What’s Happening in Paris Friday, Feb 21 2014 

As a good friend of mine in Paris put it this past week, “we are in one of those doldrum periods for art exhibitions.” Many of the big fall art shows have just closed, and Paris is pausing to take a breath before a host of new exhibitions open for the spring and summer of 2014. If you’re traveling to the French capital anytime soon, you won’t want to miss these great cultural events. Be sure to click on the museum name for more details on each exhibition.

Current Art Exhibitions

Musée du LouvreRestoration of the iconic Greek statue “The Winged Victory of Samothrace” continues at the Louvre Museum. The 2nd-century B.C. sculpture and its monumental staircase will be re-opening this summer. A must-see. Click here to see a video of the restoration project in progress.

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Image courtesy of the Musée du Louvre

Musée d’Orsay“Vincent Van Gogh / Antonin Artaud, The Man Suicided by Society.” 5, Quai Anatole France, 75007 Paris. Twentieth century writer Antonin Artaud was asked to write a piece on Van Gogh to coincide with a 1947 art exhibition in Paris of his works. Artaud’s provocative thesis delineated how “Van Gogh’s exceptional lucidity made lesser minds uncomfortable.” And according to Artaud, it was these lesser minds that drove Van Gogh to suicide. From March 11 until July 6.

Grand Palais - “I, Augustus, Emperor of Rome.” 3, avenue du Général Eisenhower 75008 Paris. To commemorate the 2000th anniversary of Augustus’ death, the Grand Palais is hosting a fascinating exhibition on his life and Roman times during his reign. A selection of  statues, reliefs, frescoes, furniture, silver as well as the reconstruction of a villa from the slopes of Mount Vesuvius round out this historical exhibition. From March 19 to July 13.

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Poster courtesy of the RMN Grand Palais

Musée Jacquemart-André“Watteau to Fragonard, les Fêtes Galantes.” 158 Boulevard Haussmann, 75008 Paris, France.  The jewel-like Jacquemart-André Museum welcomes a fabulous new exhibition of 18th-century French painting focusing on love scenes in lush pastoral settings. A sumptuous ode to a bygone era. From March 14 to July 21.

Musée Marmottan - “The Impressionists in Private: One Hundred Masterpieces from Private Collections.” 2 Rue Louis Boilly, 75016 Paris. This exquisite exhibition at the Marmottan Museum brings together 100 Impressionist works borrowed from private owners. You’ll want to make a point to see these pieces that have never been on view publicly until now. Until July 6.

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Poster courtesy of the Musée Marmottan

Musée Rodin“Mapplethorpe-Rodin.” 79, rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris. This intriguing exhibition compares and contrasts the sculpture of Auguste Rodin with the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe. Similarities in themes and subjects abound. From April 8 until September 21.

Palais Galliera - “Coming into Fashion, a Century of Photography at Condé Nast.” 10, Avenue Pierre-1er-de-Serbie, 75116 Paris. The fashion museum of Paris is putting on this wonderful exhibition featuring 100 years of fashion photography. From March 1 to May 25. Then beginning in summer, the Palais Galliera is hosting “Fashion in the 50’s,” a superb show noting the ‘New look’ created by Christian Dior in 1947 and the fashion revolution that followed. From July 3 to November 15.

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Poster courtesy of the Palais Galliera

Musée du Luxembourg“Joséphine.” 19, rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris. This special exhibition features art and objects relating to the Empress Joséphine, first wife of Napoleon, at the bicentennial of her death. From March 12 until June 29.

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Poster courtesy of the Musée du Luxembourg 

Centre Pompidou“Henri Cartier-Bresson.” 19, rue Beaubourg, 75004 Paris. Lovers of photography will enjoy this retrospective devoted to the superbly talented twentieth-century French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. Until June 9.

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Poster courtesy of the Centre Pompidou

Musée d’Histoire Naturelle “Night.” Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, 36 rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 75005 Paris. This year, Paris’s Natural History Museum has put together an amazing interdisciplinary exhibit on the nocturnal world. Visitors will be fascinated by informative and interactive displays around four themes: The Night Sky, Night in Nature, Sleep at Night, and Night Myths and Monsters. Until November 3.

