The Midas Touch

IMG_3222   There are two benevolent kings in Paris; Arnault and Pinault. One owns nearly half of the luxury fashion industry through his group, LVMH, the other owns nearly half of the luxury fashion industry through his group, Kering (formerly Gucci). Without knowing either gentleman, nor having done any kind of research into their relationship, it is easy to imagine that there is a bit of rivalry between the two.

IMG_3118Both men collect contemporary art and at some point they both thought it would be great if they shared their collections with their neighbors. Generous, indeed, with a bit of ego involved and probably some tax benefits to sweeten the deal. Monsieur Pinault, who has the richer collection, aimed his sites towards the abandoned Renault factory on Ile Seguin in Boulogne. Easily accessible by Paris metro, it seemed like Eden.

But the Mayor of Boulogne started setting up road blocks and things got crazy in a uniquely Parisian kind of way until M Pinault had enough and took his art elsewhere. The wildly popular destination museum Palazzo Grassi in Venice, to be exact.

IMG_3192Not to be out done, his rival, M Arnault started plans for his own museum, insisting on the great architect Frank Gehry and coming up with an ingenious plan to build his monument within the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. I won’t go into the specifics, by putting the museum inside of the Jardin’s concession, the project avoided alot of red tape and was given a green light.

IMG_3187The result is Master Gehry’s Magnum Opus, the stupendous Fondation Louis Vuitton. It is a signature Gehry piece, looking very much like the crumpled wads of paper the architect uses for inspiration. But here, his twisting curves are supported by warm, wood covered beams and dressed in a light infused glassed; a poem of contradictions. The upper floors are a maze of terraces, playing with the scenery beyond. At one moment the pushing, pulling turn of frame have the visitor feeling propelled into the woods beyond, while also feeling that the woods have risen to join them on the deck, embraced by the building and the environment just beyond. It is breathtaking.

Inside, the spaces are random and disconnected. The first thing one sees are the architect’s articulated fish floating the swanky mod restaurant, Le Frank. Sbove Visitors either love or hate the Olafur Eliasson grotto below street level, but nobody is left indifferent by the diagonal fountain that flows from the Jardin d’Acclimatation to the grotto. The waves of water are irresistibly enchanting as they flow across the wide, even steps. And the auditorium with seats that fold down into the floor and an Ellsworth Kelly back drop, is so welcoming, you look forward to your next excuse for a visit, before having left for the day.

My favorite piece in the collection; Where the slaves live by Adrian Villar Rojas

My favorite piece in the collection; Where the slaves live by Adrian Villar Rojas


You may have noticed that this review is about the building. Disappointingly, it is the best reason to go. The art collection itself is, uhm, well, rather thin… I was blown away by a Gerhard Richter room that had disappeared by second visit, as had a rather amusing set of old fashioned telephones that played famous people reciting an eclectic collection of poetry. On this visit? Well, the Giacometti sculpture is impressive and I was amused, if not totally blown away by the Olafur Eliasson exhibition, which is surprising, because I particularly adore this artist. But the pieces chosen were not his masterpieces.

I hope the museum gets a serious curator in there who know how to put on a show. But until then, it is still an extraordinary addition to the Parisian landscape, well worth an afternoon.


Language lessons

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A grease stained pizza box in an art exhibition years ago.

Bobo, boho, and now, ipstairs… the trendy young French of each generation. They were bourgeois bohèmes the affluent dressed as hippies, looking to escape traditional French esthetics, without sacrificing their creature comforts. As time lapsed, they grew more and more nomadic, discovering New York and falling under the charms of SOHO, adopting an even chicer look that doesn’t pretend to turn a back on the fashion world, but embraces it.

Last Friday, Mr French played hookie and after a fruitful day running errands under sub-zero blue skies, we had stopped to reward ourselves with a Hotel’politain from Le Bar. Originally the Love Pavilion, Oscar Wilde lived and died here, Dali hung his hat and Liz flirted with her beloved Richard Burton in the rooms above. In the early 2000’s eclectic design Jacques Garcia gave the place a face lift with a funky blend of violet silks in velour green foliage. The bobo’s loved it, the boho’s were not far behind and now, the hipsters have arrived wearing his and her matching fur trimmed military coats, the obligatory plaid flannel shirts and Fonzi slicked hair.

