Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Art-ful Paris


We have visited so many museums and exhibitions in the last month: Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh (where we followed a tour guide through a great exposition on Symbolism from Van Gogh to Kandinsky). In Paris, so far, we've visited l'Orangerie to see Manet's lilies, but also its permanent collection (primarily the gift of collector Paul Guillaume) and a temporary exhibition on Debussy, his music and the arts (interesting, but I was SO irritated with the Impressionists by the end of it -- or at least, not the Impressionists themselves but the subsequent commodification of their once-iconoclastic work, now adorning college dorm rooms the world over). 
We've learned more about painters whose work we already knew, and we've discovered ones we didn't: Chaim Soutine, most especially -- a main focus of the Pinacotheque's expo, Modigliani and Soutine and Montparnasse, but also Suzanne Valadon, a woman whose canvasses show she could hold her own with the big guys up that Paris hill . . .
We've once again ridden the Meccano-toy escalators of the Beaubourg Pompidou Centre, not simply to have all of Paris laid out before us, but to walk past Matisse works arranged cleverly in pairs and series. I was initially disappointed that the Pompidou would be offering such a safe, crowd-pleasing exhibition -- Matisse? Really? -- but I learned so much through seeing so many examples of the artist's tendency to repeat basic compositions in varied techniques, altered perspectives. Brilliant curation!
We visited Bordeaux's CAPC, its Contemporary Art Museum, on Nuit des Musées when its very absorbing exploration of the process of curation, archiving, and a gallery's interaction with an artist's work was opened to the public for free. Families strolled the huge building's several floors with young children, learning to make art appreciation an integrated part of their lives, an aspect of French culture we might copy.

No other museum or gallery, though, offered the playful absorption -- and on such a massive scale -- of Daniel Buren's work Excentrique(s): Work In Situ, the 2012 presentation of the annual Monumenta in which an invited artist uses the Nave of the Grand Palais to instal a work created especially for that immense space.
Here Pater gazes into the mise en abime of a mirror which reflects the vast geometries of the glass structure's roof, capturing the surrounding colours of the circular pavilions Buren created. Pater's gaze, of course, thus becomes part of the work itself, a work that unfolds in all its spatial and temporal complexity from 10 May until it closes and, presumably, is dismantled 21 June 2012.
I decided I should Pater's lead, although I checked carefully first to see whether mirrors and skirts were an ill-advised combo . . . I rather thought these photos consituted the most artsy of all my What I Wore posts . . .


When we were here last April, I noticed that Hermès was hosting an equestrian event in this building, an event that harkened back, apparently, to the first six decades of the 20th century. I'm not sure how often such events have happened since, but I wonder how much Buren intended (or even noted) the distinct, if faded, agricultural aromas that enlivened the sensory mix . . . And isn't this a stunning space? Imagining those horses, I can't help but construct carousels mixing the equestrian with these playful circles and colours.
More muted colours in the building's own architectural details -- but their subtlety seemed worth grabbing as examples of the wealth of sophisticated inspiration a Parisienne has for her wardrobe.

Climbing those stairs, Pater and I could look over the sea of circles and appreciate the magic of the installation, the play of light that multiplies the three colours (yellow, orange, and green -- and rather odd, "plasticky" versions of each) with the help of some of the building's own blue roof glass.

It soon became unbearable to observe from above, as the mid-20s temperature outside was magnified through all the glass. But before we left, we admired some of the iron scrollwork close up.
And then sat for a while on the stairs looking down at Buren's circles
and up at the magnificent roof
Just filling up our sensory bank, really . . .
as were these two very stylish women of a certain age whom I couldn't resist including in a photo for you. As usual, you'll need to click on the photo to enlarge and get a better view. The sartorial details here are well worth it -- as is the gorgeously grey hair. Splendid examples, both.

And one more shot of those two beautiful grey coifs.
Hmmm, I wonder how many other reviewers of Buren's massive installations will be including references to the hairstyling and dress of its visitors. . . . probably not enough, right?

I'm finishing up this post Monday morning, as we decide what to do with our last two days in Paris. Both of us are very ready to be home, a bit impatient, truth be told, to get back to "real life" again. This impatience is always a good sign, I think, at the end of a holiday, signalling that the time away from the quotidian has brought us around to an appreciation of our everyday domestic and work lives.

