Electric fairies

Mr French is in China, but had been invited to a private evening at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris to see the Michel Werner collection. With reservations for two, I called my friend, Out and About in Paris and asked her to come along. Werner is a German art dealer who has amassed a considerable collection of about 800 works over 50 years, and he has just donated nearly 100 of them to the museum. The press has been raving about this show and I was excited to attend.

The title of the show is, “I sat beauty on my knees… and insulted it”. I am not an art critic and I don’t have a degree in Art History, but I do spend a good amount of my time in art galleries, museums and at exhibitions, so I have developed something of an opinion on the subject and one of the things I get really excited about is good curating.

I love observing how shows are put together and presented to the public. This show, for example is just downstairs from another exhibition, Art During the War. It is a very dark, depressing show that includes tortured illustrations from artists like Breton, Masson, and Ernest, along side war-effected paintings by Matisse and Picasso. In one room there are even works by prisoners, created while they were in the camps. Some survived, many were deported and died. The show brings up all kinds of questions, like why people were creating art when war was happening on the sidewalks below their studios. It is an ode to the human spirit. But it was also immeasurably depressing.

Then you go downstairs to the bright lights and bold colors of the beginning of the Werner show and the clash is so loud you can almost hear cymbals go off in your head. Early on there is a piece by Sigmar Polke which created a light breeze of comic relief, as the artist imitates silkscreen and when looking close up, they appear to be polka dots. When you see wrapping paper that has been signed by the artist Beuys, then framed and sold as art, it is easy to be disparaging after the show you’ve just witnessed upstairs and I came away feeling (among other things) that the curators had really missed the mark this season.

Since this was a soirée privée, we rushed through the rest of the exhibition and headed for a valeur sur, we headed for the champagne. The buffet was set up in the hall with the permanent collection. We soothed our disappointment over the exhibitions by enjoying true masterpieces by artists that included Delaunay, Leger and Braques while savouring bite sized treats of foie gras, lobster and truffles.

After the festivities, I took my date upstairs to see Raoul Dufy’s La Fée Electrique. Commissioned by the artist for the 1937 Paris World’s Fair, this masterpiece created to decorate a hall. You enter into the art, surround yourself in 62 metres dedicated to the celebration of electricity, with paintings that rise10 metres to the ceiling, and as you step forward the light and energy illuminate your very being.

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