Unexpectedly, some girlfriends from the neighborhood walked in for a little joy juice and I joined them to let Mr French review the emails he’d missed while giving me his undivided attention all day.

The hipsters were busy chatting away.

– What’s a VeuBo? I heard her ask.

– A guy over 50, who wears colored pants, listens to LP albums and drives a sports car.

I glanced at Mr French in his tomato red pants, the bag of albums in the chair facing him and I shot him a grin.

–It’s your sports car, he hissed, referring to the company car that was parked at home.

I couldn’t help laughing at the joke we’ve become, living caricatures, of the microcosm we live in, like the painting on the back of a grease stained pizza box.

Bitingly good times

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 10.25.23 AMEarlier thisScreen shot 2014-09-26 at 10.22.44 AM week I posted photo of Roman Polanski in da house on my FB page. The question is, which house? Certainly not mine, I am not any where near cool enough to have a guest list like that. Non, earlier this week I had the honor of being invited back stage for the reScreen shot 2014-09-26 at 10.21.39 AMhearsals of Le Bal des Vampires at the Mogador theater.

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 10.22.21 AM   Le Bal was originally The Fearless Vampire Killers, a 1967 movie starring, written and directed by Roman. It was while on set for the film he met his future wife, Sharon Tate, who was later slaughtered by Charles Manson. And while tragedy enshrouds the reality, the movie is actually a comic satire of the vampire genre.

The film took the Vienna stage in 1997 and has just completed a 10 year tour in Germany. When it was announced that the sets were being packed up and 18 semi trucks would be taking the autobahn for France, M Polanski announced that he would be doing the directing for the Paris stage.

His dubious history not with standing, M Polanski is an impressive man, energy whirling through his body and the space around him. The French journalists were mesmerised by his presence, hounding him for photos like tweens in a room with One Direction.

After the introductions, we were taken to a series of studios. First we meet the makeup artist and her crew, busy trimming, curling, coiffing and baking real hair wigs for the show. I was amazed they were able to get such long hair that wasn’t synthetic to work with. She pointed out that humans aren’t the only beings who grow hair. Horse manes will do! And the teeth, oh, the teeth. Some actors have up to three sets of fangs, depending on their roles.And while the main actors will have assistance applying their make-up, the chorus will have become experts at drawing blood.

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 10.24.00 AMWe met the stage director who explained that this was the most intricate production ever performed in France, with 22 tons of equipment filling every available nook and cranny, the writer who adapted the lyrics into French (I so want his job for French shows!), and the costume handlers.

Then, we were taken to the bar. Yipee, drinks! But no, there was something more going on, for lack of space, the theater bar area has been converted into a rehearsal space for the dancers. As we entered, the original NY choreographer, John Carrafa, was ruling a mob of vampires rising from their chair-slash-Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 10.23.32 AMtombstones, their voices vibrating through our being, their sharp teeth surprising us in the modern context. The actors rehearse with their teeth, so they can learn to sing without slurring, or drooling anything other than blood. They also work 6 days a week, with rehearsals running to 11pm, acclimating their bodies to show time! It was an extraordinary ten minutes, listening to the song written by Michael Kunze of Phantom fame. His signature gothic sound familiar, yet new.

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 10.21.12 AMWe were soon dragged out, our guide threatening us with garlic if we didn’t hurry. It was into an elevator, past a voice room, beyond a gym, and into a large, neon lit room. Before us, an awkward pile of pipes and planks, a bathtub, a piano and actors going through their lines as Roman Polanski looked intently on. What a privilege to watch the man at work. Every detail being vamped and re-vamped, with minute precision.

If you’d like to see this spooktacular production, it will be going un-live at the Theater Mogador Oct 16. Just in time for Halloween!

For more images from the visit, check out my FB page.



