The show of the year

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 11.20.54 AMThe year being 1900!

There are currently 2-3 hour long lines outside the Petit Palais, as devouted art fans, history buffs, and fashionistas wait anxiously to see Paris 1900, an exhibition featuring the year Paris hosted the Universal Exhibition and the world entered a new century.

The show is as bright and exuberant as the era it embodies. Video, architecture and objects blend to create a new world, as visitors leave the 21st century for an hour or so, and discover a time when the air was alive with electricity.

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 11.21.10 AM  The first room celebrates the fair and the technology of the time, featuring films by the Lumière brothers themselves, Guimet’s Art Nouveau metro entrance and memorabilia from the Bon Marché.

Then you pass through a tunnel running with black and white film rolling on the walls, images of the crowd at the Exposition; gentlemen in dark suits, ladies with a flounce. There is a room dedicated to the decorative arts featuring work by Mucha, Lalique, Gallé and Marjorelle, another of fine art with Monet, Vuillard, and Renoir. I was particularly smitten with the photography collection.

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 11.21.44 AMUntil I reached the fashion room with illustrations of a Parisenne’s day, fans and gowns, which had me completely under its spell as I read about the Trottins. These were the young girls who would deliver hats to the haute couture clients and they were considered to be the epitome of good fashion and elegant taste, inspiring a journalist to write, “What differentiates the Parisienne from other women is a discreet elegance in every aspect of her social life; sobriety, taste, innate distinction, and the indefinable something only she possesses, that blend of bearing and modernity we call chic.”

There was an inspirational erotic room featuring the infamous bordellos that hosted the elite of the époque. The homes were called Maisons Closes and one had an intriguing chair designed by an English prince. The design has the potential for so much naughty fun I am tempted to ask the ébéniste next door to build one for our bedroom.

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 11.21.28 AMFurther on, a space dedicated to the performing arts had a small theater playing the first sci-fi film ever made, Voyage to the Moon.

Te Petit Palais tiself was built for the 1900 Universal Exposition, so it felt like we were extending the show as we strolled out to the mosaic lined courtyard and lingered over our Parisian espressos in the sunshine of their petit English garden.

The show runs until August 17, and I highly recommend getting tickets in advance!

A (very) quick get away

Screen shot 2014-06-16 at 6.57.31 PMAfter two decades of being the chief travel agent for my family, it was a bit odd moving in with Mr French and having someone actually question my plans. Odd, and entirely wonderful not to always be the only one in charge; depending on someone else has become as lovely as a plush cashmere sweater. Sunday I was savouring that rich, cosy feeling as Mr French escorted me to the car, not a word about our destination.

Screen shot 2014-06-16 at 6.57.50 PM Screen shot 2014-06-16 at 6.58.06 PM Screen shot 2014-06-16 at 6.58.20 PM Screen shot 2014-06-16 at 6.59.17 PMScreen shot 2014-06-16 at 6.58.41 PM It wasn’t long before the gps told me we were going to the Parc de Vincennes. I suspected we were off to check out the new zoo, or perhaps take a row in the little lake. Instead, we drove to the very far end of the park to the Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale, roughly translated as the Tropical Agriculture Gardens, that I hadn’t even known existed.

The gardens were built in the 19th century as a place for botanists to cultivate vanilla orchids, cocoa plants, tea bushes and other tropical crops to develop the maximum of profits from the French colonies, seedlings and saplings were shipped to far off lands with romantic names; Indochina, Mauritius. Today there are historic photos of the innovative transportable green houses they invented to ensure the plants thrived during their voyage at sea, and the crumbling remains of the local green houses where teams of scientists once swarmed, busy as bees.

Paris’ 1907 Colonial Fair featured the countries that where the garden’s crops were grown, and after the fair, it seemed as natural as the non-gmo crops they were cultivating, to co-opt the exotic pavilions of these countries. The ornate structures were brought to the grounds and turned into housing,  workshops or labs, while others were simply left as monuments to the work at hand.