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Poster courtesy of the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle

Currently in Paris Thursday, Jul 4 2013 

This past week in Paris was cool weather-wise – I wore a sweater and jacket every day – but it was sizzling as usual in the culture department. No matter what time of year, there is always something interesting going on in Paris. So if you are planning to be there in the next few days, weeks or months, you might want to check out a few of these art exhibitions, cultural happenings and even special foodie events. (Some of the offerings are completely fun and unexpected – very French! – so be sure and scroll down to see them all. Links are provided for more info.)

Art Exhibitions

Musée d’Orsay“Une Passion française – La Collection Spencer et Marlene Hays” (The Collection of Marlene and Spencer Hays – A French Passion). 5, Quai Anatole France, 75007 Paris. These American art collectors from Nashville share their magnificent trove of French Impressionist and early modern art works, many of which are returning to France for the first time since their creation. Until August 18.

Decorative Arts Museum“La mécanique des dessous, une histoire indiscrète de la silhouette” (Behind the Seams. An indiscreet look at the mechanics of Fashion). 107, rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris. This intriguing exhibition explores the variety of undergarments that have molded the body from the 14th century to the present. A ground-breaking show with never before exhibited pieces from the museum’s fashion collection. Opens this week, until November 24.

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Poster courtesy of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs

Musée Maillol“Fragile – Murano: Chefs-d’oeuvre de Verre de la Renaissance au XXIe siècle” (Fragile – Murano: Masterpieces in Glass from the Renaissance to the 21st Century). 59-61 Rue de Grenelle 75007 Paris. Move over Chihuly. This incredible exhibition features more than 200 fine works in glass from the workshops of Murano, Italy. From exquisite pieces made for 15th century Europe’s greatest families to flamboyant Baroque creations to Art Deco and modern works, this special exhibition is not to be missed. Until July 28.

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Musée Rodin“Rodin, La Chair, Le Marbre” (Rodin, Flesh and Marble). 79, rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris. This exceptional show takes a close look at marble in the hands of the expert sculptor Rodin and how this material comes closest to simulating human flesh in sculpture. An amazing art exhibition in three dimensions.  Until September 1.

Musée du Luxembourg“Chagall, Entre Guerre et Paix” (Chagall, Between War and Peace). 19, rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris. This special exhibition features more than 100 works of Chagall focusing on the imagery of war and peace in his unique allegorical style. Until July 21.

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Centre Pompidou“Roy Lichtenstein”. 19, rue Beaubourg, 75004 Paris. Lovers of pop art will enjoy this retrospective devoted to Roy Lichtenstein and his art based on cartoon images and advertising. In partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago and the Tate Modern in London. Opens this week, until November 4. 

Cultural Happenings

Luxembourg Gardens“Le Tour de France”. Rue de Medicis, 75006 Paris. To help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the legendary Tour de France bike race this year, the French Senate has sponsored this special photo exhibition on the iron gates of the Luxembourg Gardens. Fabulous photos in a fantastic location in Paris. Until July 27.

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Tuileries Gardens“Sur les pas d’André Le Nôtre aux Tuileries” (André Le Nôtre Walk in the Tuileries Gardens). This garden walk in the Tuileries next to the Louvre commemorates the 400th anniversary of the birth of French garden designer, André le Nôtre. Special signs indicate the garden elements Le Nôtre brought to life in the Tuileries, a place particularly special to the designer as he was born, lived and died on the grounds of this former royal complex. Until September 30.

All Over Paris – Play Me, I’m Yours – Paris 2013 is about to wind up its second tour in the French capital. British artist Luke Jerram has come back to Paris to place 48 pianos all over the city and invite the public to play anything at any moment. I passed by this piano in the 6th arrondissement a few days ago – a couple of young French girls were having a ball playing the instrument for everyone passing by. Until July 9.

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Sainte Chapelle – Classical music concerts take place in this spectacular venue nearly every day from late spring until early fall each year (with a break in August for vacation). If you’ve never treated yourself to choral or chamber music in this space, be sure and reserve time on your Paris calendar for this next time you are there. Click here for the current schedule. 

Foodie Events

Gourmet purveyors Fauchon and Dalloyau have put out their ‘summer collection’ of goodies. Be sure to stop by one of their shops to try an array of creative sweet treats. 