Heritage days

Screen shot 2014-09-23 at 10.23.26 AM  France uses the last days of summer to open her doors and invite the world inside for quick peek behind the scenes. It is a national campaign, with chateaux and public buildings across the nation open to the general public for the weekend. Lines start in the early hours for places like the Elysée, presidential palace and the Prime Minister’s home at Matiginon. In years past we have seen the mineral collection at the prestigious Ecole des Mines engineering school, the carnival museum, the green houses of the Luxembourg Gardens with their orchid collection for the senate, and the Screen shot 2014-09-23 at 10.23.53 AMObservatory nearby. Last year, we stopped by the Manufacture de Sèvres.

Screen shot 2014-09-23 at 10.23.40 AMThis year, I was not in the mood to stand in lines and deal with crowds, so we just went for a stroll. It would seem the universe had other plans for us, and along our walk we passed the fine arts college, Ecole des Beaux Arts. The school was open to visitors and I was very curious to see inside, because the school has been getting a lot of press lately.

It is a beautiful space, evoking an abandoned Italian palazzo of fading ochres and falling plaster with patina all around. The chapel has been stuffed full of statuary. Renaissance horsemen face off medieval tombstones, Micheal Angelo’s Virgin is not far from a Roman god. The works are all plaster replicas of masterpieces, set out for the students to study, draw, photography.

Screen shot 2014-09-23 at 10.15.47 AMIn the auditorium there is a large mural of the masters. da Vinci chats away with Reubens, Van Dyke shares a laugh besides Fra Angelico, all of them looking down at the students below, sitting on stiff wooden benches, listening to a lecture as the butts go numb.

Screen shot 2014-09-23 at 10.15.28 AMThere is a covered courtyard, flooded with light, where students can work in the sun, protected from the elements, and a smaller, arcaded courtyard that leads to the chapel. A memorial to students who died fighting for France in the First World War dominates the space, a large chestnut tree reigning from above, nature faces tragedy in absolute beauty and our day has been enriched.

All this glorious history comes with a price. The price of upkeep and renovation. The school desperately needs to be brought into the age of modernity, a little wifi here, perhaps a sound system there. Which is why it has been in the news. Ralph Lauren visited the space and was smitten. He has agreed to wire the school, renovate the chapel and ensure a classical, yet sustainable art education of generations to come.

Martial Raysse

Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 1.57.03 PMI’d never heard of this French artist when Mr French insisted we go see his show at the Pompidou last week. As we strolled through the fun, colorful collection of his art, I started learning more and more and today, I’d consider myself a fan.

Raysse was born in Vallauris, on the Côte d’Azur. The town was put on the international art scene when PicassoScreen shot 2014-07-25 at 1.57.16 PM started collaborating with its thriving ceramics industry. Jean Cocteau was dran to the area, which is how he met Raysse. The two did a joint show together in 1958, when Raysse was only 22.

The young artist was fascinated by the Pop Art scene in New York and traveled there to meet the Warhol crowd before returning to France and founding the Nouveaux Réalistes with others, including Yves Klein, Christos and Niki de St Phalle.Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 1.57.38 PM Their concept was “the poetic recycling of reality.” If you now the work of these artists, then Raysse draws on color as the primary source of power for his work.

If the artist bases his work on poetry, it is the Haiku, or Limerick. His work is short and sweet and a delight to take in, although I suspect that a lot of the fun was drug induced, particularly the short films he made with his friends.

The show is presented chronologically. His earliest work features plastics and garbage that has been recycled into art. Of course, in the 1950’s that was a fairly avant garde concept. But in 2014, my heart sank when I first entered the exhibition. Turning the corner, I saw some interesting neons and my attitude shifted, filling with a healthy curiosity to discover more.

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Mr French & Me… a work of art?

Mr French loved the neon work, and a collection of 1950’s pin-ups that decorated a beach scene, with imported sand and a working jukebox.

I’m a sucker for interactive art, so I really got into the Moroccan tent with a true to scale palm tree and sand visitors can draw on. And then I loved, loved, loved a work called “Identity, Now you are a work by Martial Raysse,” which projects viewers into the work.

By the time we came upon his most recent work, a rapturous ode to youth, depicting Bacchus at play as a young boy, my heart was singing with joy and I was totally hooked. If art is what moves you, then this is great art, because that is exactly how I was feeling as I left the show. Great.

