Kulturkompasset | critics of culture events

Claude Viallat at Musée Fabre in Montpellier

The textile artist Claude Viallat at Musée Fabre in Montpellier -

Claude Viallat – Retrospective at Musée Fabre, Montpellier 2014.


by Henning Høholt

MONTPELLIER/FRANCE: Musée Fabre in Montpellier presents a large scale retrospective exposition presenting the works by the textile artist Claude Viallat until 2. November 2014.

For summer 2014, the Fabre museum exposes Claude Viallat’s works, artist from Languedoc,

By Henning Høholt, text and photos

Musee Fabre, Montpellier, foto Henning Høholt, 2014

The exposition is placed in the new part of the museum, who has the large scale of walls who is needed for the large scale textiles by Viallat.

Typically Claude Viallat style. Foto Henning Høholt. Push on the photo to enlarge

It seems to me like Viallat is working mostly with one motive, that he is using in a kind of a batik art work where he is putting it every where.

The most interesting, for me as art critic, is how talented he are making the combinations with prints, and openings in his textiles, which gives it “see through” posibilityes, which gives the art more dimensions, in this i find the highlights.

However. To be very honest, I can´t see where his  large textile arts pieces can be used, but as far as I understod, it was not in the mind of mr Viallat, where or how they should be used, (?) the most importent must have been to work with this (his) kind of art, as many other artists also wants.

The large collections consists of hundred works, the exhibition redraws the route of the artist from these first works to today.

Claude Viallat, from Retrosepctive exposition at Musée Fabre, Montpellier 2014. Foto Henning Høholt Push on the photo to enlarge size

Claude Viallat, photographed by Francois Ceysson at the Museum of Bullfighting Cultures Nimes. 2005.

Claude Viallat (born 1936) is a French contemporary painter.


Claude Viallat, wall carpet, with cartoon seria below the surface,, foto Henning Høholt

Born in Nimes, he grew up in Aubais, a French village with a strong bull tradition.

In 1955, he joined the École des Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts School) in Montpellier, where he met André-Pierre Arnal, Vincent Bioulès, Daniel Dezeuze, Toni Grand, François Rouan, and Henriette Pous, whom he married in 1962.


After doing his military service in Algeria from 1958 to 1961, he joined the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (the National Fine Arts School) of Paris, situated in the Latin Quartier in Paris, where he met fellow students Joël Kermarrec, Pierre Buraglio, and Michel Parmentier.

Claude Viallat, Retrospective exposition at Musée Fabre, Montpellier. Foto Henning Høholt

He discovered American art in Paris, notably the works of Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, Sam Francis and Mark Rothko. As soon as 1963, he was attracted to abstraction. He was appointed as a teacher in the École des Arts Décoratifs (Decorative Arts School) of Nice in 1964 and decided to create a new formal language questioning the conventions of classical painting. He then started working systematically with one shape affixed on canvas without stretchers. His first personal exhibition took place at Nice’s Galerie A in 1966. He also participated in several collective exhibitions that year.

Claude Viallat. Bullfight. Please note the sculptural form of a face in profile, in the piece of wood, that this small painting is made on. Photo Henning Høholt

In 1967, he was appointed as a teacher in the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) in Limoges, where he met Raoul Hausmann.

In 1968, in Paris, Viallat had his first personal exhibition at the gallery led by Jean Fournier – who remained his gallerist for nearly thirty years.

He then participated in an exhibition that arguably originated the “Support/Surfaces” movement at the ARC, in the Modern Art Museum of Paris.

His works were in most of the exhibitions of the movement from 1969 to 1971.

Although he initiated this group and influenced it aesthetically through his pictorial works, he resigned on May 3, 1971 as he disagreed with the political and theoretical orientations imposed by Louis Cane and Marc Devade.

In 1972, during his first trip to the United States, he discovered Jackson Pollock´s paintings and the art of Native Americans.