And then The Great War erupted. The grounds keepers realized they had a precious resources and offered the pavilions, surrounded by their restorative gardens, to be used as a hospital for wounded soldiers. But not just any soldiers, this became a healing space reserved for soldiers who had come to Europe from across the seas to fight alongside their French colonial masters.

Today, the grounds are dotted with powerful monuments to these men, with interpretive signs that bear photos of soldiers wearing fez, billowing white robes, wide, straw hats. The exotic pavilions have been left to weather away or burnt to the ground by negligent squatters. There is now an active organic garden where city gardeners sell the produce and offer classes on organic farming and composting. A refurbished green house serves as a conference center, hosting events like the one we accidentally stumbled upon, “Autour d’une rizière” (around the rice patty) which featured tropical fruit, chocolate and coffee tastings. And because you’re never very far from astounding art in Paris, the circus artist Johann Le Guillerm has created a poetic environmental piece of wood planks nested into one of the pavilions.

A handful of Parisians have discovered this nearly secret garden, strolling in for restorative picnics surrounded by impressive trees and colorful wild flowers. As we strolled through this delicious little day dream, I grabbed Mr French’s hand and thanked him for the unique moment in Paris,1000s of miles away from our world.


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A few weeks ago we were at La Hune bookstore, a magical place facing the église St Germain des Près. It is two floors and an ante-room full of books. A lot of them are art books that are great in any language, or no language at all! They were opening a large cardboard box of books titled, Le Paris du Tout-Paris, which roughly translates to the Paris A-list crowd’s Paris.

Screen shot 2014-04-09 at 7.58.25 PMMr French huffed away, mumbling something about elitists. I picked up a book and started flipping through. The A-list in Paris includes TV news personalities, movie stars, art gallery owners, musicians, chefs and, of course, Inès de la Fressange. Some of the A-list are well known abroad; Sonia Rykiel, Jane Birkin, Pierre Hermé. Others are relatively unknown; the third female rabbi in France, Delphine Horvilleur or Yves Carcelle who runs the Louis Vuitton foundation.

They talk about their Paris, mention their favorite restaurants and share their shopping secrets. And guess what? More than a few of them adore hanging out at Café de Flore.

Screen shot 2014-04-09 at 7.59.00 PMScreen shot 2014-04-09 at 8.17.43 PMWhile reading I came across the Paris of Clément Dirié, a publisher in the contemporary art world, I had never heard of before. Monsieur Dirié likes to spend his Saturdays haunting art galleries. Sounds so much like my Mr French, I had to show him the page, pointing out the list of galleries in Belleville we had never explored. Mr French got so excited, he actually found where we keep the printer and learned how to make a copy. This Saturday there was no discussion, we were going to Belleville, to follow in the publisher’s footsteps.

We started out at Le Plateau at the Place Hannah Arendt, a free public art space that had some really fantastic works on display. Including a pianist who was playing partitions an artist had split, forcing her to take long pauses between brief spells of intoxicating music. Her piano had been split, too; half traditional upright, the other half ornate wood cuts.

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Then we strolled into the glorious parc aux Buttes Chaumont. The place was full with picnic-ers, birthdays parties and sun worshipers, pink cherry blossoms carpeted the paths, balloons bobbed above. At the bottom, there was some great street art by Fred Le Chevalier and Invader.


And there were more art galleries to explore, Jocelyn Wolff, Bugada & Cargnel, and Marcelle Alix. Some of it was interesting. Some of it was what the French call foutage de gueule, which means somebody is trying to make a fool out of you. There were car tires with brakes on sale as art for 5000€ a piece. And copper sheets stained with animal urine the artist orders on the internet.

But there was some good art, too. Screen shot 2014-04-09 at 8.17.20 PMThere was a particularly strong show at The Eyes Collection, Galerie Intervalle. We strolled along, stumbling in and out of galleries, meeting artists and listening in on a tour group of art students before finally making our way down to on of my favorite places in Paris, the rue Desnoyez, where street artists own the street. It was a llovely day I look forward to repeating at the rentrée, when the galleries will be putting on their very best.