A month is a long time to be away -- or rather, being away allows one to know how long a month really is, or can be. It's a significant proportion of my year, and I expect to be integrating its experiences and insights into my life for some time to come. And into my blog. So that while this is likely the last missive I'll post from Paris, I must warn you now that I'll be showing you photos and talking about my travels for the foreseeable future.

Talk to you soon from (another*) little island . . .


*Because Paris, as you know, is on a little island of its own -- perhaps that explains the affinity . . .

18 comments:

  1. We felt the same way about the Matisse exhibit: amazingly curated! Karen pointed out how many different and far-flung sources were tapped for some of the pieces. It must have taken a lot of legwork to put that one together.

    And I'm sorry we didn't see this installation in the Grand Palais...absolutely breathtaking! I love the shots especially from above. I wonder if the horsey aromas linger when Karl is doing one of his Chanel runway shows there...

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    1. I'm really curious now about the Matisse exhibit that's coming to the Vancouver Art Gallery, focussed on the Cone Sisters' collection -- will be fun to compare. The behind-the-scenes work of these exhibits is always fascinating.

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  2. So glorious! And I'm also thinking about the human sensory capacity, how it fills, and then overflows. Going home is not only home, emotionally, it's a place you don't have to use your eyes to understand.

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    1. Ah, I'll be thinking about this as I settle back in -- perhaps that's why home can be so restful (if we're lucky).

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  3. As rain is forecast for next week’s holiday in Amsterdam & Berlin I have a feeling we too will be following in your gallery footsteps Amsterdam wise at least. I too gave a shrug of jaded insouciance at the Matisse show, not least as I had spent ages in the other galleries and was heading to the Brancusi Studio (have you been?) Now I wish i had made the effort as I am sure it was worth as visit. But what I envy the most is your ability to just stop, sit and stare. I wish I could, my sister was reeling from my nonstop walking in Madrid, I am one of those people who is convinced something AMAZING is just going on around the corner! It never is I should just learn to wait for it to come to me. I am also stunned at your lady in white linen; clearly Paris style is not all it is cracked up to be!
    I can't believe you have been gone a month, it is so busy at work I have barely been able to post or read, but after half term I am hoping to start winding down. Oh then of course I have more college work...and so it goes on!

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    1. I'm embarrassed to say that we've never scooted into the Brancusi -- always intend to, but always, after seeing whatever big show has been mounted, we just don't have the energy.
      Enjoy Amsterdam, Berlin . . .

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  4. Yes, you're headed for a doozy of a sensory hangover, so much input! - smells of fresh bread, coffee, local plants, echoes in stations and art galleries, and those marvellous soul-filling colours! The best remedy will be your garden. About prints in college dorm rooms, aren't they better than, say, posters of reality TV stars? Anyway, I usually know right away if a Canadian movie has been shot in Montreal because every home has scads and scads of paintings on their walls, even, shock(!) abstract expressionist ones (I don't know that many people who truly like the genre.)

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    1. I agree with you about the prints, absolutely, and shouldn't have sounded so derogatory. But there can be such an overload of the IMpressionists and sometimes a hagiographic effect that really bothers me.

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  5. I'm sorry we missed the colorful Buren circles. So playful. I wish you a safe and uneventful trip home.

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    1. Thanks, Susan. As for missing the Buren, I couldn't help but be tugged by all the posters for all the events and exhibitions that would happen after we left. . . always so much going on in Paris. . .

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  6. What a fascinating exhibit! I loved the take on the outfit photos...and would have loved to wander underneath those different colored discs.

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    1. I would have liked to play even more with the outfit photos, but the mirror was surprisingly warm and I felt conspicuous, AND mostly, the perspective was rather dizzying.

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  7. Oh, please do! You are such an observant traveler.

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    1. Why thanks -- that means a lot coming from you.

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  8. nice idea.. thanks for sharing..

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  9. Smart to check that you weren't giving us more than we bargained for with the skirts and mirrors. The outfit photos turned out great and those Buren circles are just amazing! I wish I had a bit more time for museums and exhibits this trip, but I have been able to enjoy a few and get lots of good work done.

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    1. Yes, that could have been embarrassing! I can imagine it must have been difficult for you trying to balance between what you wanted to see and do in Madrid and what you were really there for.

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