Bonjour! The next several posts will center on the City of Light, Paris France. I accompanied Bill on his journey to Paris Photo at the Grand Palais. What started out as a wonderful week of sight seeing, art viewing and gallery crawling ended sadly and abruptly (with a little scary thrown in) but we did manage to feast our eyes on many many visual treasures before most public spaces were shut down for the duration of our trip. In my opinion, Paris itself is one enormous work of art, but I will try to bring you into the experiences we had at several art institutions that we visited before all public venues were closed down in the aftermath of the horrible terrorist attacks that took place on the evening of Friday, November 13.
Our first stop on the agenda was Centre Pompidou, as we missed it the last time we were in Paris in 2001 and vowed to make it a priority to visit. I can’t help but experience this structure as the world’s largest human habitrail. Built with its inner workings on display like an enormous exoskeleton, the Pompidou houses a vast Modern and contemporary art collection. Forgive me but I was never much of a fan of post modern architecture, but I did appreciate the building as an emblem of its time in architectural history as a wonder. Going up escalators in glass tubes would be more of a thrill if the escalators did not have a horrific screech of metal on metal every now and then much like having an ice pick thrust into one’s temple, and if the glass were less cloudy. But as a voyeur I had a wonderful time enjoying the view and looking at roof tops and at Mont St Michel in the distance.
The art works took me awhile to warm up to, but there was the most amazing show of an artist I previously had never heard of: Wifredo Lam. His paintings and ceramics spoke to me in ways I crave: they contained raw emotion and energy in their intense imagery, color and texture. The exhibition contained dozens of his works from small to monumental and I could have stayed in that one area the entire day just enjoying them.
The place is so big and has so many floors it’s hard not to get cross eyed looking at everything, and hard to not become desensitized by having so many masterworks together in one space, but there was my all time favorite
And a show of works “Beyond the Vulnerability,” by artist Chen Zhen who died in 2000.
I enjoyed their childlike poignancy as well as the surprise discovery of a 1913 Chagall painting in one of the corridors not too far away that had a particular resonance to it.
The Pompidou is enormous and vast, divided into large rooms with small dark corridors connecting them, all filled with art. Some of the spaces did not exactly allow for enough distance to experience some of the larger works, and if I were an artist who had works hung in the corridors, with their narrow halls and dark tones, I would have felt like Charlie Brown. But I did enjoy the outdoor spaces with sculptures in reflecting pools. Between their serenity and the view it was a wonderful experience. I also enjoyed this sign posted in one of the exhibition halls.
One aspect of the museum that I found absolutely striking was the dearth of works by women artists. I saw maybe one painting by a woman and she was married to another artist featured in the same room. It boggled my mind that there were no works representing the feminist artists in the 1970’s, or any other female artists for that matter. Upon exiting the museum we were stopped by a very nice fellow working for the museum who asked if he could have a moment of our time to answer some questions regarding our visit. It took more than 5 minutes, but he was nice and trying so hard that we tried to be on our best behavior and not be impatient Americans. One of the questions posed (it was a written list) asked if we had any comments about the collections. I did my best not to get on a tear or unleash a rant but did my best to convey my dismay that women artists were so poorly represented and the fact that no feminist art was represented at all. The poor fellow’s eyes took on that blank look I’ve seen men engage when in the company of a woman on a mission (I get that look alot.)