A Monet moment

Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 9.16.28 AMThe Tuesday after returning from Marseille I had a very important visit at the Orangerie… What’s that you say? The Orangerie is closed Tuesdays? Well, yes, it is, which is why this visit was so important. Organized by the American Friends of the Musée d’Orsay, this was a Patron’s Pass tour with the museum’s new director, Laurence des Cars, who has become something of a celebrity since taking over the role in January.

Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 9.16.20 AMBefore coming to the Orangerie, Laurence des Cars was at the Louvre, and a key member of the team helping the Louvre Abu Dhbai build their collection. Think about it. You are so passionate about art, you’ve made a career of it and one day you get a phone call asking you to help build a museum’s collection. From scratch, with a pretty generous budget. Reading reports and listening to interviews, its clear that is was the adventure of a life time, but not an easy one. A lot of careers took unexpected turns, with Laurence des Cars now finding herself at the Orangerie.

I felt incredibly lucky to be part of this tour and had been looking forward to it throughout my trip in the south, the abundant flowers a constant reminder of the visit to come. But I never suspected, how very special it is to visit a museum when it is closed to the public. There were security guards, and workers getting the space ready for the next show, but all this activity just made the experience more intimate, as we got to know this remarkable space as very few ever have to opportunity.

Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 9.16.04 AMLaurence, I hope I may call her Laurence, Madame sounds much too formal in English, gave us the history of Monet’s famous Waterlily paintings, explaining that this had been his gift to the country in response to the apocalyptic WWI. He wanted to create a quiet, beautiful place people could go to meditate. Laurence shared her amazement at just how quiet tourists get as they respond to the magic that is created by the display of the masterpieces in two, large oval rooms full of color and diffused light.

I am not a great fan of impressionist art, but like the tourists, this space has always had a tremendous effect on me. The colors seem to vibrate off of the walls, echoing a nearly tangible energy, a sense of calming caressing my body. On this visit, I got to experience the sensation in an entirely new way. Busy taking photos, I lagged behind our small group, and found myself alone in one of the rooms. All that light, color and energy, uninterrupted. It was astounding. I stood there, living a moment of true awe.

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Eventually, I pulled myself away and ran to catch up with the group and hear about Laurence’s plans for the permanent Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection downstairs. She is a dynamic, optimistic curator, who sees a big future for this space, and her enthusiasm was contagious, making us all want to help her in this journey of bringing this museum to life.

This extraordinary visit was not a unique, one of a kind day for a handful of journalists. It was an event organized by the American Friends of the Musée d’Orsay for their members and anyone who had signed up via their website. Their goal is to help both the d’Orsay and Orangerie enrich the collections they have today, contributing to restoration projects and new acquisitions. Members are mostly Americans who live in the US, but are thrilled to support the arts while becoming Paris insiders. Going on a 35€ Patron Pass tour is just the beginning. You can become a member of the AFMO and get invitations to their events throughout the year, or attend a gala and contribute even more, as you spend a magical evening with others who are passionate about art.

This is the link to upcoming AFMO events

And a link to membership information & benefits

Back to reality

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 10.34.45 AMI left St Tropez for what the Brits would call a dirty weekend in Marseille with Mr French. It was a revelation, and I promise to share with you, but that was weeks ago and so much has happened since then, I need to take a break because right now, Paris is getting ready for its very own dirty weekend with the art world, with the Paris Art Fair, Paris Art+Design, the Salon of Contemporary Dessins and the Salon du Dessin. SO MUCH art, it boggles the mind!!!

Last night was the launch with a VIP evening at the Salon du Dessin, held behind the  imposing façade of the Paris stock exchange, La Bourse. Mr French was out of town, so Miss Yoga was my date for the evening.

The place was packed, penguin clad waiters with trays of dirty, empty glasses nudging their way gently through the older, rather distinguished crowd of collectors, journalists and gallery owners. It was inpressively sedate, while a mad house all at once.