Berthillon – This famous ice cream shop on the Ile St. Louis was doing a booming business this past Sunday. The line outside was a testament to the popularity of its incredible ice cream offerings and the finally warm temperatures outside. Crazy too were the long lines at other shops on the Ile St. Louis that carry Berthillon – I still make a point to go to the mother ship at 31, rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile, 75004  Paris. Note that while Berthillon will be closed from July 22 to September 3 for vacation and renovations, they will still be supplying ice cream to their ‘resellers’!

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Bon été! ~ Happy Summer!

 

Gold in Paris Saturday, Apr 13 2013 

There’s lots of gold in Paris – this should be no surprise as luxe and grandeur have been the motto for French rulers and presidents throughout the city’s history. As the French and Europeans figured out long ago, nothing says wealth and power quite so well and quite so publicly as gold. And once you start become a chercheur d’or (goldseeker) in Paris, you start to see gilt and glitter everywhere.

Some eye-popping examples include the angels on top of the Palais Garnier, the dome of Les Invalides, the golden gates of the Parc Monceau, the Pont Alexandre III, and even the decorative touches at the Place Vendôme.

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French culinary gurus can’t be left out of the gold fest either. Paris pastry purveyor Dalloyau routinely decorates its confections with edible gold. Note this luscious chocolate and raspberry gâteau topped with gold bits.

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Dalloyau’s Easter candy this year took a decidedly sparkling turn with its large chocolate eggs laden with edible gold leaf. Not sure how the beehive design relates to Easter eggs…? But the chocolate and gold eggs sported a clever name: “Or série” (Gold Series) which also sounds like the French expression “Hors série”, meaning ‘special edition’ or ‘custom made.’

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Last month, our Paris Antiques Trip group was treated to a gold spectacular at the exquisite Musée Jacquemart-André. The museum is in the midst of renovating its Tapestry Room, in particular the floor-to-ceiling gilded molding. The Salon des Tapisseries was a fascinating study in golden renewal.

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As we walked through on our way to the east wing of the mansion, French artisans were applying thin sheets of gold leaf to the decorative woodwork. The two-by-two layers were lightly dusted onto the wood with a bristle brush. This technique allowed the gold to settle gently into the molding’s cracks and crevices. First, however, the artisans had painted the woodwork with a deep red varnish which presumably allows the gold to take on a deep richness once it’s applied.

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Once the gold was placed over the red varnish, it had a fluffy almost wispy look. Then it was tamped down and sealed into place making it (mostly) impervious to knicks and scratches.

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Here is a great view of the finished gilt (upper left), the gold leaf in progress (lower left) and the red preparatory varnish (upper right).

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As one might imagine, the gilding process was a bit messy. There were flecks of gold and gold dust everywhere – it also stuck to the faces and outfits of the artisans. As we left, some even found its way onto our shoes. All in all, it was quite a gold rush – an unforgettable and intimate glimpse of gold in Paris.

Art Meets Style at Paris’s Musée d’Orsay Friday, Oct 12 2012 

Swish new art exhibition featuring the Impressionists and the fashions of the times

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You can almost hear the swish of women’s dresses in the new exhibition “L’Impressionisme et la mode” (Impressionism and Fashion) at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. This groundbreaking show highlights the portrayal of clothing and accessories in the works of late nineteenth century Impressionist painters. It also marks the first time that the Musée d’Orsay has brought fashion and art together, joining the trend at other major museums around the world.

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© RMN (Musée d‘Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

“L’Impressionisme et la mode” reveals how the Impressionists sought to capture emotion of contemporary life in its most daily, simple and fleeting aspects. Both natural and urban settings provided rich sources of inspiration for the modernity of the time. And fashion, as is seen in this exhibition, was an almost inexhaustible Impressionist theme from 1860 to the 1880’s. It was no coincidence that this artistic focus corresponded with the emergence of fashion as a leisure pursuit and the birth of the era’s grands magasins (big department stores).