A French adventure

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Many francophiles share a classic dream or fond memory driving into the French countryside, using rural roads where there is nothing but picturesque villages with the occasional old man in worker’s blues shuffling by, smoking a hand rolled cigarette. In the fantasy you stumble upon a restaurant that no one has ever heard, full of locals enjoying haute cuisine for the price of a pizza.

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 1.34.14 PM Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 1.33.43 PM Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 1.33.24 PM Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 1.33.11 PM Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 1.32.58 PM Wednesday, we had access to a car, so I headed out with E to the explore today’s reality of that dream, destination; Yerres, a small riverside town south of Paris. We headed through the bustling Chinatown district of the 13th to avoid the highway. Piles of exotic herbs spilled over the stands of an impromptu market, perfuming the air as crowds of jay walkers became a serious menace.

Crossing the Periphérique, the ring road, our eyes met apartment blocks in every stage of a building’s life cycle; from construction zones to demolition sites. We were no longer in Paris. Locals crowded the large bus stops wearing African wax cloth, inner city street clothes, head scarves. The new face of France is young, dynamic and wearing lots of color.

Soon, we were near MacVal, a contemporary art museum with one of my favorite works of art, an interactive video by an artist named Gupta. There was a rail yard with an intriguingly picturesque set of abandoned rail cars. We stayed along these suburban roads, following the Yerres river to a stark parking lot and spilled out of the car, to find ourselves facing a large, white wall.

Propriété Caillebotte was carefully stenciled on the wall in a sedate grey. We had come to see the Impressionist artist’s works which are temporarily on display in the home that had once belonged to his family. I had not done much research before heading out on this adventure, so I was delighted to discover that there was much more to the show than just 40+ paintings. The home is part of a large park with lots to offer, including the gourmet restaurant that is part of the francophile dream.

The art collection was in the family’s old farm house. A lot of the pieces were on loan from private collections, or museums in the US. In France, Caillebotte had been considered something of a dilettante and had never been able to create much of a following.

My very favorite piece, Les Raboteurs, was not part of the show, nor was his most iconic painting, Jour de Pluie. This meant we really spent time appreciating and enjoying a variety of his work. It was a bried, yet lovely moment with art.

The show ends this Sunday, but even more spectacular are the grounds themselves, so it is still worth the trip, and I was assured that there will be more show in the future. There is an expansive lawn framed by pristine flower beds and picnics are allowed!  There are rental boats for rowing along the Yerres and an impressive collection of massive trees, many of them planted in honor of locals on their birth days. There is the gourmet restaurant, Le Chalet du Parc, with an elegant outdoor terrace at the farm house, or the more modest cafeteria in the old Orangerie. The most popular attraction is the large kitchen garden that is maintained by local volunteers. Everything in the garden looked picture perfect, including the work shed full of wheelbarrows. On weekends visitors can peek into the historic glacière where they kept ice before electricity made freezers and option. The place was alive with happy energy. The family’s home can be visited, and a chapel is currently being restored. Entrance on to the grounds is free, so it is full of locals enjoying the outdoors.

The park is available by RER, and there is even a program to stay with the locals for those wanting to turn their visit in to a real adventure. Click here for all the details.










Monday was Bastille Day and we spent the day running errands before Mr French jetted off on yet another business trip. By evening I was alone and in no mood to face the crowds around the Champs de Mars, so I slipped on my walking shows and headed to the Flore to watch the world go by of a glass of champagne with peach liqueur. I learned something that evening. The 14 juillet turns entire quartiers into atmospheric ghost towns. I had the entire neighborhood to myself. It was eerie and magical and utterly divine.

INspiration Thursday

Screen shot 2014-07-17 at 11.56.02 AMLast Thursday I took Sylvia’s suggestion to visit the Zadkine Museum on the well-known rue d’Assas in the 6th district, in the heart of the Latin Quarter.  I hadn’t heard or read much about it so I didn’t really know what to expect. From the brochures I had briefly skimmed through months ago, I knew that some of Zadkine’s works had elongated faces and bodies, similar to his friend Modigliani’s paintings. I was looking forward to learning more.