The same year, he participated in the “Amsterdam-Düsseldorf-Paris” exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of New York, and the “Douze Ans d’Art Contemporain en France” exhibition (Twelve Years of Contemporary Art in France) at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Claude Viallat 2014. View in to the exposition at Musée Fabre, Montpellier. Foto Henning Høholt

Claude Viallat, playing with the day light at Musée Fabre, Montpellier. Foto Henning Høholt

In 1973, he was appointed as an instructor at the École des Beaux-Arts (the Fine Arts School) of Luminy (located at avenue de Luminy, in Marseille), and moved to Marseille.

In 1974, the first ever Viallat exhibition in a museum was organised in Saint.Étienne´s Musée d’Art et d’Industrie (Museum of Art and Industry).

In 1979, Claude Viallat became director of the École des Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts School) of Nîmes. He started collecting objects related to bulls. His collection was the starting point of the Musée des Cultures Taurines (Museum of Bull Tradition) of Nîmes, opened in 1986.

The Centre National d´Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou (the National Modern Art Museum of Paris) hosted a Viallat retrospective in 1982.

He represented France at the Venice Biennal in 1988. The same year, he made the stained-glass windows of the Gothic Choir in Nevers Cathedral.

Claude Viallat, Sculptural textile. Photo Henning Høholt 2014

In 1991, he became a teacher at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (National Fine Arts School) of Paris and participated in the Supports/Surfaces historical and retrospective exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne (Modern Art Museum) of Saint-Étienne.

In 2006, he was awarded with the Fine Arts Academy’s Fondation Simone et Cino del Duca (Simone and Cino Del Duca Foundation) prize for painting .

In France he is represented by Bernard Ceysson, galerie Jean Fournier in Paris since 1968, and wiki:fr:Daniel Templon (from 1998), in Montpellier galerie H\elène Trintignan. Claude Viallat is also représented internationally in Tokyo by Gallery Itsutsuii and in New-York by Leo Castelli.


Bull by Claude Viallat, exposed at Musée Fabre Montpellier. Foto Henning Høholt

In an interview published in Midi Libre, Claude Viallat explained why it is aficionado, not only for bullfights, but to all forms of bullfighting, especially the Camargue races he followed with passion throughout his youth.

He has produced a book on the subject Bibliophile: Toros bravos, text Jacques Durand, Claude Viallat illustrations, and achieved serigraphs draw head jose tomas, Ludovic Degroote, Editions Unes.

Claude Viallat carried posters of ferias of Nimes in 1986 and 2008, feria de Vic Fezensac (1999), Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer (22/10/2000) Fest rice Arles (2011).

Bullfighting by Claude Viallat. Exposed at Musée Fabre, Montpellier. Foto Henning Høholt

In 2008, the city of Nîmes has published three books on Claude Viallat.

Two of them are devoted to bullfighting “Claude Viallat.Bullfighting painting ”  and “The bullfighting collection of Claude Viallat” exhibited at the Museum of Bullfighting Cultures Nimes.


Student at the Art School of Montpellier in 1955-1959, then at Paris in 1962-63, Claude Viallat invent in 1966 a neutral shape, close to a pallet or an ossicle.

He was one of the founders members, in 1969, of the Supports-Surfaces group, questioning the traditional materials painting.

The exposition at Musée Fabre in Montpellier consists of hundred works, the exhibition redraws the route of the artist from these first works to today. Open until November 2nd. 2014.

Bullfighting by Claude Viallat. Exposed at Musée Fabre, Montpellier. Foto Henning Høholt


Practical information:
Fabre Museum : 39 boulevard Bonne Nouvelle – 34000 Montpellier – Tel. 00334 67 14 83 00
Tram Line 1: Comédie or Corum – Tram Line 2: Corum

Opening times: from tuesday to sunday, from 10am to 6pm

Closed on November 1st and mondays.

Last day of the exposition at Musée Fabre in Montpellier is 2. November 2014.

Visited by Henning Høholt

Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,