When I came to Paris as a student, the Louvre had a day that was free for students. At the time, the entrance was at the eastern end of the palace, and I used to love walking past the crowds once a week, heading straight into the museum with my backpack. I would set-up on a large, wide bench, directly in front of Jean Louis David’s painting of Napoleon’s Coronation, and I would do my homework. The whole week’s worth. It would take me hours and I loved that time in the somber, dust scented air.
I have not tried this as an adult, but I suspect the increased crowds would now be something of a distraction. However, I still go to museums or art galleries on a nearly weekly basis. A lot of the art I am seeing these days is contemporary. I love the playfulness, the irreverence and the pertinence of the art being created today.
Paris has the annual FIAC, Salon de la Photography and countless other events to keep the scene fresh and new. One of my favorite events is Monumenta, when every May an artist is invited to create an installation for the Grand Nef of the Grand Palais. The space is gi-normous making for art that is Grand to the power of two.
A few years ago an artist I really admire, Richard Serra was invited. His pieces are known for their huge scale, but inside the Grand Nez, his artistically rusted steel walls seemed like ridiculous child’s toys. A domino set ready to topple. In the video made about the show he mentioned that he had under estimated the volume of the space. I would say so! In fact, I was so disappointed that I skipped the Boltanski show in 2010; large cranes moving in piles of clothing.
Last year, another favorite of mine, Anish Kapoor accepted the challenge. M Kapoor’s art is not always monumental in scale and there is an entire body of his recent work that I find silly (the cement droppings), but I curiosity got the better of me. Thankfully, because it was perhaps the single most impressive art experience of my life. I now have an idea of what the folks during the Renaissance may have felt when the first saw the Mona Lisa, or how visitors to the 19th century Salons may have when first viewing a Monet. This piece change the definition of art for me, adding an entirely new vocabulary and leaving me dizzy from the experience.
Buren was the guest of honor. He is the artist responsible for the black and white columns at the Palais Royale, and while I think they are fun, I am not convinced it is great art. I expected to be disappointed. I was wrong. I still would not consider his installation great art, but it has a lot of what I like from the contemporary scene; it was playful, inspired interaction and made you see something in a new light. This time quite literally, with blue, green, orange and yellow plastics filtering our view of the Nef and changing the light shining down on one another.
I can’t wait to see who is in town next year!
I wanted to go see this exhibit in May, but Den wasn’t interested. That’s why I’m coming to Paris by myself in January, lol.