Le Mur: Rare Collection of Avant-Garde Satire from Montmartre Now on View

October 1, 2012

Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

Presents Rare Collection of Avant-Garde Satire

New Brunswick, NJ – A century before “The Daily Show,” “The Onion,” or even “Saturday Night Live,” there was the Cabaret des Quat’z’Arts in Montmartre, where young artists from all disciplines satirized and parodied the news and celebrities of their era, at times with commentary that would be considered risqué even today. The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers evokes this creative energy of fin-de-siècle Paris with “’Le Mur’ at the Cabaret des Quat’z’Arts,” on view October 13, 2012 to February 24, 2013.

“The Zimmerli is pleased to once again share works from this rare collection with the community,” states director Suzanne Delehanty. “’Le Mur’ represents a unique aspect of the museum’s European holdings.” The museum also exhibited smaller groups of drawings from “Le Mur” in 1996 and 2006.

Between 1894 and 1905, a group of artists, writers, composers, and performers who frequented the Cabaret des Quat’z’Arts produced “Le Mur” (“The Wall”), a dynamic display of drawings, poems, and newspaper clippings that were mounted on a wall. Considered a literary and artistic journal (though it was neither printed nor distributed) by its creators, an editor was chosen among the cabaret regulars to select and arrange works for each “edition.” Initially, content rotated every few days; but after the first year, updates occurred daily. At the Zimmerli, several works are spotlighted on two gallery walls, while a third wall recreates a likely arrangement of drawings and handwritten materials.

“The museum holds about 1500 sheets total, which is one of the most significant collections of this material in any museum,“ notes Christine Giviskos, the museum’s Associate Curator of European Art, who organized the exhibition. “This is probably only a small percentage of the total number of sheets produced over the existence of “Le Mur.” She continues, “This is an extraordinary record of the vibrant atmosphere at Cabaret des Quat’z’Arts, which is considered the last great artistic cabaret in Paris’s famed Montmartre district.”

Cabaret regulars – including artists Auguste Roedel, Jean de Paléologue (known as PAL), and Jules Grün; poets Edmond Teulet and Charles Quinel; and singers Numa Blès and Gaston Sécot – contributed both drawings and texts on small sheets that, when collected and attached to the wall, became a remarkable experience of word and image. Caricatures, puns, rebuses, fictitious and doctored news; from inside jokes to biting commentary about current events and contemporary art, this evolving work of art would not have emerged from an idea conceived in isolation.

“Le Mur” documents history on multiple levels. A direct reflection is the criticism of France’s colonization of Madagascar in 1896, portrayed through both satirical texts and images. On a broader scale, the artists collectively reacted to the “age of mechanical reproduction,” fearing the diminishing importance of human creativity in an era of machinery. In response, contributing artists attempted to undermine the publishing industry by mocking the “authority” of editing, advertising, and marketing. Ironically, these technology and business practices increased the availability of printed journals and news resources, which, in fact, allowed the artists to respond so immediately to the issues of the day. While aiming to topple social, political, and artistic conventions, the artists ultimately upended the strategy of subversion itself.


“Le Mur” is now recognized as a precursor to such 20th-century artistic movements as Dada and Fluxus, known for mocking social norms, elevating everyday life into art, and inspiring performance in non-traditional spaces. “Le Mur” also complements the Zimmerli’s special exhibition “Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists,” which crosses the boundaries between the verbal and the visual. In addition, the cabaret’s physical wall served as an early form of social media, sharing the underlying interactive – as well as inherently ephemeral – nature of such popular platforms as Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

Many individual artists have become known for individual styles of word play and social commentary throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and in the 21st century take for granted the immediate exchange of ideas and images through a variety of online outlets and electronic devices. H“Le Mur,” however, resulted from the first collaborative effort on such a grand scale.


The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum houses more than 60,000 works of art, ranging from ancient to contemporary art. The permanent collection features particularly rich holdings in nineteenth-century French art; Russian art from icons to the avant-garde; Soviet nonconformist art from the Dodge Collection; and American art with notable holdings of prints. In addition, small groups of antiquities, old master paintings, as well as art inspired by Japan and original illustrations for children’s books, provide representative examples of the museum’s research and teaching message at Rutgers. One of the largest and most distinguished university-based art museums in the nation, the Zimmerli is located on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Established in 1766, Rutgers is America’s eighth oldest institution of higher learning and a premier public research university.


The Zimmerli Art Museum is supported by Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, as well as the income from the Avenir Foundation Endowment Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment Fund, and the Voorhees Family Endowment Fund, among others. Additional support comes from the Estate of Victoria J. Mastrobuono and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Contributions from other corporations, foundations, and individuals, as well as earned income, also provide vital annual support for the Zimmerli’s operations and programs.


The Zimmerli Art Museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street at George Street on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. The Zimmerli is a short walk from the NJ Transit train station in New Brunswick, midway between New York City and Philadelphia.

Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and the first Wednesday of each month (except August), 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays, major holidays, and the month of August.

Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for 65 and over; and free for museum members, children under 18, and Rutgers students, faculty, and staff (with ID). Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. For more information, call 848.932.7237 or visit the museum’s website www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu


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