Screen shot 2014-07-17 at 11.51.05 AMScreen shot 2014-07-17 at 11.56.19 AMOssip Zadkine moved from Smolensk, Russia to Paris in the autumn of 1909 at the age of 19, after a short stay in England. Working for awhile out of a studio in the La Ruche artists’ community in the 15th district, he moved to the house at Rue d’Assas in 1928, where he lived and worked until his death in 1967.  He spent a few years in the United States after World War II and became an art teacher upon his return to Paris in 1945. The sculptor’s wife Valentine Prax, an artist herself, donated the property, which became the museum, to the City of Paris in 1982.

The house/museum is barely visible from the street, and is located right next to the Panthéon-Assas University Paris II. Visitors enter a courtyard and walk through a peaceful garden, to the entrance area, which doubles as a sales desk/bookstore.  A soft-spoken reception lady handed me a visitor’s guide, only available in French that day. There was a guided tour in Room 1, so I bypassed them and began my visit in the garden, which was a good way to get an overview of important works dating from 1930 to 1965.

Zadkine worked with wood, marble, terra cotta, granite, bronze, cement, and plaster, and was influenced by different styles: Primitivism, Cubism, Greek and Roman classical, and African art. He also produced many drawings and engravings.

What struck me most was how sparsely populated this museum is, and for a simple reason: it houses only a mere selection of the artists’ work, the rest having been moved in 1988 to a second museum in the village of Arques, where the artist spent his summers. Each of the six small, airy rooms and the separate garden workshop building tastefully displays between two and seven sculptures, and there are another ten in the garden placed among sycamore trees or on a small lawn. So, the visitor has plenty of time and space to appreciate them, without feeling crowded or bothered by other visitors taking “selfies” with the works (there were none that day).

Screen shot 2014-07-17 at 11.50.54 AMI found the larger-than-life sculptures particularly interesting :  “Torso of the Destroyed City” in bronze visible in the garden, “Rebecca” or “Big Water Carrier” crafted in plaster displayed in Room 2, and “Prometheus” sculpted in elm, housed in the garden workshop. Visitors can actually walk all the way around each of these works to admire the detail.

After my visit I took a quiet stroll in the Luxembourg Gardens, only a few steps down the road, bringing my Inspiration Thursday afternoon to a lovely conclusion.

Practical information:

Musée Zadkine
100 bis, rue d’Assas 75006 Paris
Métro : Notre-Dame des Champs (ligne 12), Vavin (ligne 4)
RER B : Port-Royal
Bus : 38, 82, 83, 91
Vélib’ : 90 rue d’Assas, 13 rue Michelet
Autolib’ : 15 rue Joseph Bara, 6 rue Michelet
Tél : 01 55 42 77 20

Open every day except Monday and public holidays.
The permanent collection is free of charge to the public except during temporary exhibitions.
Group tours may be organized by contacting the Bourdelle Museum at  01 49 54 73 73.

Ivory Tower

Screen shot 2014-07-11 at 10.53.00 AMWhen we moved to Paris, most of the city’s monuments had been scrubbed clean, and reguilded for the millenial celebrations of 2000. Stones the color of chimney ash brightened the skyline, locals would gasp as the glistening gold-leaf of the Opera Garnier. The city had on her very best dress and she was ready to party. And the party hasn’t stopped, with the Palais de Tokyo re-inventing itself as the largest contemporary art space in Europe, the Galliera fashion museum getting a new do, and the Pantheon currently getting a make-over.

One of the longest, most mysterious renovations, was at the Tour St Jacques in the very center of Paris. The tower stood there, all sooty and grey for decades, then disappeared under a white robe for years. And years, and years. The sheath was there to protect passers by, who were at risk of being squashed by large bits of stone that had starting falling off the 52 metre high structure. It became so dangerous the surrounding park had to be closed to the public.

Screen shot 2014-07-11 at 10.51.55 AM Screen shot 2014-07-11 at 10.51.12 AM Last year the repairs were complete, the tower was unveiled and visits were possible. Possible but very difficult to arrange, as it is only open during the summer and the very narrow, spiral staircase of 300 steps, can only take a handful of visitors, who must be accompanied, at a time. With a zinc roof, it is also a natural lightening rod, making visits during (the rather frequent) rain showers so risky, the tours get cancelled.

