Etonne-moi ! Serge Diaghilev et les Ballets Russes

09.07.2009 - 27.09.2009 / Villa Sauber

Antoine Dolin (Patrick Healey-Kay dans le rôle du Beau Gosse dans Le Train Bleu, 1924
Photographie de Bassano Studio, Londres
Archives Monte-Carlo SBM

In 2009 and 2010, all the Principality’s cultural institutions are celebrating the Centenary of the Ballets Russes with events devised by the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco and also the Ballets de Monte-Carlo, the Orchestre Philharmonique, the Printemps des Arts festival etc.

The Nouveau Musée National de Monaco opens these celebrations with Etonne-moi!” Serge Diaghilev et les Ballets Russes, a magnificent exhibition centred around the figure of Diaghilev and displaying 260 items illustrating the Saisons Russes that he directed from 1909 to 1929.

Coproduced by the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco and the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation in Moscow, Etonne-moi! Serge Diaghilev et les Ballets Russes officially opened in the Principality on 8 July 2009 in Villa Sauber. Following the Monaco exhibition’s first public outing this summer, it then travelled to the State Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow from 27 October 2009 to 25 January 2010.

« Surprise me! »

(…) I was at the absurd age when one thinks oneself a poet and I sensed a polite resistance in Diaghilev. I questioned him and he answered: “Surprise me ; I’ll wait for you to surprise me!” That sentence saved me from a showy career. I quickly realised that one does not astound a Diaghilev in a couple of weeks. From that moment, I decided to die and resurrect (…).

Jean Cocteau – Letter from 1939

In May 1909, Serge Diaghilev revolutionised the world of dance with the Ballets Russes’ first performances at the Châtelet theatre in Paris, performances imbued with vitality, grace, originality and virtuosity. Diaghilev’s masterful productions from 1910 to 1920 brought together the greatest dancers, choreographers, artists and composers, among them Nijinsky, Pavlova, Fokine, Massine, Bakst, Picasso, Goncharova, Stravinsky and Satie.

The Nouveau Musée National de Monaco’s exhibition features 260 items belonging to international public and private collections and is centred around the figure of Diaghilev and the artists with which he worked. Its intention is also to highlight the Ballets Russes’ creations in Monte-Carlo, notably Narcisse, La Chatte and Le Train Bleu.

The exhibition at Villa Sauber comprises paintings, preparatory drawings, models of stage sets, costumes and written and sound archives, dating from 1909 through 1929. These exhibits are drawn from European, Russian and North American collections.

In addition and thanks to the Monte-Carlo SBM Group‘s support, the sumptuous Salle des Arts in Monaco’s Sporting d’Hiver is also participating in the exhibition by displaying the famous stage curtain “Le Train Bleu” of Pablo Picasso.

Important cultural institutions are partnering this exhibition: the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Los Angeles County Museum, the State Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow, the State Glinka Museum of Theatre and Music in Saint Petersburg and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The exhibition is accompanied by a generously illustrated catalogue with contributions by specialists in the Ballets Russes’ history and the visual arts, including Alexander Schouvaloff, Nicoletta Misler, Jean-Claude Marcadé, Lynn Garafola, Olga Brezgin, Elena Fedosova, Evgenia Ilyukhina, Vadim Gaevsky and Sjeng Scheijen. This catalogue will be published in French, Russian and English by Skira


Curator : Nathalie Rosticher Giordano
Scientific Direction : John E. Bowlt (professor at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles) and Zelfira Tregulova (Vice-director of the Moscow Kremlin Museums)
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Exhibition design : Pierre Passebon