One century already, a century this year since Victor Vasarely was born in Pees, in the eastern port of Hungary. That same year saw the death, in Aix-en-Provence in southern France, of Paul Cézanne who was to become one of Victor Vasarely's favorite artists. And it was in the same town, at the Jas de Bouffan where Cezanne lived that Vasarely established his Foundation seventy years later. Chance, coincidence, destiny, passing of the baton: how to perceive the lives of these two artists, linked by dotes and so many parallel facets?
Vasarely is a rare case of an artist whose name designates a style. Who has not come face to face with a canvas, a reproduction or on architectural integration of this artist, whose work is an intrinsic part of the collective intellect? This recognition must not obscure the upheaval that he caused in the conception of art. He offered an original response to the composition problems posed by Malevitch and Mondrian by introducing the notion of movement, thus dissolving the relation of form and background through the experimental development of a visual alphabet. This universal and modular creative tool offers infinite combinations and opened the way to a "permutational art".
I am now the custodian of this visionary. I know almost everything about him, his idealism, his ambition, his goals, his loves, his rebellions, his successes and his ideals. Today, what is my lasting impression? If I had to define it with one word, I would choose admiration. He was an impressive, dazzling man, above and out of the ordinary. Far from the baseness of this earth, he flew high, solitary and independent, dominating by his majesty as much as by his rigor. He was too much of everything. Of a rare integrity and a high intelligence, he had talent, sensibility, intellectual depth, a sense of humor that embraced the unspoken and the implied, and the detachment of the aristocrat that he was. He projected a force that charged his words with a brilliant magnetism. He was one of those beings that have been created to make us believe in man. His generosity was also legendary, and as if all these qualities were not enough, he was graced by a charm that remained with him until the end.
Vasarely was entirely dedicated to his art, the only real center of interest in his life. He enjoyed on amazing energy, a determination, an unequaled capacity for concentration, and worked day and night to create his work and to make it known to the world. He had a keen awareness of the future that he made known in various writings and was acutely aware of the upheaval that was going to be brought about by the evolution of technology, with its advantages as well as its drawbacks. He was fascinated by nature's mystery and complexity, and his preoccupation as well as his reading turned to all aspects of the sciences, from the infinitely small to the infinitely large. The galaxies, the universe, atoms, and molecules were the subject of many of our conversations. He was conscious of having been born a century too early and sometimes complained about it. A man of an abstract and codified future, he nevertheless led a rather traditional life, in his studio with his thoughts.
Already during the '50s he questioned the role of the artist in society. Convinced that man aspired to a higher esthetic, he preached incessantly for a social art, accessible to all, rebelling against the power of money over art. He was the first artist to make editions of his work in order to allow its circulation and thus make it accessible to a large number of people rather than reserve it for the elite. Being noble in his manner, his way of life and his sense of sharing, he gave up the material comforts provided him by his great success and instead used his resources to establish his Foundation and to support other cultural projects.
After many years of work, of sacrifice and of effort, the artist found himself in the forefront of the international cultural scene and became the "Vasarely" that everybody knows: the great visionary, the magician of emotion, the charismatic artist who was ahead of his time, whose life was devoted to his work in its most exalted form, whose protean work, of enduring modernity, cradles dreams and illusions, dazzlingly reflects all the speculation and anticipation of the century, and opens up an endless field for the coming generations.
- Michele Vasarely