Francis Bacon/Bruce Nauman. Face to face.

1 July 2017 - 5 November 2017


This exhibition brings together two artists of conflicting tendencies in order to allow a renewed reading, a revivified understanding of these two major 20th century figures. Francis Bacon and Bruce Nauman came from two different generations and shared little in terms of background . Yet both share an experimental conception of art and developed parallel themes, such as a fascination for the body and its distortions, transformations, and aggression. Notions of both physical and psychological constraint and hindrance, in real or fictional spaces, are another common field of exploration.

This exhibition, conceived by one of the Centre Pompidou curators, Cécile Debray, is organized around an important group of a dozen works from the collection of the Musée national d’art moderne, lent for the Centre Pompidou’s 40th anniversary. Other works generously lent by important museums and private collectors, allow the presentation of sixty works - paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs and graphic works. Spectacular and confusing, just like those two major artists of the 20th century.


Take this quiz to find out which of these two artists you are most like, then come and test the results by visiting the exhibition!

Image Quizz


Francis Bacon (1909-1992)


Bruce Nauman (born in 1941)

Francis Bacon is one of the most important English painters of the 20th century. He played with pictorial and cinematographic traditions, subverting them into a particular kind of expressionism.  
Bruce Nauman is an important American performance artist, using video, sculpture and installation to explore language and the body.


The exhibition is organized around 5 sections :



Both Francis Bacon and Bruce Nauman show in their works the same use of the geometric, spatial or linear frame as a formal element of tension or exacerbation.

With Bacon, the figure is isolated in a neutral space, surrounded by an abstract line. Whereas Nauman presents himself in delineated and confined spaces, reducing himself to limited and repetitive actions that recall the absurd and empty universe of Samuel Beckett’s plays.



In their approach to the body, to its nudity and its movements, both artists tend to capture a

form of animality. Bacon often shows his figures in a difficult, tense or uncomfortable position, close to Nauman’s body art performances.

Some of Bacon’s paintings, and some of Nauman’s suspended sculptures, show their interest for the animal world, and its possible associations with the human body, often using same sources such as Muybridge’s photos of man and animals in motion at the end of the 19th century.



If the body is shown in movement, in both Bacon’s and Nauman’s work, it is often manipulated, even assaulted : fragmented, deformed, if not mutilated, it thus gains a new dimension, declining monstrosity.



The circle or the loop plays a major part in Nauman’s work. It suggests the idea of infinity and of

repetition, the eternal return to the same series of gestures and circumstances, in the manner of

John Cage’s music or Merce Cunningham’s dance. In Bacon’s paintings, curved horizon lines or

circles surrounding the figures are also recurrent. They evoke a kind of arena or stage which constitutes the studio, a reflexive, self referential space constantly represented by both artists.



Francis Bacon and Bruce Nauman have both, in their own way, renewed the genre of the portrait and

the self-portrait, both playing on chance in their work.

Beyond the immediate resonance between Nauman’s facial contortions, and Bacon’s turbulent brushstrokes, lies the same obsession for facial screams expressing the anxiety of the time.

Logo musée de France
Logo centre Pompidou
Logo Ministere de la culture
 Cette exposition est reconnue d'intérêt national par le ministère de la Culture / Direction générale des patrimoines / Service des musées de France.

Find out more

The leaflet of the exhibition "Francis Bacon / Bruce Nauman.Face to face".

Practical information

Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m to 7 p.m*
Closed on Mondays.
Exceptional opening on July 14th and August 15th.
* Galleries are cleared 15 minutes before closing.


A free application is available for download from app stores.

Visuel SmartPhone