The first draft of history isn’t Journalism, it’s Art

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2017 Paul Ben-Itzak

If we can no longer count on mainstream journalists for a reliable first draft of history, we can still turn to artists, whose only patron is the muse. (After all, “Guernica,” the most searing souvenir we have of Franco’s Axis-supported atrocities, was created by Picasso, who, when asked by German officers visiting his Paris atelier during the Occupation, “Did you make this?” answered: “No, you did.”) I take solace therefore in work by Robert Combas, Jean-Michel Atlan, Arman, Karel Appel, Pierre Alechinsky, Kader Attia, Etienne-Martin, and Antoni Clavé, all of which – like most of the 269 lots in today’s Artcurial’s Post-War / Contemporary and “Humanus versus Animal” auctions in Paris – tells unfiltered stories with social, political, historical, and/or literary implications. Let’s start with the oeuvres in which these resonances may be the least evident without some context, two untitled oils by Jean-Michel Atlan (1913 – 1960), both of which owe their very existence to the Algerian-born Jewish artist’s cunning during the Occupation, as documented by the critic and novelist Michel Ragon.

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