Thursday, 27 October 2011

Touting the Top Ten in the Parisian Art Scene

There is always more to see in Paris than you have time for. But this summer is particularly rich for lovers of art. I didn’t see all the shows, but the ones I did see were especially savory. Here’s my pick of the pack.
The very, very best show in Paris this summer is truly astonishing—a replay of the World’s Fair of 1937 “Salon of the Independents.” I have never seen so many unfamiliar artists that pleased me so much. Matisse was on the original poster, and he’s on this one; but see if you don’t discover a dozen artists to whom time has been decidedly unkind. Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris. (Iena stop on the Metro.)

Actually, there are two world-class exhibits, both connected with the golden jubilee of the Fair at MOMA. The other is about the fair itself—its architecture, design, posters—the works. To see the Russian and German pavilions staring each other down with neo-classical bluffery is enough to send you into a funk.

A brisk ten-minute walk up the Avenue Woodrow Wilson is the Palais Chaillot. The Museum of Man there has a dazzling expo on the art of early Peru. Take time enough to have lunch at the Totem, which is reasonable and has an absolutely splendiferous view of the Eiffel Tower and the Seine from its windows. (Trocadero stop.)

In the same building, but in another wing, is the Maritime Museum, with a great show on the role that oceans have played in the history of humankind. Old maps, prow decorations, a tasty smorgasbord of things nautical that will wipe you out like a tsunami.

“Invitation to Travel” at the Union of the Decorative Arts is a feisty exploration of the changing mores and evolving luggage of traveling in Europe since the Renaissance. It’s geared to the donation of the Louis Vuitton collection to the museum. I was especially delighted by the marquetry that Rene Lalique did for Wagon Lit International. (Palais Royal stop.)

The Museum of Advertising on the Rue Paradis is one of my favorite haunts in all Europe. This summer they have chosen the year 1900, the apogee of Art Nouveau, to strut the stuff of their fabulous holdings. Particularly delectable is a sideshow on the emergence of Montmatre as an urbane playground. And get there early enough to ogle the building—it started out as a place where architects of the Belle Epoque came to choose titles for their clients. (Gare du Nord stop.)

National Museum of Photography. There are two luminous special exhibitions—one of the Mexican Revolution and another on the continuing effort to capture movement in still photography. Since there’s a room-size Muybridge, this “moving” show has a special zing for Phillies. (Iena stop.)

Right across the street from MOMA is the Museum of Fashion. It offers a marvelous romp through fashions of the 1930s, part of the 1937 Fair remembrance. Eye-popping in more ways than one is Clare Booth Luce’s modeling some sporty clothes—and no less a muse than Man Ray shooting for Schiaperelli. (Iena stop.)

There’s a marvelous little exhibition on the evolution of Tibetan architecture, which is better if you read French. But you don’t need to read French to relish the Tibetan art that the Guiman Museum has in stunning depth. (Iena, between the Palais Chaillot and the MOMA, on the Place Iena.)

Last, and most, the Musee D’Orsay. It is, to put it straight, the greatest museum, architecturally and in the design of its museology, I’ve ever seen in my museum-crammed life. I told the press bureau chief, after my afternoon ogle of the Art Nouveau and 19th-Century academic sculpture shows, that for the first time I understood why the French think they’re such hot stuff. (Palais Royal stop: that lets you saunter through the Tuileries and then stride across the Seine on the Pont Neuf.)
What a life!
From Welcomat: After Dark, Hazard-at-Large, July 8, 1987

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