IScreen shot 2014-03-26 at 10.34.30 AM had enticed Miss Yoga to join me with the promise of some Klimt drawings. I don’t know why, but I was really excited to see some Klimts, and there was a great one of a distinguished woman in an iconic Klimt jacket waiting for us in the second gallery to our right. Further along a colorful study of a bedouin by Delacroix caught my eye. Posted below the framed work of art was a list of the drawings provenance, from the artist’s studio to an auction at Drouot in the 1860’s (with the lot number!) to the most recent owner.

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 10.35.06 AMA smiling imp by Matisse caught our eye, a curiously serene Dali, an exuberant Braques…. There were three pieces from Sonia Delaunay’s Jazz series at different galleries, a coincidence that made sense when we read that there will be two retrospectives in her honor next year, one at the Musée d’Art Modern de Paris, followed by a visit at the Tate in London.Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 10.33.47 AM



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artwork by Hanna Sidorowicz

And then, coincidence of coincidence, we bumped into a friend and fellow Yogi who was there with a friend of her own. It must have been destiny, because given the crush of people, its fairly remarkable we saw anybody, much less recognized them! I was so excited to learn that the friend’s friend is the accomplished artist Hanna Sidorowicz, a gracious woman who smiled generously at the camera I virtually shoved in her face.Hanna draws her inspiration from the work that surrounded us, so we kept our visit brief and continued along, viewing the winners of the Contemporary Drawings prize and a small collection from the Musée des Beaux Arts in Nancy before stumbling upon our favorite work of the evening, a series of eloquent lines that flowed from the pen of Henri Matisse, forming the seductive trace of a woman, the arch in her back full of longing.

The Salon du Dessin is at the Bourse until March 31.

Amsterdam museums

Screen shot 2014-01-03 at 11.30.50 AMThe reason I wanted to go to Amsterdam was rather devious. 15 years ago I had an Indonesian meal there that was of my favorite meals ever, right up there with Aquapazzo in Venise and St Placide in St Malo. Home sick for anything close to resembling serious spices in Paris, I’ve been wanting to return, so badly that it had become something of a obsession with me.

Screen shot 2014-01-03 at 11.30.04 AMThere was no way I was going to tempt Mr French with a holiday based solely on the memory of a meal I had enjoyed over a decade ago; I needed to find a lure. Skimming the net, I found that the newly renovated Rjksmuseum had made it to somebody’s Top 10 museums in the world list. I had my bait! In addition to the fine art museum, there is a newly renovated contemporary art museum, a highly regarded science museum, a maritime museum, the Tropen museum on the Dutch colonies, the FOAM photography museum, Rembrandt’s house, Anne Frank’s house, a Jewish history museum and several private homes that are now open to the public. And unlike Paris, many of them stay open for New Years Day!

I booked my Indonesian restaurant, just to be sure they were open over the holidays and would have a table for us, then I cast my line and suggested we go to Amsterdam for a museum holiday. Mr French bit my squiggling worm hook, line and sinker. I booked the Sir Albert Hotel through the Splendia website, pre-purchased museum tickets, loaded up the car and we were off, the girls snoring in the back seat as we crossed borders and sped by polders. Windmills started popping up in the landscape… cyclists, grazing sheep and canals. We were in Holland!

Screen shot 2014-01-03 at 11.31.10 AMThe Dutch spent an entire decade renovating their star museum and it is beautiful, featuring a large, glass topped hall that is flooded with lone of the country’s rarest commodities; light. Just before Christmas was a terrible time to go, the place was more crowded than the Louvre in July and without the infrastructure to handle it. Even with tickets in hand, our line went outside the building and around the corner, full of people anxious to see what was new. And there was plenty to see.

Every single work of art had been moved into a new space. Only Rembrandt’s Night Watchmen had kept its original space, dominating the central hall surrounded by masterpieces. The best part of the Rjksmuseum are the descriptions. There is an interesting text for almost every piece, explaining the history of the work or giving an interesting detail about the art. You learn all kinds of random facts; foot warmers symbolised love in Vermeer’s time, a sea captain once burnt his ship so it wouldn’t be caught by the enemy and some profiteering merchants then made a fortune selling bits of burnt wood from the “ship”, swan feathers look amazing when depicted in reds, blues and greens.