The exhibition’s first room includes an eye-catching array of dresses and outfits from the fashion collections of the Palais Galliera, Musée de la mode de la ville de Paris and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Also on display are vintage documents, fashion plates, engravings, catalogues, magazine pages, and photos all chronicling the gaiety of clothing styles during la belle époque. Particularly interesting were two paintings by Paul Cézanne juxtaposed with two pages from the illustrated fashion magazine La Mode illustrée of 1870 to 1871. It turns out that Cézanne copied the two pages almost verbatim, turning them into the painted works Les Deux Soeurs (The Two Sisters) and La Promenade (The Stroll). A great example of art imitating art.

Also visually arresting was the immense portrait by Albert Bartholomé of his wife entitled Dans la serre or Madame Bartholomé (1881). Wearing an elegant day dress of purple and white polka dots and stripes with a pleated skirt, she stands in the doorway of the greenhouse surrounded by plants and flowers. The actual dress worn by Madame Bartholomé in nearly mint condition appears next to the painting itself. It is the only original piece of clothing captured in the art that is still in existence.

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© RMN (Musée d‘Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

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© Musée d‘Orsay, dist. RMN / Patrice Schmidt

Worth admission to the entire exhibition are the two rooms set up as runway fashion shows. World-renowned stage and artistic director Robert Carsen was tapped to create the theatrical ambiance of “Impressionism and Fashion,” and the result is spectacular.* Larger than life portraits of women by Edouard Manet and Claude Monet among others are hung in a row facing wall-sized mirrors. The effect is a series of models ‘moving’ through the red-walled rooms and displaying their finery. To create an ‘audience,’ Carsen includes gilded chairs lining both sides of each salle (room). Small ribbons tie elegant place cards to each seat and include the names of late nineteenth century notables, authors, artists, and social luminaries such as Emile Zola, Marcel Proust, Princesse de Wagram, Robert de Moustesquiou, Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Charles Frederick Worth, Mademoiselle Marie Duplessis, Charles Baudelaire, and the Comtesse Clotilde Bonaparte. Viewers can participate in the performance art by taking a front-row seat and watching the painters’ fashion parade go by. 

“Impressionism and Fashion” also displays paintings of women at home, of women out and about at balls and plays, of women in lighter underthings, of men in their more somber attire as foils for shimmering ladies’ apparel, and also of exquisite accessories such as hats, shoes and fans. More than 90 works by Gustave Caillebotte, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Georges Seurat in addition to fashion portraitists Alfred Stevens and James Tissot showcase the fashion confections from the period. Every work merits a close look at the play of light and shadow and color on flesh and fabrics.

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© RMN (Musée d‘Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

“Plaisirs du plein air,” at the end of the exhibition, opens into the Orsay’s spacious belle époque ballroom. It has been turned into an outdoor setting with sky blue walls, faux green grass carpeting, park benches, and lighthearted birdsong on soundtrack. Huge canvases such as Monet’s Femmes au jardin (Women in the Garden) and Déjeuner sur l’herbe and Bazille’s Réunion de famille invite the viewer into picture frames of sunny country scenes layered with fluffy skirts and flowing dresses. What could so easily have been a corny setting turns out to be wonderfully compelling and a perfect ending to the show.

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© RMN (Musée d‘Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

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© Musée d‘Orsay, dist. RMN / Patrice Schmidt

When I saw the exhibition last week, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about yet another museum effort devoted to Impressionism. But I walked out thinking how gorgeous and light and fresh the art was. And putting the paintings and fashion together made the artists’ visions much more three dimensional and consequently more real.

“L’Impressionisme et la mode” (curated by Gloria Groom of The Art Institute in Chicago, Guy Cogeval of the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, Philippe Thiébaut of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and Susan Stein of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) is on view at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris through January 20, 2013. The museum is open daily except Mondays from 9.30am to 6pm and Thursdays until 9.45pm. Admission is €12. The main entrance is located at 1, rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris. www.musee-orsay.fr. No photography is allowed in the exhibition.

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

If you aren’t able to catch this exhibition in Paris, then try to see it when it come to the U.S. next year. While the fashions will be different – the Paris pieces are too fragile to travel – the interplay between painting and style will be just as insightful and inspiring. The show will be presented as “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from February 26 to May 27, 2013, and at The Art Institute of Chicago from June 25 to September 22, 2013. 

