaire, writer of texts including Corps perdu (Lost Body), with illustrations by Picasso.
  • Visitors in front of a photo of the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris, © Roger-Viollet. Lecturer: Alioune Diop, (co-)founder of the magazine Présence africaine. At the table, 3rd from right: Aimé Césaire. Photo: Maarten Nauw.
    Visitors in front of a photo of the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris, © Roger-Viollet. Lecturer: Alioune Diop, (co-)founder of the magazine Présence africaine. At the table, 3rd from right: Aimé Césaire. Photo: Maarten Nauw.
  • Visitors to the exhibition at the reading table with publications by Aimé Césaire, Albert Memmi, David Diop, Fouad Laroui, Frederick Brown and Jan and Leo Lucassen, among others. Photo: LNDW Studio.
    Visitors to the exhibition at the reading table with publications by Aimé Césaire, Albert Memmi, David Diop, Fouad Laroui, Frederick Brown and Jan and Leo Lucassen, among others. Photo: LNDW Studio.
  • From left to right, Emmy Andriesse, Paris, ca. 1950, 2 x; Paulin Soumanou Vieyra and Mamadou Sarr, Afrique sur Seine (Africa on the Seine), 1955. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
    From left to right, Emmy Andriesse, Paris, ca. 1950, 2 x; Paulin Soumanou Vieyra and Mamadou Sarr, Afrique sur Seine (Africa on the Seine), 1955. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.