Screen shot 2014-01-03 at 11.32.38 AMThe museum is huge and after several hours, the girls and I were ready for a break. We’d seen the entire 2nd floor, all of it fascinating, it slightly overwhelming, and we’d spent nearly 20 minutes just looking at the 4 Vermeers. It had been a feast for the eyes, but we were now ready to feed our tummies. Mr French could have stayed all day, but the cafeteria was overflowing and he relented when I promised we’d come back. And we did, on New Years Day, when we visited the fabulous Middle Age and Renaissance collections, as well as the disappointing modern works.

The Stedelijk, Contrmporary Art Museum was another disappointment. 20€ each for a rather small collection of minor works. I think this is quite possibly the first time I have ever given a museum a negative review. I usually just don’t mention them, but this one is on the Museumplein and it really is outrageously overpriced.

Screen shot 2014-01-03 at 11.32.06 AMHappily, there were others that made up for it. FOAM had an excellent show that was installed by the 85 year old New Yorker William Klein, featuring the evolution of his work from the late 40’s to today. Across the street, visiting the private mansion of the Van Loon Museum gave an insider’s view on the life of Screen shot 2014-01-03 at 11.31.51 AMthe descendants of the East India Company and at the port the maritime Scheepvaart Museum shows the world how interactive displays can make any subject, even boats, come to life.

We missed the Tropen museum. I’ve been wanting to go there for 20 years, and I’ve still never made it. So happy for the excuse to go back!

Braque to basics

Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 3.42.38 PMA few weeks ago I was running through the halls of the Louvre on an art inspired scavenger hunt, celebrating Halloween with ThatLou. At our first destination there were extra bonus points for finding the ceiling that Georges Braque had painted in 1963. “AHH” I squealed with glee, “We’re going to get that one, I was at his exhibition this week!”

And indeed, I had been at the exhibition with my friend the Yoga Yenta and her Mom, in town from NYC. The thing with being a Yoga Yenta is that you work in a shop. Which means rising insanely early for yoga practice, then spending the entire day on one’s feet. Even one’s Saturday. Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 3.49.56 PMWhich explains why going to an art exhibition is a rare treat for the yenta. She was excited to be there and her enthusiasm was contagious!

The show starts with his earlier works as a fauvist and we appreciated seeing how he got from realism to this :

which then evolved to this:

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I was very careful as I took my photos, focusing only on the ones where photography was permitted. I had learned my lesson from the Matisse exhibition and was not looking to cause an incident. But a guard came over any way. He started explaining the rules. I politely pointed out that I knew the rules. Then he told me the real reason he had approached me. He was a professional photographer and he could tell that my photos were crap. I was framing them all wrong. Zooming in too much and not including the frame. I needed to include the frame. I thanked him politely (ever so polite with those guards!) and asked more about his work. Did he have a website? Of course! Could I have the URL to check it out?  No so fast! Instead, he handed me his phone number and suggested I give him a call. Most creative pick up line of the year, ladies and gentlemen.

Back to Braque. The yenta and I had been wondering about him. His work seemed to mimic the work of his contemporaries. It can be hard to distinguish some Braque pieces from a Picasso or a Matisse. We were a little puzzled about that, so we started reading and learned that Georges and Pablo were inseparable pals during the early Cubist movement. They’d spend hours holed up together, cutting and pasting their collages., then heading out to share a drink at the bar downstairs. No wonder their work looked so similar, they were echoing off one another as they explored Cubism.

Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 4.05.12 PMBraque’s later work reflects the joys of falling in love and the sorrows of war time with powerful palates and the simplest of lines. As we continued through the show, I tried to add some frames to my shots. It’s not easy, as the perspective makes for funny angles. But I kept zooming out, and out and out, until I got this shot, which I was quite pleased with. In fact, going home, I realized that I take all my museum photos of individual works of art for posting on this blog or using as my iPhone background. In doing so, I was missing out on the opportunity to create a bit of art on my own. So thanks to this anonymous guard and his sage advice, I had a little taste of what Picasso and Braque may have felt, exchanging ideas and developing their images in the ever evolving process the world calls art.

