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Palazzo Reale – Milan : Brassaï. L’occhio di Parigi | The Eye of Paris


“The living eye” of photography: Brassaï and his Paris on show in Milan.

The exhibition Brassaï. The Eye of Paris, dedicated to the man who was a photographer, but also a painter, sculptor and writer, capable of conveying in his photographs a vision that is endowed with depth and narrative summed up in the instant, is on show at Palazzo Reale, in Milan, an ancient building that stands in the neoclassical style designed by architect Piermarini who also conceived the Teatro alla Scala, is one of the must-see venues for exhibitions that enliven the city’s cultural life.

The work of Brassaï (born Gyula Halász; the pseudonym Brassaï is in honour of Brassó, his hometown, now Brasov) is on show, and his black and white images still evoke the atmosphere of 1920s Paris, then the artistic and cultural capital of the world, where he had moved and which had become “his” city. He portrayed its architecture as well as the Parisians. And with the complicity of the night, the shadows come alive and the streets take on a new appearance.

One wonders if today’s street photography still retains the charm of that time, with the sense of the city conveyed by a dreamlike, gloomy, sometimes surreal atmosphere, often suggested by the peculiar combination of fog and street lighting. “I was searching for the poetry of fog, which transforms things, the poetry of night, which transforms the city, the poetry of time, which transforms people”, Brassaï said.

Between the two wars, Montparnasse was a meeting place for artists and writers, and the portraits by Brassaï bear witness to his frequentation to the great artists and intellectuals who lived there, such as Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Henri Matisse. But Brassaï also observed the city in detail, in depth and extensively, discovering its most hidden as well as its most obvious aspects.

It is the everyday life of Paris that he portrayed, from night to fashion and luxury, from bistros to brothels, because for Brassaï “everything can be ordinary, and everything can become extraordinary! For what is the ordinary, if not the extraordinary diminished by habit?”

Henry Miller called him “’the eye of Paris’”. Kandinsky, Moholy-Nagy and Kokoschk were Brassaï’s friends, as Miller was. André Breton commissioned him to photograph Picasso’s then-unknown sculptures for the first issue of the magazine Minotaure. A sculptor himself, Brassaï was able to capture the best of these works.

Picasso and Brassaï shared an affinity for ideas and creativity. Let’s not forget his Conversations With Picasso, which he published on the occasion of the over-80-year-old artist’s birthday, in which he collected the dialogues he jotted down after meetings with Picasso.

The Milan exhibition also includes the portraits Brassai took of artists and intellectuals, such as Dalì, Man Ray e Giacometti for the Minotaure.

At the invitation of Edward Steichen, his research Language of the Wall: Parisian Graffiti Photographed by Brassaï. was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1956. And, indeed, his photographs were not far from the sensibility of the art brut.

Brassaï’s links with America also took the form of an assiduous collaboration with Harper’s Bazaar magazine, for which the photographer portrayed many of protagonists of French artistic and literary life.

Curated by Philippe Ribeyrolles, a scholar and nephew of Brassaï, the exhibition presents more than 200 vintage prints, as well as documents, paintings, sculptures and personal objects illustrating the most significant period of his career, between the two world wars.


Brassaï. L’occhio di Parigi is an exhibition by the Municipality of Milan – Culture Area, Palazzo Reale, Silvana Editoriale and created in collaboration with Estate Brassaï Brassaï Succession.

Catalogue: Brassaï L’occhio di Parigi | The Eye of Paris, with more than 200 images. texts by Philippe Ribeyrolles, Gilberte Brassaï, the artist’s wife, and the critic Silvia Paoli. Published by Silvana Editoriale


Brassaï. L’occhio di Parigi
From February 23 to June 2 2024
Palazzo Reale
piazza Duomo 12
20122 Milano

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