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French historian, Serge Guilbaut, explores the aesthetic quarrels between Paris and New York of the 40s and 50s, analysing the art that became cultural and commercial icons, with works by Picasso, de Kooning, Dubuffet, Gorky, Kandinsky, Matisse, Newman, Pollock, Rothko, as well as forgotten artists like Barbeau, Bearden and Capogrossi. He also studies the reasons why the popular icons of one culture were not recognised by the other at that time. Faced with the imposing presence of the victorious movement of abstract expressionism, the French art scene, seemed incapable of projecting a single voice or direction for the future, as Paris had done in the past.To study the history of French and American art after the Second World War is a considerable challenge because the consensus among investigators has been shaped by the success of American art. The French art of that period has been regarded as irrelevant although it displayed the same debates about realism, geometrical abstraction and forms of abstract expressionism. The specific aspect of the French scene was the extreme politicisation of artistic expression at a time of strong tensions arising from the divisions of the Cold War.
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