In the mid-1960s, Optical, or “Op,” art became a major international movement. Op objects typically feature bold geometric patterns that playfully (and sometimes painfully) trick the eye, prompting reflection on the nature of visual perception. The Op aesthetic quickly crossed over into interior design and fashion; to this day, it is still associated with the swinging, Space Age sixties. At the same time, its futuristic stylings have proved perennially popular and look newly relevant in today’s technological world.
While Op was created and enjoyed around the world, it was especially popular in France, where many of the most important Op artists lived. Their works were understood as part of a legacy of European geometric art that originated in the early twentieth century with Neoplasticism and continued through movements such as Constructivism and Art Deco. As one of the significant public collections of abstract art in France, the Musée d’arts de Nantes began acquiring Op art in the 1970s; one highlight is a work by Jesús Rafael Soto donated in 1978 by Jean Gorin, the leading French practitioner of Neoplasticism, and his wife Suzanne.