The Braque exhibition is on until Jan 6, but its popular, so pre-purchase your tickets!

If running through the Louvre, taking photos and having fun with art sounds like a good night out on the town, check out ThatLou. There’s a Thanksgiving hunt coming up this week!


Art for thought

Screen shot 2013-11-04 at 9.59.16 AMIt was not planned, but we saw a lot of weird art this weekend. We started with a walk through the blustery November rains to A Triple Tour at the Conciergerie. François Pinault is a local billionaire and serious art collector, married to Salma Hayek. He wanted to open a museum to show case his art in Paris, but authorities made it so difficult that he ended up acquiring the Palazzo Grassi in Venice and creating a museum there instead. During our visit last spring, I realized that this was Paris’ loss.

Screen shot 2013-11-04 at 9.58.36 AMA Triple Tour is Pinault’s first show in his home town and it is monumental in the sense that it is very, very large in scale. Keeping with the theme of the space (the prison that once housed Marie Antoinette), this show was all about imprisonment. People locked up in war zones, prejudice, poverty, insanity and disease. It is not a happy show and this is not beautiful art. It felt like a documentary of social Screen shot 2013-11-04 at 10.16.46 AMcommentary, more than an art exhibition. There was an incredibly moving film of asylum patients and a collection of elderly men in wheelchairs that many visitors thought were real. I can’t say I loved this art, but I could see that it is important art and I marveled at the luxury afforded to men like Pinault who can put on such a show.

After the show we headed across the Seine to the Marais, rue Vieille du Temple. It was not at all planned, but we ended up gallery hopping, visiting one contemporary art space after the other. At Yvan Lambert there was a 15 minute film of a peaceful wood and I loved the rest, but wondered why this was art. Across the street there was a show featuring a man named Erwin Olaf. I walked in the door, muttered, “weird Nazi art” and left, shaking my head. Next door, at the Mexican Cultural Center there was a collection of photos featuring Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. It was a highlight of the day.

Even if you don’t like the art, it is fun to visit the galleries in this neighborhood because it takes you into some fascinating buildings and remote courtyards visitors rarely see. And sometimes you’ll stumble upon an interesting show, like the Cy Twombly exhibit at Karsten Greve.

But finding the galleries is not always obvious. I couldn’t find a decent map online to give you an easy link. Every now and again there is a map of all the art spaces available in the galleries, but for the most part, you just have to read the brass plaques at the arched doors, and if you see the word “galerie” walk on in.

Screen shot 2013-11-04 at 9.59.57 AMThe is what I did at Galerie Perrotin on the rue de Turenne, a gallery I had never heard of before. Inside, there was a large Statue of Liberty, spinning on her side as the flames of her torch ate in to the wall. On the staircase landing there was a mini elevator, barely large enough for a shoe, with doors that would open and close. Fun, but a bit too conceptual for me.

Mr French headed out the back door and disappeared long enough that I decided to follow him into a converted workshop. An elder Chinese lady was floating through space, three manta rays pulling her reins through a flock of birds. In the next room a collection of older folks sat on couches and barca loungers, their heads replaced by large rocks. Screen shot 2013-11-04 at 9.59.43 AMAnd one odd looking man on a stool. I was marveling as the wax work that created the model’s skin. You could tell the age of the faceless guests by the quality of the skin on their hands. I leaned into to look at the one face int he work of art. “Wow, I declared to Mr French, this looks so real, I can see the skin m AHHHHHH!!!” I didn’t just see the skin move. The entire head turned towards me. The looking man was a dwarf who had been hired to sit as part of the show. If great art is supposed to make you feel something, it worked. I was feeling scared out of my wits!

