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Audio: Wifredo Lam, Le nid fasciné
Wifredo Lam (Cuban 1902-1982)
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Wifredo Lam (Cuban 1902-1982)

Le nid fasciné

Wifredo Lam (Cuban 1902-1982)
Le nid fasciné
signed and faintly dated 'Wifredo Lam 1944' (lower left)
oil on canvas
24 1/8 x 31 1/8 in. (61.3 x 79 cm.)
Painted in 1944.
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
Private collection, Milan.
Libreria Dell’Oca, Rome.
Galerie Prazan-Fitoussi, Paris.
Galerie Pascal Lansberg, Paris.
Anon. sale, Christie's New York, 23 November 1993, lot 20 (illustrated in color).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.

Exhibition catalogue, Surrealism, Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art and Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art, 1975, no. 29 (illustrated in color).
Exhibition catalogue, Wifredo Lam and His Contemporaries 1938-1952, New York, The Studio Museum in Harlem, 1992, p. 119, no. 31 (illustrated in color).
L. Laurin-Lam and E. Lam, Wifredo Lam: Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work, Volume I, 1923-1960, Lausanne, Acatos, 1996, p. 350, no. 44.36 (illustrated).
Exhibition catalogue, Wifredo Lam in North America, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, The Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, 2007, p. 105, no. 31 (illustrated in color).
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Lam, 6- 24 June 1944, no. 4.
San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, New Directions in Modern Painting, July 1950, no. 13. Organized and circulated by the American Federation of the Arts, Washington, D.C.
Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art, Surrealism, 27 September-16 November 1975, no. 29. This exhibition also travelled to Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art, 26 November 1975-11 January 1976.
New York, The Studio Museum Harlem, Wifredo Lam and His Contemporaries 1938-1952, 6 December 1992-11 April 1993, no. 31.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, The Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Wifredo Lam in North America, 11 October 2007-21 January 2008, no. 31. This is exhibition also travelled to Miami, Miami Art Museum, 8 February-18 May 2008; Long Beach, California, Museum of Latin American Art, 12 June-31 August 2008; St. Petersburg, Florida, Salvador Dalí Museum, 2 October 2008-10 January 2009.

Brought to you by

Camila Femenias
Camila Femenias

Lot Essay

We are grateful to Eskil Lam for his assistance cataloguing this work.

Forty-one at the time that he painted Le nid fasciné, Wifredo Lam had already experienced the hardships of both civil war and world war, life as a refugee and as an outsider within his own country, gained the friendship and support of leading artists, philosophers and gallery owners of the day and been invited to exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Lam left his native Cuba in 1923 to study art in Spain where he stayed for fifteen years until a hospitalization after fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War and the impending Nationalist take over sent him to Paris. In the City of Light, Lam flourished, befriending Picasso, Matisse, Miró, Léger and many other artists until the French capital fell to the Germans, forcing him once again to flee his newly adopted home and return this time to the Caribbean. In 1941, Lam eventually arrived back in Cuba after having first traveled from France aboard a steamship—sharing passage with André Breton and other Surrealist intellectuals—bound for Martinique where he met the poet Aimé Césaire, one of the founders of the Négritude movement, who would become a formative influence on the artist.

“My return to Cuba meant above all a great stimulation of my imagination”1 Lam once reflected, and indeed the time he spent on the island in the 1940s proved revolutionary for him as an artist. During this period, Lam produced his most significant works, including his magnum opus, The Jungle (1943). It was also during these years when Lam caught the attention of Pierre Matisse whose New York gallery held two solo shows on the artist by 1944. Among the fourteen works included in the second of these exhibitions were The Jungle and Le nid fasciné. Shortly after their debut at Pierre Matisse, The Jungle entered the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and Le nid fasciné joined a private collection in Milan and was later lent to numerous international exhibitions.

In Le nid fasciné, many of the iconic elements found in Lam’s work: birds, human hands, breast-like forms and the head of Elegguá, the double-horned Santería deity, emerge as spectral presences from the center of the canvas. These indefinable figures—not quite animal, human or spirit—suggest the Surrealist practice of juxtaposing incongruous subjects to create works of disquieting originality. This syncretic approach is one that Lam first developed in France where he learned the Surrealist game of cadavre exquis, in which a drawing is completed in parts by various people unable to see the entirety of the composition. Like the wonderfully bizarre images resulting from a game of cadavre exquis, Le nid fasciné is a daring fusion of fragmented parts that unexpectedly coalesce into a harmonious whole. Struck by this confluence of disparate forms, Pierre Matisse was inspired to suggest a title for the painting2 that expressed this same notion of surprising juxtapositions. With Matisse’s recommendation, Lam’s pastel-hued, dreamlike synthesis of the animal, human and spirit worlds became a fascinated nest—Le nid fasciné.

1 Wifredo Lam, quoted in Lowery Stokes Sims, Wifredo Lam and the International Avant-Garde, 1923-1982 (Austin, University of Texas Press, 2002) 35.
2 L. Laurin-Lam and E. Lam, Wifredo Lam: Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work, Volume I, 1961-1982 (Lausanne, Acatos, 2002) 350.

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