Last Friday, the tower re-opened for the season, and you can bet I was there, not caring too much (well, maybe just a little…) that I was going to be missing the first 20 minutes of the World Cup France – Germany quarter finals.

The tours are organized by Des Mots et Des Arts. The guides are young art historians, with a contagious enthusiasm for history and the tower. I arrived a bit early and waited in the small garden around the tower, the fragrance in the air reminding me of home. More specifically, the parks near the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco and I was bemused by the number of young people with backwards baseball caps and skateboards learning how to roll their own.

Screen shot 2014-07-11 at 10.51.33 AMThe Tour Saint Jacques is a Flamboyant Gothic bell tower, a modern 16th century addition to a 15th century church, St Jacques de la Boucherie. Boucherie is French for butchery and the church was surrounded by butcher shops and other businesses, including the public writing studio of Nicholas Flamel, who is buried below. For the last 600 or so years, it has been the starting place for the pilgrimage to St Jacques de la Compostelle. Following the French RScreen shot 2014-07-11 at 10.53.19 AMevolution the government owed a lot of money to a local businessman, so they gave him the church and he took it apart, selling the stones off to the highest bidders. Since then, the tower has inspired artists, scientists and intellectuals. Dumas wrote a story set in the park, and it is believed that Blaise Pascal used the site for his experiments with atmospheric pressure.

After learning more about the history of the site you get to go up those 300 steps. But not all at once. There are two landings to explore. One a tiny warehouse for gargoyles, the other an old weather station with spectacular stained glass decor. Going up, the walls are blackened for the soot of lanterns of 18th and 19th century visitors who left some intriguing graffiti along the way.

The views from above are spectacular, with every important monument in sight. Alot of the people on our tour were Parisians, who spent their time above trying to find their homes and locate personal landmarks, reveling in the wonder of having Paris at our feet.

A giant merci to Karen from Inspiration Thursdays for letting me know the tower was open, joining me on the visit and for her fantastic photos!


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!

What is art?

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 6.10.06 PMIt is one of those BIG life questions, that no one has really answered. Mr French and I spend so much time exploring art that the question comes up often, especially as our tastes tend to be wildly different. Is it art? design? or just a really bad joke? Sometimes it can be hard to tell and my mind races to the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 6.11.59 PMThe question has been surfing the airwaves lately, questioning the legitimacy of street artist JR. The artist’s work is currently decorating the top of the Pantheon, while it under goes renovation with a monumental  installation inside the memorium, until Oct 5. This isn’t the first time JR has graced the city with his astonishing photographic work.

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 6.11.29 PMSeveral years ago he covered the quais and bridges on the Ile de la Cité with 10 metre long images of women’s eyes. The effect was moving, even before learning that they were the eyes of women who had witnessed great  tragedy; war, famine, assassination.

Last year he photographed anonymous Parisians for large banners that were unfurled the façades of the Bibliothèque National, covering more than 10 stories of the monstrous, soviet inspired buildings.

For the Pantheon, JR again features anonymous Parisians who waited in line for several hours to have their photos taken, knowing they may be selected for a Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 6.10.27 PMtremendous project. They are of every race, religion, color, and style with a fashion sense that runs from the prosaic to the goofy. JR has lined them up and laid them out, like a human tower of babel. They are tiered in size, starting out larger than life and rising to the size of a miniature poodle. Working in black and white has given the work an aesthetic harmony. The images are printed out on large plastic tiles, then laid out like an oriental carpet, covering the cross-shaped floor, where visitors are invited to walk. The effect is astonishing. You are walking on art. You are walking on people. And the people are gorgeous, in a wonderful, very real way.

I won’t claim to have defined art for the world, but as I walked through the show I decided that for me, art is something that moves people. I may like it, I may hate it, or I may be anywhere in between, but it evokes a sensation somewhere inside and for me, JR’s installation at the Pantheon is a tremendous work of art.

All photos by Karen Samimi




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