Picabia Alert

Picabia Alert #12: ‘Bird’s Eye’ at Michael Werner

Francis Picabia, Vol d'oiseau (Bird’s Eye), 1949, oil on board, 15 3/4 x 14 1/2 inches.COURTESY MICHAEL WERNER GALLERY

Francis Picabia, Vol d’oiseau (Bird’s Eye), 1949, oil on board, 15 3/4 x 14 1/2 inches.


“Picabia Alert” takes note of shows and publications that include the wily French artist Francis Picabia (1879–1953), aiming to sate Picabia appetites until a retrospective of the artist arrives at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in November.

Sound the alarms. There are only ten days left of summer, and there are only five days left to catch the summer show at Michael Werner’s London gallery. It is titled “Flora, Fauna and Other Forms of Life,” and yes, it features a Picabia: a late one from 1949 (four years before the giant’s death) titled Vol d’oiseau (Bird’s Eye).

This is from the point in the artist’s career when he was making some deeply odd little paintings, abstractions or near abstractions with what seem to be potent symbols from some unknown civilization—forceful archetypal things. Just thinking about it now, there feels like a real connection with Forrest Bess’s mysterious work. (Has anyone every done a Bess/Picabia show? A cursory search is not turning up anything.)

In any sense, the show looks like a real treat, with works by Peter Doig, Markus Lüpertz, and Ernst Wilhelm Nay, many of which have a distinctly Picabia flavor. No women, though. Sixteen artists and not one who is a woman. Weird. And not weird in a good way, like this painting.

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