Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst with his sculpture, Capricorn, 1947 Photograph by John Kasnetsis.

What does it mean to be a ‘creative couple’? When working in tandem, who should the birth of a masterpiece be attributed to? Dedicated to iconic duos such as Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar and Robert and Sonia Delaunay, a new exhibition at Pompidou-Metz, in collaboration with London’s Barbican, attempts to answer these questions.

The creative process is viewed through the lens of the romantic relationship – both complex and subversive – that united avant-garde artists from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Whether official or clandestine, exclusive or promiscuous, these mythical couples formed by artists such as Jean Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Man Ray and Lee Miller, Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici, bring together painters, sculptors, photographers, architects, designers, poets, writers, musicians, dancers, performers but also gallerists, patrons, art critics and collectors. Their relationships provided creative exchange, but also conflict and power play.

The exhibition brings together 100 masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou and the Musée National d’Art Moderne, revealing the secrets of the most famous collaborations and turning the spotlight on the visionaries who sadly remained in the shadow of their partner.

Excerpts from correspondence and archives provide insight into the evolution of social mores, the status of women and men in society, and the role of psychoanalysis. An examination of these artistic couples also informs a wider debate on the state of marriage, family, parenthood, gender, and modernity itself.

Until August 20 at Centre Pompidou-Metz, 1 Parvis des Droits de l’Homme, 57020 Metz. For more information, visit

From France Today magazine