Private Choice

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Last year I spent October feeding my soul at the major art fairs, like the FIAC. where I ran into the genitalia lady. The fairs are a blast, but after three seasons, I was looking for something different and I found it when Mary Kay from Out and About in Paris told me to about Private Choice, the brain child of the exceptional curator Nadia Candet.

Screen shot 2013-10-24 at 7.23.11 PMThe exhibition is in a private home that was once the atelier of Impressionist artist Berthe Morisot. The building is still in her family and it is now a private home that is flooded with air and light, creating a haven of tranquility just steps away from bustling Paris. The space is so extraordinary that it inspired Madame Candet to use it as an exhibition space. She spent six months hunting down the perfect art, even commissioning a piece when she had a vision of how it could fill the space.

Screen shot 2013-10-24 at 6.26.20 PMThis is a gallery, so everything is for sell, including the precious furniture that was brought in, the Sophie Calle designed dishware and the even the silverware, although I didn’t ask about the kitchen sink!!!

The art work is remarkable, too. In the first room my friend recognized a wall piece by Argentenian Julieta Hanono, while I was fascinated by a neon sculptures by Dominique Blais and we both stopped at a rug that spelled TROUBLE by Phillipe Cazal. An assistant had to clarify, that its was trouble, in the French sense, and not trouble by the English definition.

Screen shot 2013-10-24 at 6.26.56 PMWe were already enthralled and had just scratched the surface! We went downstairs, then climbed upstairs. Diptyque candles scented the air, we were invited to a delicious tea. This wasn’t feeling like an art gallery, but more like an adventure at a friends home. Especially when we were invited to climb the floating staircase, sans banisters, up to the glass roofed bedroom and out on to the deck, where we stood there dreaming…. about art, about love and about dreams.

The gallery is open until Oct 28. Visits are free, but by reservation only. You can reserve your Private Choice visit on their site.

Under where? Under there!

I’ve got a thing for underwear. Especially when it is French and silky This is not a very well kept secret, so it was not at all surprising when my phone started ringing off the hook (my kids would NOT understand that expression, it probably belongs in a literary archive and not in this post) with calls from friends telling me about the La Mécanique des Dessous exhibit at the Union des Arts Décoratifs.

The title doesn’t sound half as sexy as the term lingèrie and that is because ever since around the 14th century underwear has been first and foremost all about foundations and support. Fans Shakespeare and Commedia dell’Arte are some of the few visitors to the show who will not be surprised to learn that once upon a time men wore reinforced structures called codpieces, to exaggerate their, hmmm…. manly prowess. For many,  seeing one hammered into a suit of armor is a highlight of this collection.

Screen shot 2013-08-19 at 5.32.41 PMProof positive that I’m not the only one who has reverence for foundations; the French take their undergarments very seriously and this exhibit is a celebration of the architectural creativity that has gone into making the perfect silhouette. I loved seeing the mechanical device that was used to lift those ridiculously wide skirts that Marie Antoinette and her friends would wear. I had always imagined them side stepping through doors, but the metal frames, called paniers, that held the skirts out could be lifted up with a string, allowing the skirt to fall flat ans the wearer to enter a room.

Screen shot 2013-08-19 at 5.32.50 PMOther highlights include seeing the metal frames that were used to support Queen Elizabeth style ruffs, modern day models that showed haw many of the under garments worked, a series of film clips featuring lingèrie scenes, vintage underwear ads, and an area for trying on corsets and crinolines. That is a lot of highlights for a relatively small show and I was not the only one who loved it. Attended with my friend Karen, who had brought along an article by fashion editor, Suzy Menkes that had been published earlier in the week. Not only had she loved it, but she had learned a bit herself.

Finally, a word about the Union. It is the other museum in the Louvre Palace. Very few people even know there IS another museum in the Louvre, but there is and it is the national Decorative Arts museum, featuring furniture, jewelery and design from across the ages. It would be hard to find a more central location and unlike the Louvre Museum, it is open Tuesday, which is kind of a bonus.

ps photos were not allowed, so these ones are dark and elusive, teasing you like lingèrie should!

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