Catalogue

In the interim, you can dive into the sumptuous exhibition catalogue. The English version will be published later this year. Pre-ordering is available through amazon.com (click here for the link) or you can check the backorder status with The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

* Robert Carsen’s commentary on how he goes about creating the set for a museum exhibition (quoted from the exhibition catalogue):

“Quand on me confie une exposition, j‘essaie de créer un parcours qui aura un contenu intellectuel et un contenu émotionnel pour que la visite soit une expérience, comme une pièce de théâtre, avec un prologue, premier acte, deuxième acte, troisième acte. Il ne manque que les applaudissements ! Et c‘est aussi important que le public fasse partie de l‘expérience. Les musées, comme les théâtres, restent des lieux – dans notre monde où l‘on fait les choses de plus en plus individuellement, avec nos petits ordinateurs, téléphones et autres –, où on se retrouve pour partager une expérience ensemble.”

“When I have been tasked with an exhibition, I try to create a path which appeals to both the intellect and the emotions so that the viewing is an experience, like a play in a theatre, with a prologue, a first act, a second act, a third act. The only thing missing is the applause of the audience! And it’s also important that the public be part of the experience. Museums, like theatres, remain the only places – in our world where everyone does things more and more alone with our little computer, telephones and other devices – where we meet others to share an experience together.”

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France Notes: A 3-for-1 Paris Deal Tuesday, Jun 5 2012 

There’s always so much going on in Paris that it’s sometimes hard to choose what to see or do at any given moment. And on top of the regular Parisian delights, the past few days I’ve found it difficult to pull myself away from watching the Roland-Garros tennis tournament (Americans know it as the “French Open”) on TV. Of course, the tennis complex is not too far – one of these days, I’ll buy some tickets and actually attend – as it is located on the west side of town and is accessible by Metro. In any case, the French television coverage of the event is easy and a win-win for tennis fans; channels 2 and 3 share the job of showing match after match all day long.

Despite the exciting and intense tennis play of this year’s tournament, I decided to take advantage of a cultural threesome a few days ago. I headed to the Musée d’Orsay (Orsay Museum) to see the newly-refurbished Impressionist galleries. It was a Wednesday morning about 10am and wonderfully enough, getting into the museum was a breeze with virtually no one in the ticket line. I bought the “Passeport musée d’Orsay – musée de l’Orangerie,” a special ticket costing 14 euros which allows you to visit the Orsay Museum and its special exhibitions (normally 12 euros per person). In addition, within four days, you can also take in the Orangerie Museum (normally 7.5 euros per person). As an added bonus, the ticket allows you to visit the Paris Opéra Garnier within 8 days for the reduced price of 6 euros instead of the full 9 euros. It’s definitely une bonne affaire (a good deal), as the French say.

On my way to the fifth floor Galerie des Impressionistes, I walked through the special exhibition currently on view Degas et le nu(“Degas and the Nude”). It was a fascinating look at the countless hours Degas spent painting and drawing the (primarily female) nude body. The show is on view until July 1 so do make a point of seeing it if you are in Paris this month. 

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Ensuite (next), I went up the multiple escalators to see the newly redone galleries that house many of the most famous Impressionist paintings in the world. The rooms are now done in a charcoal gray which presumably allows the shimmering colors and painting techniques to show at their best. Just as interesting were the art students with easels copying the Impressionist masters’ works.

Art in the Orsay

After my Orsay visit, I walked across the Seine on the nearby pedestrian bridge and through the Tuileries gardens to the Musée de l’Orangerie. I showed my “Passport” ticket and entered to view Monet’s gigantic Water Lily panels that he painted at various times of day. It was “Giverny” without leaving Paris. The paintings’ beauty is both obvious and subtle at the same time. With the fullness of color and lack of horizon line, the art might be best seen when in a meditative sort of mood. Or, one can tag along with this French elementary school teacher who was helping her students ‘see’ as Monet did. No red casquette (baseball cap) necessary.

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Though I saved the Opera for another day, the “Passport” ticket was a mini “Paris Museum Pass.” * If you only want to drink in a bit of culture and get a good three-way deal on a Paris visit, it’s definitely the way to go.

* The Paris Museum Pass is available in two-, four- and six-day versions. It offers admission to approximately 60 museums and cultural institutions in and around the Paris area. Click here for more information on the pass.