Skip to main content

Joséphine Baker… icône moderne au Panthéon de l’architecture

By 2 December 2021June 20th, 2023No Comments

On 30 November 2021, Joséphine Baker was awarded the Order of Pantheon. Her exceptional life and the radiance she radiated have left their mark on the modern imagination.

A dancer from an early age, in the United States and then in Paris, a successful singer and actress, she sparked a new interest in jazz and Afro-American culture in France in the 1920s and 1930s; she quickly established herself as a figure of the avant-garde, a muse for the artistic and architectural scenes of the inter-war period.

Interested in modern architecture – which, she believed, was conducive to the serenity of body and mind – Joséphine rubbed shoulders with architects such as Adolf Loos, who designed a strange striped villa for her in 1928, and also Le Corbusier, who fell under her spell during a famous meeting in 1929 on the transatlantic liner Lutétia, during which he drew a series of portraits.

Josephine Baker and Le Corbusier on board the liner Lutétia, 1929

Paul Colin, Bal Nègre poster for the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, lithograph, 1927

The world’s first black star and a committed artist, Joséphine Baker used her fame to support the anti-fascist and anti-racist struggles during and after the Second World War.

The iconic and critical dimension of Josephine Baker has never ceased to nourish and inspire contemporary creation, particularly artists engaged in a re-reading of the modern era.
His encounter with Le Corbusier recently inspired the American artist-choreographer duo Gerard & Kelly to create a series of research and performances around the link between modernity, the freedom of the body and the contestation of patriarchal social norms. In 2019, as part of the Festival d’Automne, their company is presenting the “Modern Living” project in the spaces of the Villa Savoye in Poissy.  Several choreographic and sung tableaux feature the “jarring” couple, to say the least, formed by the dancer and the architect.

“Modern Living” by Gerard & Kelly at the Villa Savoye. From left to right, Damontae Hack, Kehari Hutchinson, Matthieu Barbin, Emara Neymour-Jackson, Jasmine Sugar and Julia Eichten. Photographer Martin Argyroglo – Credit F.L.C./ADAGP, Paris.

“Modern Living” by Gerard & Kelly at the Villa Savoye. Kehari Hutchinson. Photographer Martin Argyroglo – Credit F.L.C./ADAGP, Paris.