In 2004 the Fondation de l’Hermitage had the privilege of exhibiting for a few months the treasures of pre-Colombian ceramics from the Barbier-Mueller collection. At present, it is an honour and a pleasure to welcome one of the major pieces from the collection, a nineteenth-century Teke-Tsaayi mask. This extremely rare mask with a very pure geometrical decoration belonged to André Derain, one of the first Western artists to take an interest in cultures outside Europe. In 1906 the young Fauve painter trembled with emotion at the sight of the African art collections in the British Museum: “It was mind-boggling, terrifying in its expression”, he exclaimed at the time, fascinated by these “forms that issued forth from the out of doors, the light”. The Table (1904–1905) a painting by Derain done shortly before that crucial confrontation and belonging to the collection of the Bührle Foundation, encounters that mask in the halls of the Hermitage. By its simplified forms, its strong lines and its powerful colours, this painting manifests a desire for new artistic resources, an aspiration to “escape the circle in which the realists enclosed us”, and which the discovery of African art would decisively encourage.
Sylvie Wuhrmann, Director of the Fondation de l’Hermitage